Historical Society Seeks Support for Restoring Lighthouse

DNR variance needed for Eagle Bluff Lighthouse work

The Door County Historical Society is asking history buffs to contact the state this week to express support for repairing Eagle Bluff Lighthouse and restoring the grounds to its late-1880s appearance.

Although owned by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the nonprofit historical society has managed and maintained the lighthouse in Peninsula State Park since 1960. 

The historical society has raised more than $1 million to get started on a $3.3-million project, but the DNR needs to adopt a variance in its master plan before the historical society can move forward with the project, said Amy Frank, historical society chief executive officer.

The historical society hopes to start $302,000 worth of stabilization work to the lighthouse and keepers’ house this year, as well as an $897,000 project to reconstruct a small barn and summer kitchen on their original locations east of the lighthouse. 

Building the barn and summer kitchen will return the site to its appearance when William Duclon tended the lighthouse and he and his wife, Julia, resided on site 1883-1918. The replicated buildings would have practical modern uses inside.

“Reconstruction of buildings that were lost will provide a visitor center and areas for educational programs, and exhibits that will be accessible to all,” according to a lighthouse Historic Structures Plan created in 2019.

Stabilization work proposed this year would include brickwork, replacement of damaged materials and repair of walls that are peeling and cracking in the existing keepers’ house, light tower, oil house and privy.

“The fact that there’s been no electricity for over a hundred years means there’s no way to control the climate and environment inside,” Frank said, noting that the society removes and stores artifacts from the unheated facility each winter to protect them. The work this year would help ensure the survival of the structures, she said.

Once supporters help raise $2.1 million, a project starting with electric and mechanical work would further remedy the ventilation problems. That would make the buildings “100% usable” and allow the society “to properly repair, restore, refurnish, and interpret these spaces accurately,” according to the restoration plan.The historical society asks people to mail a letter, send an email, or call the DNR by Feb. 8 in support of the variance and lighthouse restoration to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, C/O Yoyi Steele, Property Planner, 101 S Webster St. LF/6, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921; or [email protected] or 608.590.6027.

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