Baileys Harbor Range Lights
Baileys Harbor, WI 54202
Situated within the grounds of The Ridges Sanctuary, the Baileys Harbor Range Lights actually replaced a failed first attempt in 1852. The first lighthouse was a circular stone structure with an iron top that resembled a birdcage. The birdcage light was situated in exactly the wrong place and probably caused more shipwrecks than it prevented.
The Range Lights were built in tandem with the Cana Island Lighthouse and the Birdcage was decommissioned. Today, it is privately owned and can only be viewed from the water.
Baileys Harbor Range Lights History
1868: Congress appropriates $6,000 to build a lighthouse on Cana Island and the two range lights.
1869: Fabien Truedell (74 years-old) is appointed the first keeper of the lights.
1870: The Range Lights go into service.
1872: Marcus Shaler is the new keeper.
1875: Lucy, the wife of Marcus Shaler, is a victim of a typhoid outbreak. Shaler retires out of grief. He is replaced by Joseph Harris Jr., son of the editor of The Door County Advocate.
1881: Hans L. Hanson is new keeper.
1882: Burr Caswell is new keeper. Later replaced by George Larson.
1888: John Millidge is new keeper.
1896: Henry Gattie is new keeper. He was an eligible and handsome bachelor, and was so popular that his name and social doings appeared often in the newspaper’s society column.
1901: Despite the heartbreak of many women, Gattie marries Eva Hendrick in February.
1923: Gattie is transferred to Cana Island when the Range Lights were converted to an unmanned acetylene gas system.
1930: The lights are wired for electricity, and the keeper’s house, shuttered for seven years, becomes the parsonage for Immanuel Lutheran Church. The pastor is responsible for minor maintenance of the lights.
1934: The Bureau of Lighthouses deeds the 40-acre site to the Door County Park Commission.
1937: Emma Toft leads a protest against the building of a trailer park on the property evolves into the forming of the Ridges Sanctuary.
1944-1953: Reverend Robert Girod and his wife occupied the keeper’s house.
1955: The church’s use of the keeper’s house ended. The Coast Guard took bids for renting it to the public. Ruby Golke and her children won the bid.
1962: The Golke family moved when Ruby’s oldest son began college. The house sat empty.
1965: Care of The Range Lights was transferred to The Ridges.
1966: Roy Lukes moves into the keeper’s house when he is hired to teach middle school science at Gibraltar.
1972: Roy marries Charlotte Koch.
1982: Roy and Charlotte move. The keeper’s house becomes the Ridges office.
1989: The Range Lights are added to the National Register of Historic Places.
1996: New lights are installed in the lantern rooms and are lit occasionally.
2012: Restoration for Lower Range Light is completed.
2015: The Ridges received approval to “relight the ranges as private aids to navigation.”
2016: The Ridges retained preservation architect Laura Davis of Isthmus Architecture in Madison to prepare a Historic Structures Report for the Upper Range Light.
Baileys Harbor Range Lights Interesting Facts
- The Advocate reported that the Duclon Orchestra, composed of members of the family that lived in the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, played at Henry and Eva Gattie’s wedding. Guests who partied into the wee hours expressed regret that the Gatties could not be married at least once a month.
- Reverend Robert Girod and his wife tried to fight a brush fire that threatened their home (the keeper’s house). They had to call the fire department. However, only a mechanic’s helper was in the building at the time and was reluctant to leave. He didn’t know how to run the pump for the and, by the time he figured it out, so much pressure had built up that it blew the hose off the truck. The story was hushed up, Girod said, because they didn’t want people to think the fire department was undependable.
- During Roy Luke’s time at the keeper’s house, it had a narrow escape when it was hit by a lightning bolt that threw Lukes across the room, set curtains on fire and blew the door off the fuse box.
- Both the Upper and Lower Range Lights have been identified as two of the only surviving examples of range lights in Wisconsin.
Baileys Harbor Range Lights Tours
Tours are free for members and $5 for non-members (included in day pass).
The 2017 Tour Schedule will be available in April.
(Left to right) Marge Binder, Lee Traven, and Sarah Wright pictured by the Lower Range Light. Traven is the son of Ridge’s founder, Olivia Traven.
Henry Gattie (right) was the last lightkeeper in the Range Lights, serving until 1930 when the lights were electrified.
The relit Range Lights in June 2015.
The Baileys Harbor Range Lights. Photo by Len Villano.