Inspiration at a Lighthouse

On our vacation at the North Shore we left our beautiful “home” for the week to visit one tourist spot– the Split Rock Lighthouse. Supposedly it is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the country. Our family certainly added to the number of pictures taken.Split Rock LighthouseHowever, it was not built for the purpose of tourist picture taking. It was built after a terrible storm in 1905 in which 29 ships were sunk or damaged. The cliff is 130 feet high and all of the materials for building the lighthouse and surrounding buildings had to be hoisted up the cliff from boats below (not an easy endeavor.) There were no roads to the lighthouse during the first 20 years of operation but after roads were built tourists began to flock to the lighthouse by the 1930s. Besides the job of keeping the lighthouse functioning properly, the keepers had to also become tour guides.

The lighthouse itself is 54 feet tall so access within the tower is by a narrow spiral staircase. I love the design shapes visible looking down the staircase. The lens for the lighthouse was built in Paris and assembled in the lighthouse. The entire lens weighs in at almost 6.5 tons. Remember that all had to be hoisted up the cliff from boats along with over 300 tons of building materials. The keepers had to keep each lens glass clean along with the lighthouse windows. Notice the rainbow colors on the lens in the upper left side in the picture. The lens revolved once every 20 seconds so a light flashed once every 10 seconds. (Every lighthouse has its own unique signal.) The beacon of light could be seen for 22 miles. The lens assembly was turned by a gear system with weights on cables similar to a grandfather clock. The weights had to be restored to their starting positions every two hours by the keepers.Split Rock Lighthouse InsideWhen the visibility conditions did not allow for the light to be seen, the fog signal building blasted a two second blast every 18 seconds to warn ships up to 5 miles away.Fog Signal Building Split Rock LighthouseThree identical keeper’s houses were built next to the lighthouse for the light house keeper and two assistants along with their families. The families only lived on the property during the shipping season (not the winter months) until the roads were built and they could stay year round. The colors for the rooms of each house were determined by the government and each house had to be identical.Split Rock Lighthouse Keepers Home Of course each home could be personalized with special touches of handmade items.HandworkA large pantry was necessary because running to the grocery store was not an option.Split Rock Lighthouse Keepers HomeCommunication was not as simple as it is for us today. Have you ever seen a typewriter like this one?TypewriterThe views from the lighthouse are spectacular.Lake Superior- Split Rock LighthouseNorth Shore Lake Superior North Shore Lake Superior The Split Rock Lighthouse was decommissioned in 1969 when modern methods of navigations made lighthouses unnecessary and eventually became a National Historic Landmark.

So besides the breath-taking beauty surrounding the lighthouse and the unique designs of the lens and the spiral staircase, how was I inspired at a lighthouse?

First, the story of how the lighthouse was built even with seemingly impossible obstacles to overcome makes me realize that no matter what obstacles I may face, nothing really is impossible. It may require creativity and ingenuity to figure out alternative ways to do something and sometimes requires much perseverance in the process.

Second, my everyday life is so very easy compared with the way people lived during the early years of the lighthouse operations. I love old houses and antiques, but I also appreciate very much the modern conveniences I have today. I am inspired by the creativity required for their everyday living.

Third, lighthouses have long been used symbolically in the Christian faith as Jesus being the light of the world as a beacon of hope to show people the way. Visiting a lighthouse brings more clarity to that mental image.

I might be inspired to someday paint or draw Split Rock Lighthouse like some of the beautiful artwork I saw in the visitor center. Someone was even inspired to make a Lego Split Rock Lighthouse.Split Rock Lighthouse LegosNext time you visit a tourist spot, open your eyes, mind, and heart to look for inspiration.


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