|Duluth Rear Range Light||Seeing The Light|
To rectify this situation, in 1880 the Lighthouse Board recommended that the sum of $2,000 be made available for the construction of a light on the inner end of the south breakwater. By constructing this new tower with a focal plane higher than that of the existing breakwater light, the two lights would combine to serve as a range, and by maintaining a line in which these two lights were constantly oriented one above the other, a direct course could be followed to the opening between the two piers.
After receiving a Congressional appropriation on March 2,1889, construction began on a timber pyramid tower surmounted by a frame watch room. Topped with an octagonal cast iron lantern, and equipped with a flashing red Fourth Order Fresnel lens emitting a single flash every six seconds, the "sweet pot" of which was situated at a focal plane above that of the South Breakwater Light.
Work on the new structure continued through the summer, and the new rear range light was exhibited for the first time on the night of September 1. Sixteen days later, on September 17, the steamer India was encountering some problems making her way between the piers, and smashed into the breakwater at the foot of the new light, damaging the light's foundation. Repairs were made quickly at the expense of the vessel's owners.
By 1897, Duluth had grown to become one of the Great Lake's preeminent ports, and the town was expanding rapidly to envelope the hills surrounding the natural harbor. With the resulting proliferation of city lights, mariners voiced concern that the lights of the range were becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate from those of the city, and the Lighthouse Board contemplated increasing their visibility by substituting lenses of a higher order, or changing their characteristics to something more readily identifiable.
In the summer of 1901, the iron work for the permanent tower was delivered, and work began with the installation of two large concrete blocks within the breakwater to serve as its foundation. The structure itself consisted of an eight foot diameter iron cylinder containing a spiral cast iron stairway. Atop this cylinder, a galvanized iron gallery with circular watch room was supported by four tubular legs radial to the central cylinder, and diagonally braced with struts and tension rods. Capped with an octagonal cast iron lantern, the structure stood seventy feet from the base of the cylinder to the top of the ventilator ball, and provided the Fourth Order Fresnel lens with a focal plane of 68 feet. To provide a measure of visual contrast and improve the station's function as a day mark, the lantern and watch room were painted black, with all remaining components painted a bright white.
With two lights and a frequently active fog signal, a head keeper and two assistants were assigned to the Duluth Light station. However the only dwelling available to the crew was the small frame house built for the keeper in 1874. As a result, the two assistant keepers were forced to rent their own dwellings in town, at a cost of $10 and $15 per month, a considerable cost to those earning the less than princely sums that the position afforded. Thus, the Lighthouse Board requested an appropriation of $10,000 for the purchase of land and the construction of a duplex dwelling in the area of the rear range for the assistants and their families in its 1903 annual report.
Congress ignored the request, however the Board did not give up easily, reiterating its request every year until an appropriation of $2,000 for the purchase of land was finally made on March 4, 1907, with an additional appropriation for the actual construction of the dwelling on May 27 of the following year. While an empty lot directly across Lake Avenue from the head keepers' dwelling was selected, there was some wrangling required in order to obtain Government title to the property, and the structures were thus not completed and occupied until February, 1913. As completed, the building consisted of a two story brick duplex structure with a roof of asbestos shingles. Replete with all conveniences of the day, the first floor of each apartment consisted of an entry vestibule, living room, dining room, kitchenette and pantry. With two bedrooms and a bath on the second floors, the entire structure was heated by a hot-water heating system located in the cellar. Both dwellings are still standing, and can be seen flanking Lake Avenue immediately to the east of the aerial lift bridge.
In 1995, an inspection of the Fourth
Order Fresnel lens showed that it was in dire need of repairs, and thus
the Coast Guard decided to replace the old lens with a modern acrylic
optic, and donated the Fresnel to the Maritime Museum. The lens was
subsequently restored and the pedestal and clockwork rotating mechanism
were removed from the tower to be reunited with the lens. Today, both
may be seen on display in the Knowlton Gallery within the Museum. Today,
the colors of the rear range light have been reversed, with the central
cylinder and support legs now painted black, and the watch room white.
All three lighthouses are on piers on either side of a canal that was cut through a huge sand spit which protects the harbor on which the city is built. The road across the canal is accommodated by the Duluth lift bridge, which was built in 1902, and being one of Superiorís busiest ports, both Lakers and Salties are coming and going throughout the day.
While on the North
pier, we visited the Canal Park Maritime Museum, which is run by the
Army Corps of Engineers, and located tight against the lift bridge. We
found this to be a fascinating museum, and is the current location of
the Fourth Order Fresnel lens formerly located in the rear range
lantern. Museum hours vary
by season. Summer hours generally are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily; Spring
and Fall hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, and Winter hours are 10
a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday. For more information, call the
museum at (218) 727-2497