Two Harbors Light Seeing The Light

Two Harbors, Minnesota Home Back

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Historical Information

In the 1887 Annual Report of the Chief of Engineers of the U.S. Army, a plan was developed to supplement the protection of the natural harbor at Agate Bay. On October of 1888 a contract was let for construction of the East breakwater. By 1892, work had begun on the west breakwater. Records from 1892 show over 1,300 ships entering and leaving Agate Bay. It is to be remembered that the first shipment of iron ore left Agate Bay in August of 1884. So, within a decade, there was a drastic increase in boat traffic. This boat traffic included not only iron ore, logs being shipped, commercial/passenger traffic and coal.

On March 17, 1891 a Warranty Deed was entered into between Thomas Feigh and the U.S. government. For $1.00 Thomas Feigh sold the United States the one acre of land that the lighthouse now sits on.

Construction began on in the Spring of 1891. The light was first lit on April 15, 1892.

Click to view enlarged imageThe light tower and keeper's house are attached. This allowed the keeper to go directly from his house to the tower. The tower is built three bricks thick. The house is built two bricks thick. So where the walls meet is five bricks thick. The idea behind this thickness was, with the oil that was used in lighting the lamps in the tower, there was a level of protection proved the keeper and his family.

The tower is about 12 feet square and 49'6" tall. Each room was used for a special purpose. The first room is a bedroom for the 2nd assistant keeper. The next room was the watch room. Right below the light is the cleaning room. On top is the lantern room which is where the light operates from.

Originally, this light was outfitted with a Fourth Order Fresnel lens. This lens had a device which moved in front of the lens to make a pattern. The lens used oil, which was kept in the Oil House on the grounds. This light was removed in 1969 and transferred to a museum in Vermillion , Ohio.

The current light is a DCB-224 Aerobeacon. There are two 1,000 watt bulbs in each beacon. The beacons are set in a pattern to provide information to mariners about this specific light. From this light the following pattern is established: .4 seconds of light, 4.6 seconds of darkness, .4 seconds of light and 14.6 seconds of darkness. This 20 second pattern is repeated 3 times a minute, all day, every day. This light is on at all times and totally automated from a station in Duluth.

The Lake County Historical Society  entered into a lease for the site at that same time.

Keepers of this Light

Click here to see a complete listing of all Two Harbors Light keepers compiled by Phyllis L. Tag of Great Lakes Lighthouse Research.

Seeing this Light

Situated approximately half way between Duluth and Split Rock Two Harbors is still an active port with two working ore docks on the waterfront.

The Lake County Historical Society is now using the main lighthouse as a Bed & Breakfast operation, and thus entrance to the building is limited to climbing the tower. The adjacent keeper's dwelling however, has been restored, and open to the public.

We walked the rocky shoreline and marveled at the many different types and colors of lichens that encrusted the rocks. A skeletal-type light sits on the pier to the West of the light, however since the lighting was very overcast, we elected not to walk the pier.

Heading back to the parking lot, Sue saw a man sitting with his snow-white Samoyed dog, and went over to pet the dog. Thus started-up a conversation, and we learned that the man had worked for the Missabe Railroad on the ore docks for forty years prior to his retirement earlier in the year, and that he had lost his wife a few months previous. While he claimed that he brought his dog to the park for the cool lake breeze, it was plain that he was lonely, missed the railroad, and was really watching the trains working the ore docks.

Finding this Light

Hwy 61 runs from Duluth to Split Rock, and Two Harbors is located at the approximate mid point between them. The highway runs through the middle of Two Harbors, and there are a couple of stop lights located in the downtown area. There is a large "Lighthouse" sign located at the intersection with the road that leads to the lighthouse park. Turn toward the Lake at this intersection, and follow the signs to the lighthouse. There is a large paved parking area by the lighthouse grounds, and a short walk to both the lighthouse and the harbor pier.

Tours of the property are available Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and on Sundays from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. May through October. There is no set schedule for our tours as they are self guided. Tours are $2.50 for adults, $1.00 for children ages 9-17 (children 8 and under are free).

Contact information

Lake County Historical Society
(218) 834-4898

Reference Sources

Inventory of Historic Light Stations, National Parks Service, 1994.
Two Harbors Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast website
Personal visit to Two Harbors on 09/05/1999
Photographs from author's personal collection.
Keeper listings for this light appear courtesy of Great Lakes Lighthouse Research

This page last modified 12/26/2004

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