Lake County Historical Society

Two Harbors Light Station Historic Structures Report

The Oldest Operating Lighthouse on the North Shore

LHB teamed with Landscape Research, Inc. to produce this comprehensive historic preservation planning document for one of the North Shore’s most significant historic resources. Our document follows the standards established by the National Park Service in their “Preservation Brief 43: The Preparation and Use of Historic Structures Reports.” It is intended to provide the historical context for the development of the 1893 lighthouse and surrounding properties, demonstrate the ways in which each contributing structure supported the mission of providing navigational aid on the treacherous shores of Lake Superior, evaluate the current condition of the resource and provide prioritized maintenance recommendations, select a proposed treatment approach, and provide a framework for how the Lake County Historical Society might accomplish their goals at the site while continuing to maintain and improve the integrity of the historic resource.

Project Type Historic Structures Report
Location Two Harbors, MN
Completion Date May 2023
Looking southwest at the lantern. Note the modern beacon.

A Beacon in the Night

The lantern of the lighthouse is the most significant architectural feature at the light station. The original Fresnel lens and associated clockwork was removed in 1969 and replaced with a DCB-224 aerobeacon. Recently, the aerobeacon was removed and replaced with a modern LED type fixture. The original Fresnel lens was returned to the museum in 2015 and resides in keeper’s dwelling.

A narrow staircase of 40 steps winds up through four tower levels to the lantern.

Spike, Vent, Protect

Not only is the spiked ball on top of the lantern a distinctive architectural feature, but it provides two important purposes. It serves as a ventilator, essential to the removal of excess moisture from inside the lantern, and the spike serves as part of the lightning protection system that features leads that run down the side of the buildng to the north.

In 1987, the last light keeper and his family moved out of the building. The lighthouse was extensively remodeled in the late 1990s and opened as a bed and breakfast.

Focal Point of the Light Station Site

The Two Harbors Light Station complex has a total of six structures: Lighthouse Tower with the attached Keeper’s Quarters, the Assistant Keeper’s House, the Fog Horn Signal Building, the Oil House, the lift station landing and a garage. The 49.6 foot lighthouse tower, made of red brick, measures 12 feet squared and towers 78 feet above Lake Superior.