Minnesota Historical Society to light up North Shore

The Split Rock Lighthouse near Two Harbors is shown with the beacon shining at night. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY
By : 
Lisa Brainard
Journey vs. Destination

When thinking about special events to take in, keep an eye on the calendar of the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS), found online at www.mnhs.org/calendar. There are numerous events over the holidays.

Locally, we’re well acquainted with the MHS site at Historic Forestville. While its run of seasonal openings and special events has concluded for this year, those at other sites continue.

Before one gets into MHS holiday festivities, held largely in the Twin Cities, I found an upcoming event that might just tempt you to jump in your car and head up the North Shore along Lake Superior.

The Split Rock Lighthouse, located at 3173 Split Rock Lighthouse Road at Two Harbors, will be open for tours part of the day on Saturday, Nov. 10, as well as holding the Edmund Fitzgerald memorial beacon lighting. That is the date the Edmund Fitzgerald sank in Lake Superior, so famously shared in Gordon Lightfoot’s song titled with the ship’s name.

The MHS explains the event on its website (http://www.mnhs.org/event/5405), noting, “This annual event commemorates the sinking of the freighter Edmund Fitzgerald and the loss of her 29 crew members on Nov. 10, 1975. It is also a time to reflect on the memory of all lives lost in Great Lakes shipwrecks.

“The lighthouse, fog signal building and visitor center will be open. Costumed interpreters will greet visitors and provide historic site and shipwreck information. Throughout the afternoon, visitors can view a film about the Edmund Fitzgerald in the visitor center.

“At 4:30 p.m., the lighthouse will close temporarily while the names of the crew members are read to the tolling of a ship's bell. Following the ceremony, the beacon will be lit, and the tower will be open again to tour. This is the only opportunity each year when visitors can climb the tower after dark and see the lit beacon.”

Perhaps a dozen years ago, I was able to climb the stairs in Split Rock Lighthouse to go up and see the huge Fresnel lens during daylight hours. That was a thrill. I’m so glad I went up those stairs then, when I could readily do so.

As far as this Nov. 10 event, I can only imagine that seeing the beacon lighted in memory of the loss of lives from the Edmund Fitzgerald and other shipwrecks would be a very moving experience.

For more information on this lighthouse, go to www.mnhs.org/splitrock. And remember the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has a state park near the lighthouse, too, featuring the site in its name.

For more info on Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, go to www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/park.html?id=spk00266#homepage. This page even includes a link to another page listing locations from which you have a good view to photograph the lighthouse. It takes you back to the MHS website, but features locations in the state park, www.mnhs.org/splitrock/activities/photography. That could save some scouting work if wanting to take photos. And be sure to have your tripod to steady the camera.

Lisa Brainard still enjoys lifelong pursuits of the outdoors, history and travel as able following a serious accident and stroke in September 2012. She’s written this column weekly for about 15 years.