Lighthouse gets makeover

Courtesy photo Carl Behrend of Old Country Decorating and Painting of Munising, hangs from the top of the Seul Choix Pointe Lighthouse in a bosun chair while painting the structure.

GULLIVER — For the second time in four years, the Seul Choix Pointe Lighthouse is being painted.

The interior and exterior of the fully operational Seul Choix Pointe Lighthouse, located in Gulliver in Schoolcraft County, was first painted by Carl Behrend of Old Country Decorating and Painting of Munising in 1994 in anticipation of the Lighthouses Centennial Celebration held by the Gulliver Historical Society on Aug. 5, 1995.

On that day, over one thousand visitors stood in line to climb the 96 steps to the top of the light tower. Before to that time, the lighthouse hadn’t been open to the public.

Four years ago, a complete restoration and paint job was done through a 50/50 matching Michigan Coastal Grant of $80,000. However, the paint did not withstand the Upper Peninsula’s winter weather and chipped away, resulting in the lighthouse obtaining a layer of green mold.

Seeing the landmark in disarray, the Gulliver Historical Society, Inc., which leases and cares for the Historic Park, decided to do something.

The Society members once again hired Behrend to paint the interior and exterior of the light tower, the Boat House Museum, and the assistant keeper’s house.

The original 1892 assistant keeper’s house building first started its life at the lighthouse as a barn, housing horses used to build the lighthouse. In the early 1920s, it was turned into living quarters to house the families of the third assistant keeper position. In the 1970’s, the building was given away and moved to McDonald Lake to be used for duck hunting. Gulliver residents Don and Barb Gardner donated the building to the Gulliver Historical Society in 2006.

In 2016, with the full cooperation of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Parks and Recreation Division, the house was moved back into the park to its original location, but the process of moving it back to the site was a long one. After moving the building to the entrance of the park in 2006, the DNR would not allow it to be moved into the park at that time. Leasing property from the neighbor next to the lighthouse, the historical society waited 10 years for permission to finally move the structure into the park.

“We put the building on the exact same site when it first was a barn, but first we had to have an ‘archeology dig’ mandated by the state,” said Glenn Fischer, a Gulliver Historical Society, Inc. volunteer. “The DNR did a great job doing all the landscaping surrounding the building.”

Along with Fischer, historical society volunteer Ken Burch, has been restoring the interior of the building and getting it ready to become the new home for the Gulliver Research/Genealogy Library. To prepare the building, the deteriorating walls inside of the light tower first had to be scraped down, mold removed, plastered, sanded and painted.

“Together, Behrend and his wife Dory restored the inside of the light tower and it turned out beautiful,” remarked Marilyn Fischer, president of the Gulliver Historical Society.

Working on the exterior of the light tower, Behrend hung from the top by ropes, while sitting on a bosun chair — the same way light keepers painted the tower one hundred years ago.

First, Behrend power blasted the bricks with a disinfectant to kill the existing mold, rinsed it with clean water and scraped the tower down from top to bottom. Missing chinking between the bricks has been restored, and once the building is thoroughly dry, the tower will be repainted. The same process was used to ready the other historic buildings on the park grounds.

Money raised through gift shop sales, memorials, donations, and entrance fees all go back into the continuing up-keep of the buildings, year-round phone, electric and heating fees, insurance, and lawn maintenance. Hard working volunteer tour guides keep the gift shop and museums open daily from Memorial Day through the end of September from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The society encourages area people and tourists to come visit one of Schoolcraft County’s most beautiful national and Michigan Historic sites.