Couple wishing to gift lighthouse encounters roadblock

Grand Island is largely undeveloped, but some still call it home…at least for the summer.

Pat and Loren Graham are one such couple. They winter in Cambridge, Massachusetts but spend their summers on the island in the Old North Lighthouse, which they own. They bought it in 1972 and spent some time refurbishing it.

“It was a wreck,” said Pat. “There was no pane of glass left in it; there wasn’t a door left attached; there was a great hole in the kitchen floor that dropped you into a cistern in the basement. We had no water, no power, no electricity; it was pretty primitive.”

For the past 20 years, they’ve been trying to gift the lighthouse to the Marquette Regional History Center, but there’s a problem.

“Because a land exchange is what they are proposing, challenges include the exchange process itself,” Janel Crooks, acting district ranger with the U.S. Forest Service in Munising, said. “Normally we would do such a project through a special use permit. Also, we have tribal concerns; we’ve had the tribes express some concerns, and we’re also very interested in their business plan for the project to ensure that it would actually be feasible.”

The Grahams want the entire property to be managed by the History Center free of government involvement. It’s possible to apply for a special use permit, but that come with its own set of issues.

“Special use permits come with a whole raft of regulations, one of which is the Forest Service can cancel it any time they want to,” Loren Graham said. “Should we give a large amount of money to an organization and it can be canceled at whim? I don’t think so. That’s why it should be an independent, non-governmental museum.”

“The idea is that you’d probably want to have somebody living in the guest house as the curator,” Pat Graham added. “The lighthouse itself would be open to the public and run by the Marquette Regional History Center, which knows how to run these kinds of places.”

The lighthouse sits higher above sea level than any other lighthouse in the U.S., and that’s just one of the things that makes it special.

“I’ve gone to Washington, D.C. and gotten all of the keepers’ logs so if you’re in there and you want to know what happened on August the 23rd, 1873, you can look it up and it well tell you: probably nothing, but maybe something,” Loren said with a laugh.

“We’ve tried hard to make this a spot that people would enjoy coming to, to learn about the area and to learn about lighthouses,” Pat said.

The Grahams have forged memories at the Old North Light and believe it should be preserved as a museum for the public’s benefit.

Loren concluded by saying, “I would just like to add this: If people in Marquette and in the U.P. think that this is a good idea, that this gift should be given to the Marquette Regional History Center and that this museum should be created, I hope that they will talk to any of their friends who might help that along: any government officials, any Forest Service people, the Marquette Regional History Center, local mayors, just say, ‘Hey, let’s get that done.'”