After going dark more than four decades ago, the iconic Upper and Lower Range Lights have a chance to shine again thanks to the perseverance of Ed Miller, a board member of The Ridges Sanctuary with a passion for these increasingly rare lighthouses.
When constructed in 1869, the Range Lights were considered the most effective way to keep ships off the treacherous reefs and shallows at the entrance to Baileys Harbor. From the water, a sailor got “on range” by vertically aligning the white light in the Upper Range Light with the Lower Range Light’s red beacon. Six similar range lights were built on the Great Lakes at the time, although today the Upper Range Light in Baileys Harbor is the only one of their style and class still standing in its original positions. The Lower Range Light was moved to a new foundation 15 feet from the original location in 2012 to place it at a safer distance from Ridges Road.
Maintained by The Ridges since 1937, the Range Lights guided ships to safe harbor for 100 years. In 1969, the lanterns were removed from both buildings and a directional light and day board were installed near the beach.
Until the recent opening of The Ridges’ new nature center on Hwy 57, the Upper Range Light housed the organization’s business office.
“From the time we began planning to build a visitor facility, it was our intent to eventually restore the Upper Range Light and make it accessible to the public,” said Ridges Director Steve Leonard.
With the staff now officed in the Cook-Fuller Center, the first stage of the restoration is underway. This spring, The Ridges retained preservation architect Laura Davis of Isthmus Architecture in Madison to prepare a Historic Structures Report. When completed, the report will define the structural scope of the restoration and help to establish the expense of the project.
Miller was actively involved in the restoration of the Lower Range Light and now chairs The Ridges Lighthouse Committee. With the restoration of the Lower Range Light completed, Miller turned his attention to the relighting of the Lights in December of 2014. He applied to the Coast Guard, working closely with Doug Sharp of the Cleveland Coast Guard Station, throughout the process. In late April, Miller received approval to “relight the ranges as private aids to navigation.”
Miller then worked with Tim Fey of the Coast Guard Station in Two Rivers to obtain a replacement red lens lantern for the Lower Range Light. Upon its installation, the Lights sprang to life on June 11, 2015 and will remain lit permanently. The Coast Guard has indicated that the Baileys Harbor directional light and day board on the tower across from the Lower Range Light on Ridges Road will be removed. At this time, it appears that the entrance lighted bell buoy will remain in place.
Both Range Lights are featured as part of guided hikes at The Ridges. A ceremony celebrating the relighting will be held later this summer.