A sneak peak at Split Rock Lighthouse’s new exhibit

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Split Rock Lighthouse is almost done with its most extensive programmatic update in a generation.

“This is one of the biggest projects that I’ve been involved with in my professional career,” said Site Manager Hayes Scriven. “What we’ve been doing in the last two years is working on renovation to our exhibit gallery. The last time the exhibit had been completely overhauled was in 1997.”

At the heart of the exhibit sits a full-scale replica of the Third Order Fresnel Lens that is in the lighthouse. The 650-pound lens includes 252 prisms.

“Right now when you come to the lighthouse, you have to walk up the stairs to the observation deck and then you have to go in the tower and then walk up more stairs to get there. So there’s a lot of people that have mobility issues,” said Scriven. “There’s a lot of people that are just afraid of heights that don’t get to go up there and see the lens and experience what it’s like to be there. With the one that we have now in the gallery, anybody can come do that.”

The exhibit highlights some of the most significant shipwrecks in North Shore history, including those from the storm of 1905.

“As a whole, Split Rock is a result of us trying to make the lake safer and utilize the lake from that 1905 storm,” Scriven explained. “In 1909, 1910, they started building the lighthouse. So with that peace in mind and trying to control the lake, they started this process and constructed it in a really remote area. There was no Highway 61, so they had to bring everything by boat, lift everything up the cliff and build it all by hand here.”

The goal of the exhibit is to capture the history of not only the lighthouse but also stories from varying perspectives in the area. 

“The Split Rock story is the centerpiece to it, but we also wanted to elevate the indigenous culture that’s still here. That played a very important role in the development of our area,” said Scriven. “And then also talk about what it’s like raising a family and living on the site. So we did some oral histories with the keepers’ wives and some of the children that lived here and wanted to lift up their lives and showcase that as well.”

The exhibit will be open to the public on Friday, May 26th. Admission will be free from six to ten that evening as part of North Shore Community Night. 

“We’re going to have live music, food, trucks, some yard games, bonfire pits, and then we’re going to turn the beacon on at 9:00 as well. So it’s just kind of a fun night where people will be able to see the exhibit for the first time, but then also come out and just kind of hang out and chill and have a drink and watch the light go around,” said Scriven.