2017-07-13 / Life in Leelanau

Crib restoration could start this week

By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff


DAVID MCWILLIAM, one of the purchasers of the Crib and a trustee on the North Manitou Light Keepers board, gets a premium view of Lake Michigan from his perch on the aging structure during a visit last fall. DAVID MCWILLIAM, one of the purchasers of the Crib and a trustee on the North Manitou Light Keepers board, gets a premium view of Lake Michigan from his perch on the aging structure during a visit last fall. The first order of business in bringing the historic ‘Crib’ in the Manitou Passage back to life is scraping the guano off its exterior.

After that the North Manitou Shoal Lighthouse will be stabilized, media-blasted, repaired, weatherproofed and painted.

And that’s just the outside of the rusty, aging and neglected structure.

It’s a job for a restoration crew hired by the Crib’s new owners, who this week announced their purchase of the lighthouse has been finalized. And that’s no easy task when you’re buying property from the U.S. General Services Administration that is situated on Lake Michigan bottomlands, which also necessitated securing a private use agreement from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.


DANIEL OGINSKY, president of the North Manitou Light Keepers Board of Trustees, climbs up the ladder to the Crib during a September visit. The ladder is the only way to get on the Crib, located in the Manitou Passage. DANIEL OGINSKY, president of the North Manitou Light Keepers Board of Trustees, climbs up the ladder to the Crib during a September visit. The ladder is the only way to get on the Crib, located in the Manitou Passage. “The restoration work starts now,” said Daniel Oginsky, who with his wife Anna and three other couples submitted the winning bid of $73,000 — the highest of four — for the lighthouse last fall.

“We could have people out there this week,” he said.

Oginsky, of Brighton, purchased the Crib with Dave and Sherry McWilliam and Todd and Natalie Buckley, also of Brighton; and Jake and Suzanne Kaberle of Traverse City.

The group then formed the North Manitou Light Keepers (NMLK), a nonprofit that has the goal of raising the money needed to complete the restoration of the structure.


A SCALE MODEL of the ‘Crib’ was featured in both the Glen Arbor Fourth of July parade, shown here, and the Leland parade. A SCALE MODEL of the ‘Crib’ was featured in both the Glen Arbor Fourth of July parade, shown here, and the Leland parade. That amount is estimated at up to $1.5 million, Oginsky said.

The group announced this week that a capital campaign has been started and they are looking for more members. They also plan to apply for grants, but expect that any grants they get will only cover a small amount of needed funding.

The group plans to have the Crib fully restored and available for public tours by July 4, 2021.

“The North Manitou Shoal Lighthouse is a historic lighthouse amidst one of America’s most beautiful places,” Oginsky said. “It’s an important piece of Michigan maritime history. Lots of people know the crib and love the crib, but the structure is in rough shape.”

Built in 1935, the lighthouse marks the southern end of the shoal south of North Manitou Island. The two-story structure, which sits atop a concrete crib, was previously used as a Coast Guard living quarters, with three-person crews serving two weeks at a time at the station, followed by a week off.

A three-story steel tower located on top of the building leads to the now-automated lantern, which still guides Great Lakes shipping traffic and pleasure boats through the Manitou Passage.

The structure has been unoccupied since about 1980, when automation took place.

In 2015, the lighthouse was made available to eligible nonprofit organizations under the provisions of the National Historic Preservation Act of 2000.

Work on the Crib’s exterior also includes the removal of lead-based paint and asbestos, evaluating the portion of the structure that is underwater, and replacing the glass panes of the lantern house.

Many of those glass panes have broken over the years and were replaced with acrylic sheets that have become foggy, Oginsky said. The lantern may actually be taken down and repaired on dry land before going back onto the tower.

The work will be done by the Michigan-based Mihm Enterprises, a company that specializes in historic restorations and has worked on several Great Lakes lighthouses, including the Point Betsie Lighthouse in Frankfort and the DeTour Reef Light in Lake Huron off Drummond Island.

The Crib has a basement area in its concrete base and a boat garage on its first level. There is about 2,000 square feet of living space located on its first and second levels.

Future work includes renovating that space, replacing windows, installing historic cranes on the crib deck, installing electrical and mechanical systems and adding furnishings.

“Right now it’s gutted,” Oginsky said. “We want it clean, we want it nice, we want it historically accurate, but we still want it to be comfortable enough for someone to stay there for a night or two.”

There also needs to be a way to get off and on the lighthouse, he said.

“Right now the only way to get up it is to climb a ladder that is embedded in the side of the crib,” he said.

A large scale model of the Crib was recently featured on a float in both the Glen Arbor and Leland Fourth of July parades. The NMLK also gave a presentation on their restoration plans at the Old Art Building in Leland.

Oginsky, who recently purchased a home in Leland, said he can feel a sense of excitement growing in the community about the Crib.

“We are doing this because we love the area,” he said. “We love the idea of taking ownership of the lighthouse and restoring it to something nice.”

Information on becoming an NMLK member or making a donation to the nonprofit can be found online at northmanitoulightkeepers.org. NMLK is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization and donations are tax deductible.

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