2017-09-14 / Front Page

Life saving station headed home

By Cindy Centofanti
Staff Writer • ccentofanti@mihomepaper.com


The Pointe aux Barques Life Saving Station was commissioned in 1876 and was originally located next to the Pointe aux Barques Lighthouse in Port Hope. The station was purchased and moved to its present location as a part of the Huron City Museum complex to save the building from demolition in 1964. 
Photo courtesy of the Pointe aux Barques Lighthouse Society The Pointe aux Barques Life Saving Station was commissioned in 1876 and was originally located next to the Pointe aux Barques Lighthouse in Port Hope. The station was purchased and moved to its present location as a part of the Huron City Museum complex to save the building from demolition in 1964. Photo courtesy of the Pointe aux Barques Lighthouse Society POINTE AUX BARQUES - The road commission and a local history society are working together to preserve history and promote tourism for Huron County. The Pointe aux Barques Life Saving Station will be parting ways with its current location at the Huron City Museums and will be moving back to its former location. The news was announced by Huron County Road Commission Manager Neal J. Hentschel during Tuesday’s Huron County Board of Commissioners Committee Meeting of the Whole.

Hentschel said the Pointe aux Barques Life Saving Station was commissioned in 1876, during the first year the Great Lakes were included in the U.S. Life Saving Service. Originally located next to the Pointe aux Barques Lighthouse in Port Hope, it was purchased and moved to its present location to save the building from demolition in 1964.

“In the early 1960s, Mrs. Lucas, who is a part of the Parcells family, which owns the museum complex in Huron City, bought the building from the government and moved it back to Huron City in lieu of having it torn down,” Hentschel explained. “About three years ago, the family, the William Lyon Phelps Foundation and the Huron City Company came to the road commission and said they are going to change direction with their museum and would like to have this building returned to its former location.”

Hentschel added the entire relocation process has been long and has shown some struggles, but he, along with his team, are getting closer to beginning the move.

Talaski Building Movers has been contracted to move the Coast Guard lifesaving station. Hentschel said Tom Donnellon and Dan Strozeski have also taken a lead role on moving the foundation and having it re-established before winter comes.

Donnellon said the station actually consists of two separate buildings, both two stories high - the Coast Guard building measuring 20 feet by 50 feet and the other building measuring 17 feet by 54 feet, with a breezeway in between. He added that when the two buildings are ready to be moved, the artifacts, which have remained preserved inside the building for many years, will be taken out and stored by the artifact society until the station is at its final resting place.

“There is a wide variety of historical objects inside both buildings - ropes, pictures, some furniture and cannons,” Donnellon said. “The building behind the Coast Guard station, which is attached by a breezeway, used to be the captain’s house. Essentially, both buildings are two in one, but yet, they are two separate buildings, 17-feet parallel with each other.”

The expected traveling distance is estimated to be about one and a half miles total, although a specific route has not been determined, according to Hentschel. He said that one way or another, they will find a way to get it to where it belongs.

Hentschel told the VIEW that although moving the station is a good first step, there will be more included in order to make it presentable and safe for the public to tour.

“We will need to thoroughly evaluate the electrical system and the roof,” Hentschel said. “Ultimately, we have to make it presentable and safe for the public to go in. It’s going to be a destination. It will fit right in with the lighthouse seeing as though it was already on the properly before.”

Hentschel also said that a majority of the public remains unaware that the road commission has taken the lead role in being the caretaker for the county’s parks, which is the reason for their involvement.

“We manage the parks on behalf of the county board,” Hentschel said. “We have done that for 50-60 years. In the last 25-30 years, we have really taken the parks, Pointe aux Barques included, to the next level. There is no road money that goes into these parks; they are strictly funded by camping (fees). Last year, the revenue from camping was $1,500,000 and has increased steadily by 10-percent over the years.”

He explained that the funds have been set aside for this project from the park revenue that has been generated in hopes it will heighten interest in maritime enthusiasts and become a strong draw for tourism.

“We try to spend on improvement to areas that will increase the camping, but this project directly does not do that,” Hentschel said. “We’re spending money on a museum, but if we make Lighthouse Park a better destination, then those 17,000 people who traveled there over the summer will surely return. It is hugely significant from a marine historical perspective.”

Once the foundation and station has been transferred to the new location in Port Hope, President of Pointe aux Barques Lighthouse Society, Bill Bonner, will oversee the functions, in conjunction with the already established lighthouse and gift shop.

“Just this past summer, the lighthouse museum had over 17,000 visitors. With the arrival of the life saving station, it will help tourism something fierce,” Bonner said. “What a lot of people don’t realize, 90 percent of visitors are not from Huron County. We get people from all over the world. It will just bring more people.”

Bonner also said he is very thankful for the “strong” relationship between the society and road commission. He said that over the years they have done nothing but continually work well and professionally in order to maintain the

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