July 9, 2022
The development of Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, which juts about 60 miles north from the Upper Peninsula into Lake Superior, was based mostly on copper mining. Increased maritime traffic related to the copper industry led to the establishment of Eagle River Lighthouse on the northwest part of the peninsula in 1858. Local maritime traffic decreased and the lighthouse was deactivated in 1908. Meanwhile, there was a call for a lighthouse and fog signal at a location known as Sand Hills a few miles to the southwest. The station established in 1919 at Sand Hills consisted of a buff-colored brick dwelling with a square tower mounted on top, with a light 91 feet above lake level. The light was discontinued in 1954 and was sold at auction to H. Donald Bliss, who used it as a summer home for a few years.
A subsequent owner, Bill Frabotta, renovated the property and opened it as the Sand Hills Lighthouse Inn in 1995. Historic preservationist Bud Cole purchased the property in 2014. After a thorough restoration, he began offering it as a vacation rental with three bedrooms and 3000 square feet of living space. Bud Cole also bought Sand Hills Lighthouse in 2019. His sister, Jan Cole, manages the lighthouse properties at Eagle River and Sand Hills.
Jane and Jean Gertz’s father, Maxwell Gertz, was a keeper in the 1940s and ‘50s at Manitou Island and Sand Hills, Michigan. The Gertz sisters have stayed involved with lighthouses as volunteers for the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association.
Special thanks to Nick Korstad for his help with this episode.
Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. He is the president and historian for the American Lighthouse Foundation and founder of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, and he has lectured and narrated cruises throughout the Northeast and in other regions. He is also the producer and host of the U.S. Lighthouse Society podcast, “Light Hearted.” He can be emailed at Jeremy@uslhs.org