Light Hearted

Light Hearted ep 181 – Jan Cole, Eagle River and Sand Hills, MI: Jane and Jean Gertz

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.

Eagle River Lighthouse, Michigan. Photo by Jeremy D’Entremont.
Bud and Jan Cole, courtesy of Jan Cole.

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.

Sand Hills Lighthouse, Michigan. Photo by Jeremy D’Entremont.

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.

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