2013-12-05 / Lifestyles

Historic house moves back ‘home’ to Seul Choix Park

By Marilyn S. Fischer

Above, movers work to relocate the original assistant keeper’s house back to the Seul Choix Point Lighthouse Park. The house had been moved out of the park 50 years ago. 
Courtesy photo Above, movers work to relocate the original assistant keeper’s house back to the Seul Choix Point Lighthouse Park. The house had been moved out of the park 50 years ago. Courtesy photo MANISTIQUE – The original wooden assistant keeper’s house was moved back to the Seul Choix Point Lighthouse Park on Nov. 20, after a 50 years absence.

The history of the house began in 1892, when it was first a barn at the Seul Choix Point Lighthouse. According to the 1907 Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board, “Seul Choix Pointe, Lake Michigan, an outbuilding was converted into a dwelling for the assistant keeper and various repairs were made.”

In the Lighthouse Establishment Log, dated Oct. 4, 1907, is a letter:

“Mr. Jos. W. Townshend, Keeper Seul Choix Pointe Light, Gulliver, Michigan, Sir, Your are authorized to purchase maple flooring, building paper, nails, etc., required to lay a floor in the assistant keepers quarters at your station. Lay two thicknesses of paper on the subfloor, over which lay the maple flooring. Obtain bill, certify and send it to this office for payment. It is believed you can purchase the materials at Whitedale, Mich. and transport them to your station in your boat. Respectfully, Maj., Corps of Engineers, U.S.A. engineer, ninth lighthouse district. P.S. Obtain a good quality of building materials, paper, either tar or Neponset waterproof paper.”

Some of the original keeper families who lived in the house were the: Nelsons, Hansons, Davis’, Wilsons, Richardsons, and Craigs.

Willard Hanson remembered living in the house with his parents and five sisters and brothers. His father was Keeper William Hanson.

“We didn’t have refrigeration in the house and had to keep our perishable foods in metal buckets lowered in the old well pit. Every time we needed food, we pulled the buckets up by a rope,” he said. “We had an old pot bellied stove fueled by wood and coal to keep warm by and mom cooked on an old wood stove in the kitchen. There was one large bedroom upstairs and no inside bathrooms back than either, we used a pot under the bed!”

The assistant keeper’s house was moved off of the Point in the mid 50s by Steve Bobic, and was used mainly for duck hunting. The Coast Guard had plans to build a new modern brick ranch on the site of the old wooden house. Keeper Will Davis’ son Bill worked with Bobic at Detroit Edison in Detroit, Mich. and heard that it was being offered for a bargain price. The house move was made to a small shoreline site on McDonald Lake, five miles away and it had sat there neglected ever since.

In early 2006, Don and Barb Gardner purchased the McDonald Lakefront property and heard thru the grapevine that the Gulliver Historical Society would love to put the historic house back with the Seul Choix Point Lighthouse Complex. Gardner’s donated the house in memory of Bill and Ginger Davis, whose father was an assistant keeper, and had such wonderful memories of living in the building.

The Historical Society has a 30- year long term lease with the state of Michigan for the care and upkeep of the entire Lighthouse Park; however, in 2006, the state would not allow any new or old buildings onto state land. Negations with the next door property owners to the park began with Dr. and Mrs. Steve Loftus. They agreed to lease 200 feet of property closest to the park because they fully supported the historical society’s efforts in preserving this important piece of local history.

After eight long years of negotiating with the state of Michigan, Parks and Recreation Division, plans to move the house into the Park finally happened through the efforts of DNR Officers Lee Vaughn, Tom Paquin and Gulliver Historical Society President, Marilyn Fischer. During that 8-year wait, a new roof, new cedar siding, new windows, new door, and paint were added to restore the exterior of the house.

Excavating work was done by Northfork Construction, of Manistique. Dave Rogers Cement Company, of Gulliver, built the cement block foundation and Tony Vandermissen and Sons Moving Company, moved the house from the rental lot over to the site where the building originally stood 121 years ago. The entire moving and restoration project was financed by the Gulliver Historical Society, Inc.

Future plans by the society are to restore the interior of the house and move their extensive Research/Genealogy Library into the building

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