The Lightkeeper's House Museum


The History

The Lightkeeper's House was built in 1896 by the federal government for the Lighthouse Keeper and his family. The house was then used as a home for the U.S. Coast Guard Commander after 1946. The house was acquired by the Cook County Historical Society in 1966. In 1978, the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There was an addition to the historic building in 2006 providing the first archival storage facility for the Society's artifacts. It also houses a wonderful Maritime Exhibit. 

The Lightkeeper's House in Grand Marais, although unimposing architecturally, is a significant survivor of the settlement along Minnesota's North Shore during the last decades of the nineteenth century. Further, it is indicative of the dependence of communities such as Grand Marais on Lake Superior. Lighthouses were established along the shoreline between Duluth and the Canadian border during the second half of the nineteenth century. As in the case of Split Rock Lighthouse, these lighthouses were placed in rugged locations to mark dangerous reefs. Others, in Two Harbors and Grand Marais, marked places of refuge. The first lighthouse in Grand Marais was established in 1884. Although reference is made to a lighthouse keeper's dwelling as early as 1886, the building in question dates from 1896.


As the Cook County Historical Society’s main history museum, the Lightkeeper’s House contains a vast collection of over 50,000 artifacts, photos and documents. Exhibits depict settlement of the North Shore, transportation on Lake Superior, and the significant contribution of the fishing industry to this region of Minnesota. The exhibits at the Museum presently include;

  • Music from the Tip o' the Arrowhead features artifacts that share the rich musical heritage of our area.

  • On the Line: A Military History of Cook County features stories and letters from Cook County service members as well as photo and artifacts.

  • By Way of Water: Our History with Lake Superior shares the story of how the Lake Superior shaped the people and communities of the region.

  • Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp tells the story of life in CCC camps through the re-creation of a bunk room.

This facility also serves as the main offices for the organization.

Recent happenings at the Museum include cataloging and storing of the collections, the acquisition and display of the Fresnel lens from the Grand Marais Lighthouse, many new exhibits created within the past ten years, and the acquisition of two major maritime collections. The Museum, unfortunately, also suffered flooding in the archival storage in October of 2017 and again in 2018. 

Through the generosity of many donors and donations, the Museum contains items that were in use at the turn of the century. Walking through the door is like stepping back in time.

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