Historical society receives grant to restore Fresnal lighthouse lenses.

May 3, 2016

fresnel lens mason county historic society lighthouseLUDINGTON — A National Maritime Heritage Preservation grant, entitled “The Cleaning, Preservation, and the Public Display of Fresnel Lighthouse Lenses,” has been awarded to the Mason County Historical Society for its new Port of Ludington Maritime Museum, Dr. Rick Plummer, executive director for the historical society, announced today.

The grant, in the amount of $52,335,has been awarded by the US Department of the Interior, through the National Park Service. The Preservation grant was awarded after a thorough review and comment by the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and evaluation by the National Maritime Heritage Grant Panel, Plummer adds.

National Park Service received numerous funding requests, totaling more than $8 million, during the grant period for this grant, according to Joy Beasley, federal preservation officer and deputy associate director of the Parks and National Heritage Areas.

Mason County Historical Society has two historically significant Fresnel lenses from area lighthouses which will be prominently exhibited at the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum.  The large Third Order lens comes from the Big Sable Lighthouse, and the smaller Fourth Order Macbeth Evans lens, which came from the North Breakwater Lighthouse.  The smaller lens is a rare, nearly matchless  American-made lens, and one of only a handful left in the world.

The two Fresnel lenses are threatened with further deterioration if not preserved and the grant will help in their restoration, Plummer said.  Both lenses need cleaning and the large, Third Order lens needs requires the replacement of 25 missing prisms.

Only licensed experts, called lampists, are permitted to clean and repair Fresnel lenses, and there are only six of them in the United States. Kurt Foresburg is the only United States Coast Guard certified and approved Fresnel lens lampist in Michigan, and he will be doing the cleaning and the repair work on the lenses through this grant.

The lenses, which are currently being stored at Historic White Pine Village in Pere Marquette Township, will be disassembled, moved, and reassembled at the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum, where Foresburg will affect the cleaning and repair on the lenses.

Part of the preservation process will be to install new acrylic prisims to replace missing ones and to fully stabilize the Big Sable lens.  Replacement prisms will be supplied by Artworks of Florida, a USCG approved company.  The acrylic prisms will be machined and tinted to match the existing original prisms as closely as possible, Plummer states.

The project being funded through the grant also involves creating illumination sources and the design and fabrication of custom bases for the two lenses.  Lafferty Van Heest, the museum’s exhibit designers, will be in charge of this part of the preservation project.

Plummer said that the end result of this project will be fully preserved maritime artifacts.  The Fresnel lenses are vital to the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum’s exhibits, displays, and maritime programs to provide deeper understanding and appreciation of earlier maritime activities, skills, and culture.

The Port of Ludington Maritime Museum will open in May, 2017.  For further information on Mason County Historical Society’s National Maritime Heritage Grant, the society itself, Historic White Pine Village, or the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum, please call Plummer at 425-3825 or email him at rick@mchshistory.org.

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