Keweenaw County Historical Society

Caretakers of the past, stewards of the future


THE Eagle Harbor Lifesaving Station

The Eagle Harbor Lifesaving Station exteriorLake Superior may be calm as glass one moment and have 20-foot seas the next. Storms rage on the lake from April through the infamous Gales of November into January. The crew of the Eagle Harbor Life Saving Station knew that all too well yet they lived by the motto of the U.S. Life Saving Service “You have to go out but you don’t have to come back”. Once a separate governmental agency, the Life Saving Service became part of the U.S. Coast Guard in 1915. To honor these brave men and their families, the Keweenaw County Historical Society has opened a Life-Saving Station Museum near the the marina in Eagle Harbor in the old Life Saving Station boathouse.

(Photo: This boathouse is the last building remaining on the site from the large Eagle Harbor Life-Saving Station.)

The museum now displays all the early wooden rescue boats used by the U.S. Life-Saving Service and the U.S. Coast Guard. It now has on exhibit its jewel, a completely restored 26 Ft Pulling Surfboat, donated by Wheaton College of Illinois.

The museum contains several exhibits including:

  • A magnificent 26-foot pulling surfboat
  • A 26-foot U. S. Coast Guard motor surfboat that was acquired in December, 2009 from Cape Hatteras National Seashore, in North Carolina
  • A 36-foot U.S. Coast Guard Motor Lifeboat (MLB) self-righting surf boat that once served at the USCG Portage Station
  • A Surfboat trailer used to haul the surfboat to shipwreck sites
  • A Beach Cart used to transport equipment to a wreck site for a beach rescue by surfmen
  • A Line Cart used to carry line for beach rescues
  • A Life-Car, a small covered lifeboat used to transport shipwreck victims to shore
  • A Lyle Gun used to shoot a rescue line from the shore to a wreck
  • A Buda boat engine, an engine manufactured by the Buda Marine Engine Company of Illinois that was typically used to power surfboats

With the addition of the 26-foot surfboat as shown in the photo on the right, the museum now displays all the early wooden rescue boats used by the U.S. Life-Saving Service and the U.S. Coast Guard. The surfboat restoration is nearly complete with the exception of oars, masts, bumpers, etc. We have a walkway that allows visitors a chance to peer into the insides of the boat to see what looks as much as art as it does a boat.

Postcards were printed celebrating the successful rescue of the crew of the Waldo by members of the crew of the Eagle Harbor Life Saving Station.

The Museum has a glass enclosed viewing area inside the restored Life-Saving Station boathouse. It  has one display about the Eagle Harbor station’s most famous rescue, the 1913 wreck of the steamer

L. C. Waldo. The Waldo was wrecked in a November storm off Keweenaw Point. Nine Eagle Harbor and Portage Station rescuers were awarded the Life-Saving Service’s highest honor, the Gold Medal, for their heroic role in assisting in the rescue of 24 souls and one dog from the Waldo. Additional displays feature the collections of memorabilia of Anthony Glaza and Oscar Marshall family. The Marshall family served both the Portage and Eagle Harbor Life Saving Stations.

(Photo: Postcards were printed celebrating the successful rescue of the crew of the Waldo by members of the crew of the Eagle Harbor Life Saving Station.)

Visiting The Eagle Harbor Life Saving Museum 

Hours & Admission-  The Life-Saving Museum will be open from 9 am to 6 PM daily from mid-June to early October.There is no admission fee for this museum but a donation is appreciated.

Location- The Life Saving Station is at the end of Marina Road, which cuts off of M26 about 1 mile east of the bathing beach in Eagle Harbor. It is on the opposite side of the harbor from the lighthouse, near the Eagle Harbor Marina. GPS: N 47 27.543  W-88 08.931, Decimal Degrees: 47.45905, -88.14885

Related Links-

ALL KCHS buildings will NOT open in 2020 AND all public events are CANCELED for 2020

Based upon the recommendations of various well-documented public health, government and organizational sources, at the May 21, 2020 Keweenaw County Historical Society Board Meeting it was decided that the Keweenaw County Historical Society not staff any facilities or open any buildings in the summer of 2020 in light of the risk of the spread of the Covid-19 virus. It is further the stance of KCHS that the organization does not want to be in a position where we, as an organization, inadvertently spread this virus to visitors or to our volunteers at KCHS facilities/activities in the U.P.

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