Houses on Wisconsin Point?

I had forgotten about the fenced-off houses at the end of Wisconsin Point for a few years, until seeing them again a couple days ago. I always figured they were somehow affiliated with the lighthouse … does anyone have any other information/stories about them?

17 Comments

Lu-ek

about 9 years ago

They were used as a Naval Reserve base until maybe 6-8 years ago.  I'm not sure of their origin.

DaVe

about 9 years ago

I thought they used to be connected to UWS somehow. Not sure.

Tom

about 9 years ago

Why is it that no one ever did any commercial real estate development on Wisconsin Point? I mean, I know it's Wisconsin, not Minnesota, which is a problem. (Sorry Wisconsinites.) And it's kind of out of the way to get there, as opposed to the ease of getting to Park Point. But still, you'd think people would've built houses there. I'm surprised it remained largely undeveloped during the early days of the Twin Ports, when all shipping traffic had to go between the points.

Paul Lundgren

about 9 years ago

Both houses were built for lighthouse keepers, but I don't know if they are used for anything anymore.

There has never been an opportunity for commercial real estate on Wisconsin Point because it went from being an Ojibwe village to federal land controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (at the end of the point, since 1901) and Interstate Railroad Co. land (southeast of the point, from about 1918 until whenever it became parkland).

Dave is correct that the University of Wisconsin-Superior's Lake Superior Research Institute leased some Wisconsin Point property, but that ended in the mid-1980s.

There was talk a few years ago that the federal government might return part of Wisconsin Point to the Fond du Lac band, but I haven't heard anything about it recently.

Hair of the Monk

about 9 years ago

I think no developers have entertained the idea of building on Wisconsin because of the city landfill. If not for that fact Dutchman's would've been a great location for a few privileged people and a golf course. A poor lack of foresight on the part of our ancestors when deciding on where to put all the trash from the region. Also, Wisconsin Point also seems a bit narrower than it's counter part.

Tom

about 9 years ago

Ahh, I guess that makes sense. It was still Ojibwe territory when the shipping industry was booming in the Twin Ports. People not wanting to live near a dump is a good reason, too.

lauriejo57

about 9 years ago

Tom, people have worked very hard to keep development out of Wisconsin Point so it doesn't turn into the zoo Park Point is. There sure are a lot of Minnesota license plates enjoying the beauty (and peace and quiet) of our point. (Sorry Minnesota.)

Tom

about 9 years ago

I know a lot of people, including Minnesotans, enjoy the beauty and peace and quiet of Wisconsin Point. That's why I'm surprised there's been no major attempts to build houses out there (at least that I can recall). There's always people out there who are willing to ruin a good thing for everyone else. And, yes, I realize how ironic that sounds, as development would ruin the beauty and peace and quiet.

Makoons

about 9 years ago

The land that used to be an Ojibwe village is currently in the final stages of being declared a historical site which means no development will be possible in the future either. My family actually lived in that village back in the day, down to my great grandmother. Some of the land has also been restored to the Fond du Lac band.

DECk37

about 9 years ago

I've always been fascinated by those homes as well. However, there is another thing that's grabbed my attention in that area recently. Take a look on Google maps, where Wisconsin Point Rd curves off of the point, there's a point where the road turns south to head toward Moccasin Mike Rd. However, if you notice at the end of that curve, there is tell-tail signs of a line that continues off that curve though the trees, it runs in a straight line for about 2 miles & perfectly lines up with the existing railroad. From what I've seen from other locations, it appears to be remnants of a rail bed, a branch that went off down Wisconsin Point for some reason. Is this assumption correct, if so, why was the railroad going down there? I've never heard of docks over there, logging maybe?

Newyear

about 9 years ago

I lived in those houses for 10 years from about 1969 to 79 when it was a research station as part of UWS. It was previously occupied by the Coast Guard until the mid 1960s until the lighthouse became automated. UWS was granted a 10-year lease as part of the Federal Sea Grant program. My dad, who worked for UWS, engineered the whole thing. He was a former Coast Guard officer in the 1940s and had all the necessary boat knowledge to run the place. Those houses, one of which was where we lived, is considered our "family home" so to speak. 

It was a big adventure for a kid growing up there, a little isolated but we had loads of fun. I know every inch of beach and woods up and down the whole peninsula. It was my own personal playground and I spent hours out there. We would get snowed in in the winter a few times every year. Huge drifts 10 feet high or more would form with the wind off the lake. The second house out there was used as a lab and classrooms as well as summer courses for UWS and there was a summer camp sort of program for high school kids interested in lake studies biology etc. That was all in summer, of course. It could be a busy place in summer. But in winter we were on our own. Shame it can't be used for something like the summer camp now. 

We were the last family to occupy the house. My brother and I  were graduating from high school and my dad was too old to do all the upkeep on his own. The lease was up real soon after and that was it. I live in the area in summer and always go out for a visit. Seems strange to see it fenced off. A couple of our dogs were buried near the perimeter of the fence funny enough. Their own personal tombstones we said when the fence went up. 

I am thrilled to see that it is declared a historical site. What a horrible shame it would be to develop such a unique pristine little piece of land. From what I can gather Superior people are very protective of the point and that's great. 

I think people can tell where the "dump" used be. Amazingly it was right next  to the lake where the peninsula  begins. They covered it over and moved it while we lived there, in the early '70s as I recall. We steered real clear of that whole area. You don't wanna know whats under those man-made hills. 

Anyway that's a little history of the houses. They are there to stay for a while I suspect. Basically they are concrete with foot-thick walls. I remember huge 3X3 foot pillars in the basement where I had my room. In summer I slept on the sun porch that faces the lake.

Thanks to whoever brought it up. It brings up some wonderful memories for me and my family.

matty_pizza

about 9 years ago



This map of Superior in 1913 shows a rail line going out to WI point.  There are several old "Bird's Eye" maps of the Twin Ports available here from the Library of Congress.

Paul Lundgren

about 9 years ago

I think that old map shows plans for ore docks that were never built.

matty_pizza

about 9 years ago

I'm sure you are right, Paul. This map from 1915 does not any docks on WI Point but does seem to show a (planned) rail line. The maps seem to support DECk37's assumption that a rail line was built to some extent out there. Those old maps are fun to study.

YouKnowMe

about 9 years ago

Newyear, What a great experience. I wish those houses were still used so other families could share that experience as well. I know that would be a dream come true for my kids.

DECk37

about 9 years ago

Wow, some great comments, loved the history on houses, priceless, & the insight into the mystery railroad too, nice images! So it looks like it was possibly a planed development, the 1915 map shows that section in question as a doted line, did that mean it was planed, or already abandoned? It looks as if it went as far as the houses at the end, (or was planed to). The line itself that it's connected to is listed as the "Interstate Transfer Railway", does that clue open any doors? I wonder what happened, part of it was built, we can see that due to the environmental clues left behind, but did they even ever use it, what changed the destiny of this endeavor?

rev

about 9 years ago

IIRC, development never happened because the soil/ground was found to be unable to support the weight. Learned this on a walking tour a young Native woman gave... Maybe 7-10 years ago? They figured this out after they had cheated residents out of their homes, of course.

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