Inside the St. Joseph Lighthouse Repair
In the early 19th century, the city of St. Joseph was essential to the Great Lakes shipping port and housed the first lighthouse in Michigan. Built by the Us Lighthouse Service, this stone lighthouse was built in 1832 but the current pier lights that we see today were built in 1907 along with the elevated walkways, which are still in use for navigation today. Up until 1939, the US Lighthouse Service (a former branch of the US Government) maintained the lighthouses and when the group merged with the US Coast Guard, they took over the ownership and maintenance of all US lighthouses. In 2005, the structures were included in the National Register of Historic Places for their “association with the history of the locality’s maritime commerce, transportation and architecture.”
In 2008, the city’s manager John Hodgson led a plan for the city of St. Joseph to take ownership of the lighthouse creating the Lighthouse Forever Fund a nonprofit with the sole purpose was to raise money to restore the structure. The organization raised $1.8 million of the $2 million they wanted and ownership officially changed hands in 2013 with the restoration beginning in June of 2015.
Complications & Sika Product Solution
Beginning in the basement, the foundation had some problem areas as there was around 2” of water, sand and other debris sitting stagnant requiring waders to perform inspections prior for work to begin. All of the debris had to be manually removed by hand due to the lighthouse being located near the end of the long narrow pier. With the basement clean and dry, the contractor was able to see straight through the penetration to the water below. After this was discovered, all of the deteriorated concrete was removed around the punctures and was filled with SikaQuick® VOH. Using the hydrophobic injection urethane, SikaFix® HH+ the construction crew was able to fill the cavities near the cracked, perforated and leaking areas to strengthen the foundation further.
Once all of these intrusions were addressed on the interior, the focus moved to the exterior where most of the concrete was significantly deteriorated and in desperate need of repairs. The outer foundation was not an easy fix with exposure to the elements over the years the concrete foundation had many problem areas that were difficult to access. With this in mind, and the fact that the base of the structure was completed all in one shot poured monolithically, the contractor looked to Sikacrete® 211 SCC PLUS to restore the faulty foundation.
The Future of St. Joseph Lighthouse
Lake Michigan is a force to be reckoned with as many times throughout the course of the project weather conditions became far too intense to continue working with multiple storms and some 15” waves, the project had its ups and downs. Lucky for construction though, winter came late in 2015 allowing intermittent work all the way into December which is normally uncommon in Michigan. By April of 2016 construction was near completion and by the end of May the St. Joseph Lighthouse was restored to its former glory. With the support of the local community, dedicated engineers, architects, contractors, civil servants and Sika sales representatives was completed on time and within the budget. The St. Joseph Lighthouse has been standing for 123 years and with this restoration and a firm maintenance plan, Michigan’s shoreline will light up for the years to come.