2016 Holland Award Winners Announced

Congratulations to Lee Radzak and Don Terras for winning the Ross Holland Award. This distinguished service award was established by the American Lighthouse Council to recognize truly exceptional contributions by an individual or group in the lighthouse preservation community. It is named for Francis Ross Holland, Jr., who received the initial award that was to henceforth carry his name. 

Lee RadzakAs manager of the Minnesota Historical Society’s Split Rock Lighthouse Historical Site, Lee Radzak has lived in the keeper’s quarters of the iconic Great Lakes lighthouse on the North Shore of Lake Superior since 1982. He has raised a family there, and has had plenty of visitors – more than four million of them, during his tenure as the lighthouse keeper.

Under his stewardship, now covering nearly a full third of the light station’s history, Lee has undertaken and completed many preservation and history projects, including major restoration programs and constant smaller efforts to preserve the brick tower and other structures on the clifftop light station. In 1986, he led construction of the first visitor center at the historic site. In 2011, more years of work led to designation of Split Rock Lighthouse as a National Historic Landmark.

An extensive three-year restoration project culminated in 2010 with an dramatic celebration of Split Rock’s centennial, including year-long programming, the release of a high-definition video of “Split Rock, A Superior Light” to document the station’s rich history, and a spectacular site fireworks display. Annually, Lee and his staff stage a poignant and well-attended special Nov. 10 lighting of the tower’s third-order mercury-floated bivalve lens to mark the anniversary of the tragic loss of the Great Lakes freighter Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975.

Beyond his tireless work to make Split Rock an exceptional visitor experience and his work on other publications and videos, Lee is a vice president and longtime executive committee member of the American Lighthouse Council, a contributor to the National Park Service’s Historic Lighthouse Preservation Handbook, a tireless friend and colleague to the entire national lighthouse preservation community and a source of wise counsel and encouragement. The American Lighthouse Council takes pleasure in presenting the lighthouse preservation movement’s highest lifetime achievement honor, the F. Ross Holland Award, to Lee Radzak, keeper of the Split Rock Light.

Don Terras has been deeply involved in lighthouse preservation and lighthouse history since bringing his considerable skill as a curator, anthropologist and cultural resources administrator to the Grosse Point Lighthouse on Lake Michigan in 1983. He has coupled an outstanding career as director of the Lighthouse Park District of Evanston and Grosse Point Lighthouse National Landmark with exceptional projects as an historian and author, winning numerous Illinois local and state awards for his writing as well as for his historic preservation, museum and research work.

Don’s award-winning 1996 book, Grosse Point Lighthouse: Landmark to Maritime History and Culture, was followed three years later by the selection of the lighthouse as a National Historic Landmark, on the strength of a nomination he wrote and championed. He subsequently published Lighthouses of Chicago Harbor: Their History, Architecture and Lore as a further contribution to his region’s maritime heritage.

As curator of a special 1992 exhibit at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, “Eyes on the Sea,” Don organized and produced one of the largest displays of lighthouse history and heritage ever staged. As an anthropologist and teacher of museum studies at the undergraduate and graduate levels at Northeastern Illinois University and the University of Wisconsin, Don has shared his expertise and experience with new generations of heritage keepers.

At the national level in the lighthouse preservation movement, Don served on the steering committee for an effort to site and establish a National Lighthouse Museum, and is a past president of the American Lighthouse Council, the lighthouse preservation leadership council and forum. Among his many achievements for the ALC (formerly the American Lighthouse Coordinating Committee), Don organized the entire lighthouse track for the national triennial Maritime Heritage Conference in Baltimore in 2010, contributed a survey and study of visitor policies and practices at American lighthouse sites, and has been instrumental in ALC advocacy efforts for lighthouse causes and preservation funding. In recognition of his many contributions, his leadership and his efforts in the preservation of lighthouses and interpretation of their place in America’s rich maritime history, the American Lighthouse Council presents Donald J. Terras the movement’s highest lifetime honor, the F. Ross Holland Award.

Past winners of this award can be found at: http://uslhs.org/alc/initiatives/ross-holland-award/winners/ 

The Holland Award

Harrison awardIt only took about eleven months, but lighthouse heritage champion Tim Harrison finally got the Ross Holland Award that the American Lighthouse Committee voted him last September. The award is the national preservation community’s highest honor for lifetime contributions to the preservation of America’s lighthouses and their history, and Tim — publisher of Lighthouse Digest Magazine, founder of the Lighthouse Depot and American Lighthouse Foundation and a tireless crusader for the cause, certainly deserves that.

After several missed efforts to mesh schedules, ALC co-coordinator Mike Vogel finally managed to make the long journey from the Dire Straits Lighthouse, ALC’s legendary headquarters, to the Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland, where Tim had journeyed for five hours from Cutler “Down East” for a museum board meeting. The journey from Dire Straits is always shrouded in time but considerably longer; the leg from Buffalo alone took about 11 hours.

Tim is the handsome guy on the right. Mike’s on the left, the award’s in the middle, and we’re not sure who the keeper in the background is. It’s not Wayne Wheeler, because Wayne is in constant motion.

Both guys got the memo about khaki slacks, and considering their divergent paths they also wound up kind of color-coordinated in the shirt department. Credit Stacey Vogel and Kathy Finnegan, who witnessed this transfer along with some Vogel kids and grandkids.

It was fun to catch up with Dot Black as well, and to see the museum surviving and its fabulous displays still unchanged. Hopefully, with financial support and Coast Guard cooperation on the artifact issue, that can continue.

I confess a bit of nostalgia for the old museum on Limerock Street, in an old Victorian house shared with the Daughters of the American Revolution. Ken Black had that set up so that kids could push a button on the first floor and activate a fog horn in the basement. That’s not a popular option in the new digs, as the basement houses the Rockland Police Department and the blast probably would be noticed.

That’s not a problem up in Dire Straits. Not only is the sound of the fog horn kind of exciting, there being not much else happening in these parts, but we don’t have to house a police station in the basement coal bin either. The area’s so poor that we don’t have crime, because there’s nothin’ worth stealing. Down at the corner store, Caleb Farnsworth keeps an old dog we call Offisa Pupp, and he’ll do. Sleeps most of the time, because with all the fog there’s not much to see and no perps to track anyway. He’s deaf in one ear, too, so he just keeps that side turned toward the fog horn and the other turned toward the pot-bellied stove.

And that’s the news from Dire Straits. If you recognize the allusion to Offisa Pupp, well, a lot of water has slid under your keel by now. We’ll keep the light on for ya.

-mike vogel