Fresnel Lens Returns Home to Two Harbors

Northland Uncovered: Two Harbors Lighthouse Lens

Beacons have been shining across Lake Superior and The Great Lakes for decades.

One of those beacons leading sailors to safety has found its way back home to Two Harbors.

The fresnel lens was the second beacon to shine light over Agate Bay and Lake Superior.

“So their thing was to create a light with a signature flash, and how they did that was by bringing in this fourth order fresnel lens which at that time had four bullseyes,” explained Lake County Historical Society executive director Mel Sando.

The four bullseye lens was put in place in 1906.

“It would operate on a flash signal of flash, four seconds of darkness, and then flash and four seconds of darkness and continue that signal for quite some time,” Sando demonstrated.

However, because of Federal funding issues, the unique lens was changed in 1915.

“They come in and they take two bullseyes away from the lens and they install more refractive panels,” said Sando.

Those bullseyes were used for other lighthouses and the signal was changed again.

“Flash, four seconds of darkness, another flash, fourteen seconds of darkness and that cycle is repeated three times a minute,” said Sando.

The beacon remained in place until it was retired in 1969.

“In the late seventies, early eighties, as the Coast Guard is decommissioning light stations they start to take on a historic value,” explained Sando.

The lens ended up in Ohio at the Great Lakes Historical Society.

It stayed there for decades, but it was always a dream of Lake County Historical Society members to get it back.

“It took us many years. I have a huge file on this, conversations, emails going back and forth,” said Sando.

Finally, Sando got the call he’d been longing for.

In February 2015 the lens was back in Agate Bay.

“I wasn’t quite sure what to think because I had been told for so many years that there’s no way you’re going to get that lens back. It’s just not going to happen,” said Sando.

Now, it sits in a place of honor in the Keepers Quarters of its first home.  

The Lake County Historical Society raised $4,000 for a U.S. Coast Guard lampist to transport the lens.

If you’d like to see it, you can during open houses and if you are a guest at the bed and breakfast.

The Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast is located at 1 LightHouse Point, P.O. Box 128, Two Harbors, MN 55616.

You can reach them at 1-888-832-5606, by email at, or you can check out their website.

To learn more about Lake County history, head to

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