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The View from Split Rock

The View from Split Rock

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A Lighthouse Keeper’s Life

Author Lee Radzak, With Curt Brown

Minnesota Historical Society Press (May 2021)

A modern lighthouse keeper tells the fascinating stories of his tenure at a celebrated historic site.


Split Rock Lighthouse is a Minnesota icon: a handsome structure perched atop a cliff on Lake Superior’s North Shore, gorgeous in every weather, a lonely outpost overlooking the vastness of the lake. Except that this lighthouse is not lonely. It’s one of the state’s most visited historic sites.

In 1982, Lee Radzak and his wife, Jane, moved into the middle keeper’s house, launching Lee’s career as the resident site manager for the Minnesota Historical Society. Over the next thirty-six years, they raised a family, marveled at the lake’s beauty, endured gigantic storms, and answered the questions posed by more than four million visitors.

Working with journalist and author Curt Brown, Radzak takes readers into the everyday experiences, the remarkable surprises, and the seasonal round of the life of a lighthouse keeper at Split Rock. He also discusses stories of its keepers, the technology that powered the light and the foghorns, the stunning landscape and weather of the North Shore, and his decision in 1985 to light the beacon in memory of the crew of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald.

Organized by season, illustrated with pictures taken by Lee and other talented photographers, this book offers a guide to life at Split Rock.

Author information

Lee Radzak served for thirty-six years as the resident site manager at the Minnesota Historical Society’s Split Rock Lighthouse.

Curt Brown, the author of So Terrible a Storm: A Tale of Fury on Lake Superior and Minnesota, 1918: When Flu, Fire, and War Ravaged the State, writes a popular Minnesota history column for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Reviews and news

Winner of the 2022 Northeastern Minnesota Book Award for Memoir

Advance Praise:

“Lee Radzak is a walking historical archive of information about one of Minnesota’s iconic and most beloved landmarks, and for good reason: he lived there with his family, as other lighthouse keepers have with theirs since the light station was built in 1910. Lee’s family, like the others before them, shared the soaring views and the history and mystique of the lighthouse with tourists. Such an arrangement is the fodder for some great stories. I’m thrilled Lee and writer Curt Brown are now telling them to us all.”
Cathy Wurzer, host of Minnesota Public Radio’s Morning Edition and author of Tales of the Road: Highway 61

“Written with the soul of a light keeper and the heart of a naturalist, Lee Radzak’s recollection of thirty-six years of official and family life at the historic and picturesque Split Rock Light Station is a gem of a memoir and a wonderful contribution to the stillunfolding story of lighthouse preservation in the United States. With wonderful additions by Jane Radzak as well, this is a lyrical contribution to Lake Superior lore.”
Mike Vogel, President, United States Lighthouse Society and Site Keeper, Buffalo Light

“Most people love lighthouses, those craggy castles in remote and desolate places that stand guard against the darkness and shipkilling rocks. The View from Split Rock tells the story of one of the country’s premier lighthouses, Split Rock Lighthouse, and ranges from shipwrecks to family challenges atop the rock—especially in winter. Lee Radzak and Curt Brown have produced a lush coffeetable book that will bring back memories to previous visitors and whet newcomers’ travel interest for Minnesota’s #1 most frequented attraction along its fabulous North Shore. Woot! Woot!”
Marlin Bree, boating journalist and author of Bold Sea Stories

"Light Hearted" Podcast of the U.S. Lighthouse Society

MNHS Media Release (2019) Split Rock Lighthouse’s Longest-Serving Keeper Retires After Nearly Four Decades on Lake Superior


Book Launch

Lee Radzak: 36 Years of Service at Split Rock Lighthouse

Related resources

MNopedia: Split Rock Lighthouse article by Lee Radzak

Split Rock Lighthouse History

Split Rock Lighthoue Life at the Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse Lighthouse Keepers

Split Rock Lighthouse Historic Buildings

MNHS Gale Family Library: Split Rock Lighthouse: Images & Artifacts

Children's Picture book, Storm's Coming!

  • This title is also available at your favorite e-book vendor.
  • 168 pages
  • 120 color and b/w photos
  • 8 x 10 inches
  • ISBN: 9781681341804

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