The oil house at Mission Point Lighthouse has a fresh look, thanks to Boy Scout Ben Wilson. The 14-year-old Traverse City Central freshman spent part of last year cleaning and restoring the historic oil house, located to the right of the lighthouse as you walk in from the road.
A Life Scout in the Scouts BSA Traverse City Troop 34, Wilson has been involved in Scouting since the second grade. He progressed from Tenderfoot to Life Scout in three years, and completing the oil house as his Eagle Scout project will help propel him to Eagle Scout rank, the highest rank in Scouting, which he hopes to achieve this year.
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Wilson, who like politics, history and science, is also a pole vaulter and cross-country skier, and plays the French Horn in symphony band at Traverse City Central High School.
He notes that oil houses are an important part of lighthouse history, as they allowed lightkeepers to store the fuel burned in the flame for the light beacon in a separate structure for improved ventilation and reduced fire risk. If a fire were to occur, having fuel stored in a separate building made it unlikely the fire would spread to the main lighthouse.
“Our particular oil house was based on a standard architectural design constructed at multiple Great Lakes locations built out of locally available materials,” said Wilson. “The basic template used can also be seen at South Manitou Island, Raspberry Island, Au Sable, Tawas Point, Fox Island, and Eagle Bluff, to name a few.”
Wilson’s project involved more than 20 fellow scouts from Troop 34, based at the First Congregational Church, with support from Mission Point Lighthouse Friends, Peninsula Township Park Commission, and generous donations of materials from The Lumber Shed, Plastic Plus, and Ace Hardware on West Front Street in Traverse City.
“My Troop and I want to thank all who made this project a success,” said Wilson. “Additionally, a special thanks to Marty Klein and Jeremy Gibson, and to my scout leaders, Nick Roster and Bill Myers.”