He’s a keeper: Split Rock Lighthouse gets new boss

A couple sits on a rock with a lighthouse in the far distance.
Hayes Scriven poses for a photograph with his now wife, Jenny, in 2006 when he proposed to her on One Day Hill overlooking Split Rock.
Courtesy of Hayes Scriven

Split Rock Lighthouse will welcome its first new lighthouse keeper in 36 years next month after his predecessor’s retirement this past spring.

Hayes Scriven, currently executive director of the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center in Superior, Wis., will be the next site manager of the historic lighthouse on Minnesota’s North Shore.

He replaces longtime keeper Lee Radzak, who retired in April after 36 years at the site.

“Hayes emerged from a very competitive applicant pool because of his proven track record leading cultural institutions and his community connections along the North Shore,” said Ben Leonard, the director of Greater Minnesota and partnership sites for the Minnesota Historical Society.

Wind and waves lash the shoreline of Split Rock State Park April 11, 2019
Wind and waves lash the shoreline of Split Rock State Park Thursday, April 11, 2019, as a strong spring storm reached Minnesota's North Shore.
Derek Montgomery for MPR News

The iconic Minnesota lighthouse, which sits atop a 160-foot cliff overlooking Lake Superior, is a National Historic Landmark currently managed by the Minnesota Historical Society.

It was completed in 1910, and guided freighters carrying iron ore from the Iron Range to various Great Lakes ports until it was decommissioned in 1969.

Scriven and his family will move to the residences next to the lighthouse, where Radzak raised his own family, to continue the tradition of lighthouse keepers before him. His kids shared in his excitement when he and his wife Jenny gave them the news, he said.

Two children stand in a front a fence with a lighthouse in the background.
Devin and Aneliese Scriven, 8 and 11 respectively, pose for a photograph in front of the lighthouse.
Courtesy of Hayes Scriven

“When we told them that I had gotten the new job and that we get to live on-site, they both kind of just dropped their jaws,” Scriven said. “My son was so excited he was like ‘I just wanna live there right now!’”

Prior to joining the Bong Center in 2017, Scriven graduated from the University of Minnesota in Duluth in 2005 and was appointed the executive director of the Northfield Historical Society a year later at 22 years old.

A 2-year-old boy stands in front of a lightouse.
A photograph of Hayes Scriven when he was two years old at Split Rock Lighthouse.
Courtesy of Hayes Scriven

At Split Rock, which sees more than 150,000 visitors each year, he will oversee the site’s preservation, community outreach and programming for visitors.

Scriven said some goals for his new position, which he calls his dream job, include extending visitorship and coordinating with local schools to do more field trips. He hopes to develop new and unique programming that will both highlight the site and educate visitors about the community’s history, he said.

“Sites like Split Rock and the other sites that the Historical Society manages ... give you that sense of community identity,” Scriven said. “You feel more together as a community if you can understand your past.”

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