By John Lauritsen

Originally published March 9

UPSALA, Minn. (WCCO) — The North Shore is known for its lighthouses, but what about the middle of Minnesota? In Morrison County, a landmark has become a beacon of light.

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“He wanted to build the tree house and it took him about five years to talk me into it, I would say,” said Donna Lange.

At the Lange property near Upsala, projects are constantly in the works. And the next one is always bigger than the last one.

“We spent most of our time building places to sit, but never sit,” Dean Lange said.

Instead of building a cabin, the Lange’s built a tree house. And just when they thought they were done being creative, Dean got a “bright” idea.

A lover of lighthouses, Dean studied them on the internet and got a close look at Split Rock in Two Harbors, before making a model to get an idea of just how much wood it would take.

“At some points it felt like, how are we ever going to finish this,” Kendra said.

(credit: CBS)

They began construction on the Stoney Ridge Lighthouse just before COVID hit. They powered through the pandemic, building from the inside out.

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Both Kendra and her brother, Sam, helped their dad during the two years of construction, creating six floors from scratch, and at times, putting 1,100-pound beams in their place.

“A lot of carpenters and people that work with wood look around at the beams and are kind of in awe of how we got it done,” Dean said.

“I didn’t think it was going to be anything like this when it was done. But it turned out really good,” Sam said.

Repurposing was key. A 275-pound tree stump became a table. The flooring on the fifth floor is from the old Catholic Church in Upsala.

At the very top is the crow’s nest. It’s 50 feet up, or 79 short steps from the bottom to the top.

There are bedrooms and bathrooms from the first floor, all the way up, and each has a nautical feel in the middle of the country.

In this landlocked lighthouse, the inside spirals and narrows the higher you go.

And no matter what the season, the scenery is spectacular. But instead of ships in the distance you see silos. And endless waves are replaced by endless woods.

“We’ve been married for 32 years and I always think whatever project we are on is our last project, but we never seem to be done. So we’ll see if this is the last project,” Donna said.

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The Lange’s rent out Stoney Ridge Lighthouse and have it listed on VRBO. They wanted to thank friends and neighbors who lent a hand with the construction at various times.

John Lauritsen