Michigan Lighthouse Tour
Point Iroquois Light Station is located along the scenic Lake Superior shore in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It is only 20 miles west of Sault Ste. Marie and 51 miles east of Tahquamenon Falls. From birch bark canoes to giant ore freighters, this unique point of land has influenced travel for centuries.
Our museum reveals the stories of the lightkeepers and their families through family album photographs, antiques, and artifacts. Learn about the fourth order Fresnel lens that could project a light for sixteen miles. Climb the 72 steps to the top of the tower for a picturesque view of Lake Superior. Observe the freighters traveling through Whitefish Bay as you walk along a cobblestone beach in search of agates. Browse through our book shop, which offers a wide selection of historical readings about the Great Lakes.
Step back in time and visit our west wing exhibit. The assistant keeper’s apartment is restored to the way it looked in the early 1950’s. Imagine the smell of fresh cinnamon rolls or the sounds of “Suspense Theater” on the radio as you walk through.
Point Iroquois Light House
This lighthouse was first illuminated in 1857 and it's fourth order Fresnel lens shone over one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world from the entrance to the St. Mary's River and the Soo Locks. The 65 ft. tower is open to the public during certain viewing hours or from top of the sandy shoreline.
Bay Mills Casino
Whitefish Point Light House
For shipwreck information, go to: http://www.michiganpreserves.org/whitefish.htm
Must visit the Shipwreck Museum!
The Whitefish Point Light, a lighthouse in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, is the oldest operating light on Lake Superior. It is arguably the most important light on Lake Superior. All vessels entering and leaving Lake Superior must pass the light. It stands on the treacherous southern shoreline of Lake Superior known as the "Graveyard of the Great Lakes" in an area with more shipwrecks than any other area of the lake.
Construction on the first light began in 1847, and the lighthouse was said to resemble that at Old Presque Isle Light. First lit in 1849, it was one of the first lighthouses on the shores of Lake Superior. It is the oldest active light on the lake, standing at the point of land that marks the course change for vessels coming from the southern coast of Lake Superior, known as the "Graveyard of the Great Lakes", to the Soo Locks. All vessels entering or leaving Lake Superior must past Whitefish Point. Whitefish Point Light is arguably the most important light on Lake Superior. The Whitefish Point area has more shipwrecks than any other area in Lake Superior.
The original structure was outfitted with Lewis lamps, which were thereafter upgraded to a fourth order Fresnel lens. The current structure, while modern looking, is a Civil War relic. Built in 1861, the iron skeletal steel framework was designed to relieve stress caused by high winds. A similar design is used at Manitou Island Light in Lake Superior. It was equipped with a third order Fresnel lens.
Pictured Rocks Boat Tours
County Road Kcb, Big Bay, Michigan, USA
Big Sable Point Lighthouse, Lighthouse Road, Mason County, Michigan, USA
Lookout Point Road, Glenwood Beach, Michigan, USA
US-41, US-41, 49918, Grant Township, Michigan, USA
West Main Street, Eagle River, Michigan, USA
County Park Road, Presque Isle County, Michigan, USA
Snowmobile Rd Logging, Ontonagon County, Michigan, USA
East Water Street, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, USA
North Shore/Outlot, 49456, Grand Haven, Michigan, USA
Little Presque Isle Access, Marquette County, Michigan, USA
Ives Avenue, 48138, Wyandotte, Michigan, USA
Pole line, Grant Township, Michigan, USA
Resort Road, 48441, Harbor Beach, Michigan, USA
McClain State Park Road, Houghton County, Michigan, USA
Thomas Edison Parkway, 48060, Port Huron, Michigan, USA
Sugar Island Ferry Acess, I 75 Business, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, USA
North Lighthouse Drive, 49436, Little Point Sable, Michigan, USA
Power Line Trail, Homestead, Michigan, USA
West Loomis Street, 49431, Ludington, Michigan, USA
Becker Road, Alger County, Michigan, USA
Munising Range Lights
604 West Munising Avenue, Munising
East Depeyster Street, 49701, Mackinaw City, Michigan, USA
A beacon-light, near the town of Mackinaw, has my strongest recommendation; the large amount of commerce passing through the straits near there, calls for the protection and safeguard such a light would render. [That] the narrowest part of the strait is opposite this point of course increases the dangers to the navigation just there, especially in the night. My own experience, in many voyages through them, has acquainted me with the difficulty of finding this narrow pass, or entering the harbor of Mackinaw in the dark, without some such guide as a beacon, properly located, would afford. The western point of this harbor I deem the best site, because the land is considerably higher than on the eastern side, and commands a better range for vessels approaching from either east or west.
Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse nearing completion in 1892
In 1837, Lieutenant Pendergrast had selected a site for the construction of Waugoshance Lighthouse to mark the western approach to the straits, but this lighthouse wasn’t completed until 1851, the same year Cheboygan Lighthouse was built to help mark the southeastern entrance to the straits. The Lighthouse Board noted in 1865 that a lighthouse was needed near Fort Michilmackinac and selected McGuplin Point, a site two miles west of the fort, for its erection. McGulpin Point Lighthouse was placed in operation on June 18, 1869, but in 1888, the Board requested $25,000 to move McGulpin Point Lighthouse to Old Mackinac Point, just east of Fort Michilmackinac, stating that there the light would be “visible to vessels approaching form either direction.”
Construction of a light and fog signal at Old Point Mackinac was authorized by Congress on March 2, 1889, but only $5,500 was provided for a steam fog signal. A deed for the fog signal site was obtained in June 1890, and construction materials were landed on the point that same month. Work on the fog signal began on July 1 and was completed October 9, 1890. Installed in duplicate, the ten-inch steam whistle commenced operation on November 5, 1890.
When Congress authorized the construction of a lighthouse on Old Mackinac Point, it was with the provision that McGulpin Point Lighthouse be discontinued. The Lighthouse Board objected to the loss of one of its lights, and wrote: “There is great doubt as to the expediency of this, and it is hoped that when appropriation is made for Mackinac Point, the provision for extinguishing McGulpin’s Point light will be stricken out. Mackinac Point is low and scraggy, with a natural elevation of not more than 6 or 8 feet above the lake, while McGulpin’s Point is 70 feet high and upward. If McGulpin’s Point light be retained, as will best serve the interests of navigation, Mackinac Point may be built, of a moderate power and elevation, and the cost of construction be considerably reduced.”
Congress provided $20,000 for building a lighthouse on Old Mackinac Point on March 3, 1891, and the provision regarding McGulpin Point must have been removed, as it would remain active for several more years. Bids for supplying the metalwork and constructing the tower and dwelling and Old Mackinac Point were solicited. A contract for the metalwork was made on October 10, 1891, and the material was delivered to the lighthouse depot in Detroit on January 17, 1892, but no bids were received for erecting the tower and dwelling. This work was readvertised on March 19, 1892, and the lowest of six bids, $13,722 by John P. Schmitt of Detroit, was accepted.
Work on the lighthouse began in May 1892, and the following description of the effort was contained in the Lighthouse Board’s report for that year:
The station consists of the lighthouse tower and keepers’ dwellings, the fog signal, the outbuilding or barn, and the oil house. The tower is a cylindrical brick shaft on a base of limestone ashlar. It is 13 feet 4 inches in diameter outside, 45 feet high to the gallery, and 50 feet to the focal plane. It is built of buff-colored brick, and is surmounted by a circular iron gallery and an octagonal fourth order lantern. The walls are constructed with air spaces, and the interior contains a circular iron staircase and a watchroom 8 feet 8 inches diameter at the top. The tower is connected with and forms the northwest corner of the keepers’ dwellings, from which it is separated by a service room, leaving an external entrance and porch. The dwelling, a two-story structure, is arranged as two separate houses under one roof. A lobby measuring 4 feet by 6 feet, adjoining the service room, gives access to both dwellings. The east dwelling contains a parlor, a dining room and a sitting room and kitchen on the first floor. The west dwelling contains a spare room, a living room, and a kitchen on the first floor, and each is provided with pantries and vestibules. Each has three bedrooms in the second story. The finish throughout is white pine, varnished, except the floors of the first story and the staircase and wainscoting, which are of hard wood. Each dwelling has a cistern in the cellar, and there is a good well in the rear, with a pump near the kitchen door of each house. The exterior of the building, as in the case of the tower, is of buff brick with base of ashlar and trimmings of Indiana limestone. The roofs are tin tiling, painted bright red.
The fog signal is just to the eastward of the dwellings and consists of a frame structure 22 by 40 feet in plan, covered with corrugated iron outside and smooth iron inside, and contains duplicate boilers and machinery, and 10-inch steam whistles.
About 54 feet south and to the rear of the dwelling there is a framed one and one-half story outbuilding, [a barn], 16 by 24 feet in plan, covered with boards and battens. The upper portion is shingled and the roof is covered with asphaltic slag.
The oil house, situated in the southeast corner of the light-house site, about 150 feet from the tower, is a circular iron structure capable of storing 360 gallons of mineral oil at a time, in 5-gallon cans.
The land on which the light-station at Old Mackinac Point stands consists of three lots, each measuring 50 by 170 feet, making in all a site measuring 150 by 170 feet, facing north towards the Straits of Mackinac. A road 40 feet wide runs in front of the reservation. The Government owns the beach on the north side of the road.
Aerial view of lighthouse in 1945showing radiobeacon.
Photograph courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
A fourth-order, revolving, Sautter, Lemonier & Co. Fresnel lens was installed in the lantern room and produced a red flash every ten seconds. The lens had ten flash panels and was revolved by a clockwork mechanism powered by a suspended weight that had to be wound up every three hours. The light was placed in operation on October 25, 1892.
After the station was finished, the Lighthouse Board noted that the fog signal was too close to the dwelling and needed to be moved fifty feet east. As the fog signal building was just 7½ feet from the station’s eastern property line, this move required the acquisition of additional land. Mackinaw City owned the desired parcel, which it planned to use as a public park and refused to give it up. Condemnation proceedings were initiated in 1899, and three commissioners appointed to the case ruled that Mackinaw City should be awarded $400 for the land and $1,500 should be paid for “damages to adjacent property.” Objections were filed in December 1900, but the court took until 1904 to rule that just the $400 award to the city was justified.
Congress provided the compensatory $400 on March 3, 1905, and work on a new brick fog signal building began in May 1906. The boilers and whistles were transferred from the old building in time to be placed in operation in 1907. The old fog signal building was moved behind the new one and used for storage.
The signature of Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse was changed from flashing red to flashing white on September 1, 1913, the same time an incandescent-oil-vapor lamp was substituted for one that burned kerosene. These changes increased the light’s candlepower from 1,100 to 26,000. In 1929, the illuminant was changed from oil vapor to electricity. A Cunningham air whistle was installed in the fog signal building in 1933, and in 1937 a radiobeacon was placed in commission at the station.
Two keepers, a head keeper and an assistant keeper, were assigned to Old Mackinac from 1890 until 1909, when a second assistant keeper was added to the station. The lighthouse only had four head keepers during its sixty-seven years of operation.
After eight years at Waugoshance Lighthouse, George W. Marshall was transferred to become the first head keeper at Old Mackinac Point. George was a veteran of the Civil War and one of five sons of William Marshall, longtime ordnance sergeant at Fort Mackinac, who became lighthouse keepers. In 1900, George’s brother Charles had his health affected in an incident where he became stranded in a boatswain’s chair while painting St. Helens Lighthouse. Charles was transferred to Old Mackinac Point after the incident to serve as his brother’s assistant, and George E. Leggatt, who had been the assistant at Old Mackinac Point, took the place of Charles as keeper at St. Helena Island. Charles served at Old Mackinac Point for two years until his health deteriorated to the point that he had to be hospitalized at Northern Michigan Asylum in Traverse City.
George and Margaret Marshall never had any children of their own, but after Charles was institutionalized and Charles’ wife died, George and Margaret adopted some of Charles’ children. One of these, Chester, would later become a lighthouse keeper and serve at Manitowoc Lighthouse for nearly thirty years.
When George Marshall retired in 1919, his son James, whom George and Margaret had adopted in the 1880s and who had been serving as keeper at White Shoal Lighthouse, took charge of Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse. James served as keeper at the station until a stroke forced his retirement in 1940. In total, members of the Marshall family were in charge of the lighthouse for fifty years.
Henrik G. Olsen served as head keeper from 1941 to 1951, and he was followed by John P. Campbell, who was in charge of the station until 1957, when the lighthouse was made unnecessary and discontinued following the completion of Mackinac Bridge. Keeper Campbell was transferred to Point Betsie Lighthouse, where he served until his death in 1963.
Mackinac Island State Park Commission purchased Old Point Mackinac Lighthouse in 1960 and incorporated it into Michilmackinac State Park. After $70,000 in restoration work, the lighthouse was opened in 1972 as the focal point of Michilmackinac Maritime Park. Budget constraints and falling attendance led to the closure of the lighthouse in 1990.
A fundraising effort was launched in 1996 to raise $2.2 million to restore the lighthouse and reopen it to the public. One key member of this effort was Jim Belisle, whose great-grandfather, John P. Schmitt, built the lighthouse. In 2004, the lighthouse was reopened as a “restoration in progress,” and the following year the station’s barn, which had been moved to a maintenance area in the 1960s, was returned to its rightful place behind the lighthouse. In 2007, 32,933 visited the lighthouse, many attracted by the opportunity to climb the tower for an unparalleled view of the Straits of Mackinac.
Head: George W. Marshall (1890 – 1919), James M. Marshall (1919 – 1940), Henrik G. Olsen (1941 – 1951), John P. Campbell (1951 – 1957).
First Assistant: Joseph C. Barnum (1890 – 1895), George Blake (1895 – 1899), George E. Leggatt (1899 – 1900), Charles Marshall (1900 – 1902), Edward Mallette (1902 – 1906), Everritt C. Sterritt (1906 – 1911), William Barnum (1911 – 1919), Chauncey P. Bliss (1919 – ), Henrik G. Olsen (at least 1921), William A. Chapman ( – 1933), William C. Kincaide (1933), Henrik G. Olsen (1933 – 1941), John P. Campbell (1944 – 1951), John Marken (1951 – 1957).
Second Assistant: William A. Chapman (1909 – at least 1921), Leslie L. Storr (at least 1939 – at least 1940).
Petoskey Pierhead Lighthouse
Throned on a noble amphitheater of hills, upon the south shore of a beautiful bay five miles broad and nine deep, environed all the way around by broken ranges of lofty heights, makes Petoskey unrivaled for the beauty of its outlook, each street and block having its own peculiar view; for its health-inspiring purity of atmosphere; and for its wide fame as a popular summer resort. Its streets and homes overlook the entire bay and its surrounding hills, and a succession of famous summer resort villages along the water’s edge clear around the bay. …In a few years there will be a broad boulevard along the shore all the way around the bay, lined the whole distance with summer cottages and permanent villas, parks, hotels and boat landings.
Petoskey Lighthouse in 1913
Photograph courtesy National Archives
Named after the Ottawa Chief Ignatius Petosega, Petoskey is situated at the southeast corner of Little Traverse Bay. In westerly winds, the lake steamers had difficulty offloading summer visitors at Petoskey, prompting Congress to pass an act on August 17, 1895, authorizing construction of breakwaters to protect the landing pier. One breakwater, connected to shore, was built west of the landing pier, and a second detached breakwater was built to the north.
Work on the breakwaters commenced in 1896, and in 1899, a metal post with a lamp house at its base was placed fourteen feet from the outer end of the western breakwater. Two lantern lights, a red one above a white one, were exhibited from the post starting on July 1, 1899. A six-foot-tall timber protection was built on the north end of the breakwater in 1900, and its angle was enclosed to form a storehouse. The schooner Willia Loutit damaged the pierhead lights on July 11, 1900, but repairs, paid for by the schooner’s owners, were soon made.
In 1903, structural steel and cast-iron metalwork were ordered to enclose the pier’s metal post, but the work was evidently not carried out until 1912. The resulting thirty-four-foot-tall lighthouse resembled an inverted funnel and consisted of a pyramidal base, a vertical mid-section, and an ornate lantern room. This funnel-like style of lighthouse was also deployed on piers at five other Lake Michigan cities: Waukegan, Illinois and at Kenosha, Milwaukee, Racine, and Sheboygan, Wisconsin
On April 30, 1912, one hour after returning home from Lockwood Hospital, where he had spent three weeks suffering from heart disease, forty-seven-year-old Will Hurkett shot himself in the head with a revolver. Hurkett had been keeper of the light since it was established in 1899 and was believed to have been mentally unbalanced at the time of the shooting due to his illness and other troubles, including his wife being an inmate at Northern Michigan Asylum in Traverse City for nearly a year. Keeper Hurkett left behind four children, two of whom were still living at home.
On May 10, 1913 the characteristic of the pierhead light at Petoskey was changed to a red flash every four seconds, and the following year, the intensity of the light was increased to thirty-five candlepower.
During a severe storm in December 1924, the lighthouse was washed from the breakwater and destroyed. A newspaper account noted that the “self-lighting lighthouse” had been discontinued for the season on December 8, just six days before it was swept off the breakwater. A temporary light was displayed from an unpainted post until 1930, when a concrete foundation was constructed on the breakwater, and a new light was displayed from a thirty-foot, skeletal, steel tower, painted red.
In 2009, long-awaited repairs to Petoskey’s breakwater were made after the Army Corps of Engineers was granted funds for the project through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. As part of the work, the existing cylindrical light tower was removed from the pier, giving local lighthouse enthusiasts Gordon and Carolyn Bourland the thought that it would be the perfect time to build a replica of Petoskey’s funnel-style lighthouse. The Bourlands enlisted the help of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association, but when the plan was presented to the Coast Guard, it was rejected since private aids to navigation are not permitted on piers. Undaunted, the backers of the project contacted the Petoskey Parks and Recreation Commission, and at a public hearing held on June 2, 2010, the commission passed a resolution asking the city council to endorse a plan to place the lighthouse in Sunset Park, overlooking Petoskey Harbor.
In August 2010, the Petoskey City Council rejected the use of Sunset Park for the lighthouse, but a month later they approved placing the structure in Quarry Park. Moran Iron Works of Onaway, who had recently built a new lantern room for McGulpin Point Lighthouse, estimated that the replica could be built at a cost between $225,000 and $250,000. The Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association is trying to raise $300,000 to fund the lighthouse’s construction and to provide an endowment for its maintenance. As none of the six funnel-style lighthouses have survived, having a replica in Petoskey would be sure to attract a lot of attention.
Head Keepers: William Hurkett (1900 – 1912).
Charlevoix South Pier Light House
1885 tower on north pier
With all this shoreline, it isn’t surprising that Charlevoix developed into a resort destination, featuring extravagant hotels and three summer associations. An early admirer of the village called it “Charlevoix the Beautiful,” and ever since the local Chamber of Commerce has been using the appellation in its promotional material.
The first effort to improve access from Lake Michigan to Round Lake was in 1868, when a roughly 100-foot-wide channel between the two lakes was dredged and lined by close piling. In 1876, work began on replacing the piling with cribwork piers, and in 1885, a square, open-frame tower topped by an iron lantern was built at the lighthouse depot in Detroit and installed atop the Lake Michigan end of the north pier. As part of this work, nineteen crossties in the cribwork were replaced with sound ones so that trestles could be secured to them to support a 750-foot-long elevated walkway, erected to provide access to the lighthouse in inclement weather conditions. The work was begun in July and finished on August 28, 1885, allowing the pierhead light to commence operation on September 1, 1885. A fifth-order Henry-Lepaute Fresnel lens was used in the tower’s lantern room to produce a fixed red light at a focal plane of thirty-seven feet above the lake.
A temporary keeper must have kept the light for the first few weeks, as on October 3, 1885, a local publication announced that Wright Ripley, the regularly appointed keeper who had served as an assistant keeper at Port Austin for two years, had arrived at Charlevoix on the Lawrence, accompanied by his wife, three sons, and their household goods.
Pierhead lighthouse in 1913
Photograph courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
A shed, measuring eight by ten feet and standing eight feet high, was built at the shore end of the elevated walk in 1890 to store oil and supplies. By this time, the channel between the piers had shoaled up, forcing larger vessels to tie up to the piers and offload their freight. Keeper Ripley complained that these vessels smoked up the lighthouse and caused the light to tremble.
In 1904, 720 running feet of elevated metal walkway replaced the dilapidated wooden walkway. A fog bell, tolled by an electrically powered striking machine, was mounted on the lakeward face of the lighthouse in 1909. A brick oil house was added to the station in 1910.
Before Pine River was enlarged to facilitate boat traffic between Lake Michigan and Round Lake, a wooden dock was extended into Lake Michigan just north of the river’s mouth. Vessels could then tie up along the dock to be filled with lumber cut from the surrounding area. Amos Fox and his business partner, Hiram Rose, were the visionaries responsible for the construction of the dock. Mr. Fox lived at 103 Park Avenue in a lovely, Victorian dwelling. In 1908, the home was purchased by the government to be used as a dwelling for the keeper of Charlevoix Lighthouse. The keeper originally lived in a dwelling that was purchased as part of the lighthouse reservation, but after this burned down, Keeper Ripley had been living in a leased residence.
In time for the opening of navigation in 1914, the wooden lighthouse was relocated to the southern pier and a skeletal, steel, pyramidal tower was erected on the north pier. An occulting white light, produced by a lens lantern with an electric incandescent bulb, was exhibited from atop the new metal tower at a height of sixty-one feet. In 1938, the fog bell on the south pierhead was superseded by a type “C” air diaphone, which sounded a two-second blast every twenty seconds. Charlevoix residents quickly became accustomed to the new fog signal and affectionately called it Ferdinand.
Before it had been retired, the fog bell served an interesting purpose on February 28, 1929. On that date, Ernest Hutzler, who was keeper of the light at that time, operated the fog bell to guide three automobiles to Charlevoix from Beaver Island through a dense fog. This was the first known instance of cars running across frozen Lake Michigan between these two places.
Lights on north and south piers in 1935
Photograph courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
The pierhead light at Charlevoix was looked after by a keeper until 1940. Eight years later, the old wooden lighthouse was replaced by the present steel tower, fabricated in Milwaukee. A piece of the original lighthouse still exists, as its lantern room was transferred to the new tower. A newspaper article from 1948 contained the following in reference to the old wooden tower: “Many of its beams were so rotten that Coast Guardsmen say they often wondered that it did not collapse during a storm.”
No longer needed after automation of the lighthouse, the former keeper’s dwelling was sold in 1944 to Edward J. Smith, a local resident, for $2,550 and then purchased by Dr. Walter and Betty Hoffmann in 1962. Betty Hoffmann later donated the residence to the City of Charlevoix, which razed the dwelling in 1984 to create Hoffmann Park. A metal plaque in the park carries a depiction of the old dwelling.
In 2005, Charlevoix South Pier Lighthouse, deemed excess by the Coast Guard, was offered at no cost to eligible entities, including federal, state, and local agencies, non-profit corporations, and educational organizations under the provisions of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000. After the review process, the National Park Service awarded the lighthouse to the City of Charlevoix in 2008.
In March 2009, Charlevoix Historical Society was awarded $29,666 for work on Charlevoix South Pier Lighthouse from the Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program, which is administered by the State Historic Preservation Office and funded by proceeds from the sale of Michigan’s “Save our Lights” license plate. Evidence of this work was clearly apparent in August 2009, as the lighthouse, which had been white since 1968 was painted bright red, a color it had sported for many years.
Head Keepers: Wright Ripley (1885 – 1923), Captain William H. Shields (1923 – 1924), Everitt C. Sterritt (1924 – 1935), Ernest G. Hutzler (1935 – 1940).
Mission Point Light house
Nineteen-mile-long Old Mission Peninsula, which divides Grand Traverse Bay into a west arm and an east arm, was first settled by Peter Doughtery, a Presbyterian minister sent by the Presbyterian Board of Missions to establish a church and school for Native Americans. Doughtery originally selected Elk Rapids for the site of his mission, but in 1842, at the behest of Chief Ahgosa of Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Doughtery relocated to the harbor near the northern tip of the peninsula. Ten years later, Doughtery moved across Grand Traverse Bay to Omena, on the Leelanau Peninsula, where he established a “New Mission,” and the former site was known forever after as “Old Mission.” Still standing, Doughtery’s 1842 residence at Old Mission is now run by the Peter Dougherty Society.
Mission Point Lighthouse with boathouse in 1913
Photograph courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
With its weather moderated by the surrounding waters, Old Mission Peninsula rarely has frost during the growing season, making it an ideal agricultural area. Dougherty planted the first cherry tree on the peninsula in 1852, and cherry farming eventually surpassed the lumber industry as the main source of income for inhabitants of the peninsula. Today, the peninsula is known for its wineries, several of which are open to the public.
In October 1863, a committee, assigned by the Lighthouse Board to visit potential sites for lighthouses along the Great Lakes and in New England, recommended that a lighthouse be built at the tip of Old Mission Peninsula to guide maritime traffic in Grand Traverse Bay. The following report from the committee appeared in the Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board:
It appears from the notes of Colonel Graham, furnished to this committee, that there is an extensive trade in the two arms of this bay, the coasts and back country of which are quite thickly settled. At the heads of both these arms there are excellent harbors and good anchorage, and vessels should be aided in reaching them. At their very heads at least three fathoms of water are found, and below from four to twenty fathoms.
The trade in both now consists of lumber, amounting to about eighteen millions of feet, of 10,000 cords of wood, of $100,000 worth of furs, and $50,000 worth of agricultural products, per annum, altogether about $378,000 per annum. Traverse City, situated at the head of the west arm, is the terminus of an extensive railroad, which will probably be completed within two years.
Congress had appropriated $6,000 for a lighthouse at the northern tip of the peninsula on March 3, 1859, but a decade later, land for the structure still had not be purchased due, in part, to the intervening Civil War. In 1868, the Lighthouse Board noted: “The necessity for the construction of the light-house never having been at all urgent, the money has not been expended. Further examination into the matter will be made, and if it does not appear that the station is required the appropriation will be transferred to the surplus fund.”
The “examination into the matter” must have determined that the lighthouse was needed, as land for it was purchased in 1869. Construction was carried out during 1870, and the lighthouse was lit for the first time on September 10 of that year by Jerome M. Pratt, who had previously served as keeper of Skillagalee Lighthouse. On the first page of the journal Keeper Pratt kept during his six years at Mission Point, he wrote, “This journal was delivered 15th August, 1870, to J.M. Pratt first light-keeper of Mission Point lighthouse.” Each day, Pratt meticulously recorded the weather, wind direction, and the number of ships passing the point. Over the years of his service, it is easy to see the rise in steamships. In October 1870, sixty-nine sailing ships were noted passing the lighthouse along with fifty-one steamers, but five years later, things had reversed, as there were 101 steamers and seventy-five sailing craft. Only once did Keeper Pratt record anything except official station business. This was on October 8, 1876, when the following cryptic note was made in the left margin of page twenty-one: “Eddie Died: 7:00 p.m.” Eddie was the adopted infant son of Jerome and Araminta Pratt.
Keeper Pratt was removed from office in 1877, reportedly for political reasons, and replaced by seventy-one-year-old John M. McHarry. Four years later, Keeper McHarry drowned after jumping over the side of the steamer City of Traverse on August 1, 1881. John Lane, the light’s third keeper, had lost both of his parents by the time he was fourteen, and subsequently served on a whaling ship and as captain of a Great Lakes steamer before entering the Lighthouse Service. Keeper Lane passed away on December 12, 1906, and Sarah, his wife, looked after the light until the following March, making her the only female keeper of the light. Though Sarah was the official keeper for just a short period, for at least eight years preceding her husband’s passing, she had total charge of the tower and light due to her husband'’s failing health. While Sarah minded the light, John looked after the books.
Mission Point Lighthouse consists of a one-and-a-half-story frame dwelling, measuring thirty by twenty-eight feet, with a square tower protruding from its lakeward gable. The center of the lantern room is thirty-five feet above the ground, but the bluff on which the lighthouse stands gave the fixed white light, produced by the tower’s fifth-order Fresnel lens, a focal plane of forty-eight feet above the bay.
Over the years, a few additions were made to the lighthouse. In 1889, a 200-foot-long and 4-foot-high crib was built and filled with stone to protect the shore in front of the lighthouse. That same year, a brick cistern was built, and a pump was placed in the kitchen to draw the water. A new woodshed was put up in 1894, and in 1898, a brick oil house was added to store the volatile kerosene, which was being used as the illuminant at that time.
Mission Point Lighthouse
Photograph courtesy National Archives
In 1911, a bell buoy, painted with red and black horizontal stripes, was established off Mission Point to mark the northern end of the shoals that extend from the peninsula. Though its importance had been reduced, Mission Point Lighthouse continued to be staffed until June 30, 1933, when Emil C. Johnson, its last keeper, left. An automated acetylene light was installed in the lantern room and continued to server mariners.
In 1938, the offshore bell buoy, which by then was lit, was replaced by a new structure known as Mission Point Light. This modern light took over the function of Mission Point Lighthouse, which was deactivated. The following description of the new navigational aid was given in the Annual Report of the Lake Carriers’ Association:
Mission Point Light was established in 19 feet on the shoal spot previously marked by Mission Point Lighted Bell Buoy 1. The structure is a circular black cylinder of interlocking steel sheet piling filled with stone and capped with concrete. On the pier thus provided is erected a skeleton steel tower and small steel house elevated above the pier deck on four circular cylinders for protection from ice and wave action. The light is a 200 m.m. lantern fitted with a battery operated electric light showing a white flash of 330 c.p., 1 second duration every 10 seconds.
The steel skeletal tower atop the circular pier has since been replaced by a cylindrical tower.
Mission Point Lighthouse Reservation originally consisted of 142 acres, but in March 1931, all but 5.38 acres of it were transferred to the State of Michigan for public park purposes. The remaining piece of the reservation, which included the lighthouse, was declared surplus on September 24, 1938. Residents of Peninsula Township collected funds and purchased the lighthouse and remaining piece of the reservation for $1,001 in 1948. Forty-three people, now known as the founding families, donated an average of forty-five dollars to raise the needed money. The acquired property was incorporated into the surrounding park, all of which is now owned by the township.
Between 1933 and 1948, vandals removed the Fresnel lens and a beautiful hand-carved mahogany railing from the lighthouse. After the township acquired the property, Ed Andrus took up residence in the lighthouse and worked on restoring the structure. By 1955, the station’s shed was being used as a refreshment stand.
Caretakers lived at the lighthouse until 2008, when the interior of the lighthouse was opened to the public. For a small fee, the public can now stay at the lighthouse and serve as modern-day “lighthouse keepers,” performing minor maintenance and greeting visitors.
In 2011, a fifth-order Fresnel lens, the same size of lens that was used at Mission Point, was loaned to the lighthouse by the Coast Guard. The lens was formerly used near Milwaukee and had been in storage at Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore.
Head Keepers: Jerome M. Pratt (1870 – 1877), John M. McHarry (1877 – 1881), John W. Lane (1881 – 1906), Sara E. Lane (1906 – 1907), James Davenport (1907 – 1919), William F. Green (1919 – 1924), Emil C. Johnson (1924 – 1933).
Grand Traverse Lighthouse
to donate to Grand Traverse Lighthouse: http://www.grandtraverselighthouse.com/donations/
Michigan’s Lower Peninsula is thought by many to resemble a hand. The peninsula between Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron is often referred to as Michigan’s thumb, while thirty-mile-long Leelanau Peninsula, located between Lake Michigan and Grand Traverse Bay is occasionally known as the state’s little finger.
Grand Traverse Lighthouse in 1883, note construction year on lighthouse
Photograph courtesy National Archives
On September 28, 1850, Congress appropriated $4,000 for a lighthouse on the northern tip of Leelanau Peninsula. President Millard Fillmore signed an executive order on June 30, 1851, reserving 58.75 acres of public land for Grand Traverse Lighthouse, which was also known early on as Cat Head Lighthouse due to its proximity to Cat Head Point.
Construction at the site began in late 1851, with materials being transported by schooner to the point and then being lightered ashore. A two-room dwelling with an attached kitchen and shed was built for the keeper, a position first held by David Moon, and a thirty-foot-tall, conical, brick tower was erected nearby. A fixed light, produced by six lamps and fourteen-inch reflectors, was first exhibited in September 1852, but in 1857, the light source was changed to a fourth-order Fresnel lens.
Keeper Moon resigned after just one year at the lighthouse and was replaced by Philo Beers, who had previously been a Deputy United States Marshal. During Moon’s four years as keeper, the lighthouse was visited by pirates from nearby Beaver Island. James Strang had established himself as king of a Mormon splinter group on the island, and his followers were accused of night-time raids on the Michigan mainland. The pirates made off with all of Keeper Beers’ nets and their contents on one occasion and valuable lighthouse supplies on another.
Shortly after being placed in service, Grand Traverse Lighthouse was found to be poorly built and poorly situated. Located near the eastern side of the tip of the peninsula, the lighthouse was useful for vessels entering and leaving Grand Traverse Bay but wasn’t of much service to vessels on Lake Michigan. The original lighthouse was torn down and replaced in 1858 by a two-and-a-half-story dwelling, built using Milwaukee cream city brick and topped by a slate roof. The dwelling measured thirty by thirty-two feet, and one of its gable ends was adorned with a seven-foot-square wooden tower. A fifth-order Fresnel lens was used in the new lighthouse until 1870, when a fourth-order, Barbier and Finestre lens was installed. The Lighthouse Board called this upgrade “a very necessary and decided improvement.”
Philo Beers was no longer serving as keeper when the new lighthouse was built, but he and his son Henry, who would serve as keeper of the lighthouse from 1859 to 1861, used some of the material from the original keeper’s dwelling to build a house in nearby Northport.
In 1880, a new wood shed was built, and the dwelling’s cellar was drained and sealed with cement. A two-story barn was built near the lighthouse in 1891 with a pitched shingle roof. The barn received an addition in 1895, and in 1896 a brick oil house was constructed.
Station and fog signal before 1912
Photograph courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
The Lighthouse Board noted in its annual report for 1895 that a fog signal at Grand Traverse Lighthouse was “deemed necessary to navigation” and requested $5,500 for its construction. Congress allocated the funds on July 1, 1898, and contracts were let for the project on January 20, 1899. A substantial structure, built of buff, pressed brick and topped by red, metal tiles, was completed in November 1899 on the shore roughly 140 feet southwest of the lighthouse. Duplicate ten-inch steam whistles, provided by George F. Motter & Sons of York, Pennsylvania under a contract with Ellicott Company of Baltimore, Maryland, were installed in the fog signal building and placed in operation on December 20, 1899. To provide a constant supply of water for the signal, a well was sunk twenty feet west of the building.
The extra workload created by the steam whistle required the assignment of an assistant keeper to the station, and in 1900, brick extensions were added to the dwelling to create two separate apartments for the keepers.
In 1933, an air diaphone, powered by air compressors driven by diesel engines, replaced the steam whistle. The most active year for the steam fog signal for which there are records was 1904, when it was in operation some 318 hours and consumed about 49 cords of wood.
The light was electrified in 1950, increasing its intensity to 15,000 candlepower. Keepers remained at Grand Traverse Lighthouse until 1972, when the lighthouse was replaced by an automated beacon mounted atop a skeletal tower.
The abandoned buildings slowly fell into disrepair until an organization, now known as Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum, was formed in 1984 with the goal of restoring the station and opening it to the public. After raccoons, squirrels, and bats had been evicted from the lighthouse, half of the structure was opened in 1986, while the rest housed a caretaker. A fourth-order Fresnel lens, formerly used at Michigan’s Alpena Lighthouse, is on exhibit in the lighthouse mounted atop the original pedestal from Grand Traverse Lighthouse.
Bobbie Ditzler served as the first president of Friends of the Lighthouse, which became Grand Traverse Lighthouse Foundation, and then Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum in 2000. Bobbie’s great uncle, Oscar Dame, served as assistant keeper at Grand Traverse Lighthouse in 1907 and then from 1923 to 1938.
Grand Traverse Lighthouse in 1914, after being converted into two apartments
Photograph courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
Born at Poverty Island Lighthouse, Doug McCormick moved to the lighthouse in 1923 at the age of eight, when his father, James McCormick, transferred to Grand Traverse from South Fox Island. Doug lived in the lighthouse until 1935, when he enlisted in the Coast Guard, but after his father retired in 1938, he did not see the lighthouse again until he moved to Traverse City in 1984. Doug McCormick helped with renovations at the lighthouse, and then from 1990 to 2002, he lived in his childhood home, serving as caretaker of the museum and sharing memories with visitors. During his childhood, Doug played along the shoreline during the summer and skated on the frozen waters surrounding the station in the winter. As he grew older, he helped his father polish the lens and trim the lamp’s wick to keep the light burning brightly.
Doug was able to track down a potbellied stove used in the lighthouse, and brought back his mother’s pump organ and dining room table.
Keeper James McCormick was responsible for much of the beach stonework found on the lighthouse grounds, including a stone birdhouse, a stone crown planter, and stone steps. Bette McCormick Olli, one of John and Mary McCormick’s twelve children, wrote a pamphlet on life at the lighthouse entitled, The Way It Was, which includes the following:
Ma would sometimes make rag dolls for us with button eyes and bodies filled with sand. The sand would shift and the dolls felt as though they were alive. Store bought dolls were mostly for ‘looking at’ and not to be handled carelessly.
In September 2003, ownership of Grand Traverse Lighthouse was transferred from the Coast Guard to Michigan Department of Parks and Recreation.
Instituted in 2004, a keeper program now allows lighthouse lovers to stay in the assistant keeper’s quarters in the north side of the lighthouse for week-long stints while greeting visitors and providing historical information about the station.
Head: David Moon (1852 – 1853), Philo Beers (1853 – 1857), Gilman Chase (1857 – 1859), Henry J. Beers (1859 – 1861), Solomon Case (1861 – 1862), Dr. Henry R. Shetterly (1862 – 1873), Priscilla Poncher (1873), John C. Hall (1873 – 1874), Peter Nelson (1874 – 1890), George Buttars (1890 – 1918), Reynold W. Johnson (1918 – 1923), James McCormick (1923 – 1938), Paul A. Walters (1938 – 1940), Ernest G. Hutzler (1940 – 1946), Frederick W. Leslie (1946 – 1950), John H. Olson (1950 – 1952), Edwin I. Johnson (1952 – 1954), Carl Walters (1954 – 1955), Elbert McKinney (1955 – 1958), John Marken (1958 – 1967), Terrance Herring (1967 – 1972).
Assistant: William P. Wilson (1899 – 1903), William F. Green (1903 – 1907), Hector Stebbins (1907), Oscar E. Dame (1907), Nels Nelson (1907), Frank Taylor (1907 – 1908), Emil C. Johnson (1908 – 1910), John C. Fish (1910 – at least 1912), James Wachter (at least 1913 – 1914), Ira Flagstad (1914 – at least 1917), Emil C. Johnson (at least 1919 – 1923), Guy Patterson (1923), Lewellyn A. Van Natter (1923), Oscar E. Dame (1928 – 1938), Allen P. Cain (1938 – 1946), James M. Haley (1955 – 1958), John Tregembo (1958 – ).
Robert Manning - Empire Lighthouse
Born in 1927, Robert H. Manning was a life-long resident of Empire and worked as an insurance salesman and then as a civilian worker in supply for the Empire Air Force Station. In his spare time, Manning was an avid fisherman, and while returning to shore after an outing on Lake Michigan, he often lamented that there wasn’t a lighthouse at Empire to guide him home. After Manning passed away in December 1989, his family and friends raised funds to erect a lighthouse in his honor. While many think the lighthouse resembles the tower at Point Betsie, with three openings on one face and the tower flaring out to support the lantern room, the Manning family used an architect in Traverse City to come up with their own design. Robert H. Manning Memorial Lighthouse was dedicated in 1991.
The lighthouse is listed in the Coast Guard’s Light List as Manning Light, a private aid to navigation that emits a white flash every four seconds at a focal plane of thirty-eight feet and is maintained from April 15 to November 15.
Lower Tahquamenon Falls
41382 West M-123, Paradise, MI 49768
Phone # (906) 492-3415, Fax # (906) 492-3590, TDD # (906) 492-3812
For camping reservations, call 1-800-44-PARKS
Tahquamenon Falls is an easy drive along M-123, the highway offers a loop from Highway M-28 through Paradise, past Tahquamenon Falls State Park, through Newberry and back to M-28. This beautiful falls in Tahquamenon Falls State Park is hidden in the forest along the Tahquamenon River and is easily accessible for those seeking the quiet and solitude of the Upper Peninsula wilderness.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park encompasses close to 52,000 acres stretching over 13 miles. Most of this is undeveloped woodland without roads, buildings or power lines. Centerpiece of the park, and the very reason for its existence, is the Tahquamenon River with its waterfalls.
The Upper Falls is one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi. It has a drop of nearly 50 feet and is more than 200 feet across. A maximum flow of more than 50,000 gallons of water per second has been recorded cascading over its precipice.
A paved pathway (.4 mile) leads from the parking lot at the Upper Falls, through an old growth forest to the observation platforms at the crest of the Falls and is handicap accessible. Steps lead to the bottom of the falls where the water crashes into the Tahquamenon River. There is a 4 mile hiking trail along the river to the Lower Falls.
A restaurant and gift shop are located at the Upper Falls. Originally a logging camp, the building is a replica of the original camp, Camp 33. There is a large deck with a fireplace and places to sit and relax. There are picnic tables scattered near the trail entrance for enjoying a picnic lunch. Handicap accessible restrooms are located by the entrance to the trail that leads to the Upper Falls.
Little Traverse Lighthouse
The lighthouse is owned by Harbor Point Association. Grounds/dwelling/tower closed.
Located in the northeast corner of Lake Michigan are two expansive bays: Grand Traverse Bay and Little Traverse Bay. Grand Traverse Lighthouse commenced operation in 1852 to mark the entrance to Grand Traverse Bay, but Little Traverse Bay remained without a lighthouse for several more years. On the north shore of Little Traverse Bay, Harbor Point extends out into the bay for nearly a mile, forming a fine natural harbor at Harbor Springs.
Little Traverse Lighthouse with bell tower in 1925
Photograph courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
On March 13, 1871, the Michigan Legislature passed a resolution asking Congress for an appropriation for a lighthouse and fog bell for Little Traverse Bay. The U.S. Senate’s Committee on Commerce asked the Lighthouse Board to investigate the necessity of the lighthouse, and the district’s engineer, Orlando M. Poe, was tasked with making a formal report. Referring to the harbor formed by Harbor Point, Poe wrote:
The harbor itself is excellent in every respect, easy of access, affording good anchorage, and a complete shelter from all winds.
A light-house of the fifth order, together with a fog-bell of 600 pounds, with Stevens’s striking-apparatus will make the harbor available.
In addition to its relation to the general commerce of Lake Michigan, the harbor has some local importance. This is increasing and doubtless will continue to do so.
The proposed aids to navigation should be placed at the extreme end of the point, on the south side of the harbor, as indicated on the accompanying tracing, and would cost about $12,000, which sum, for the purpose indicated, I respectfully recommend be included in the next annual estimates.
It took over a decade, but Congress finally appropriated $15,000 for the lighthouse on August 7, 1882. After title to the desired parcel on Harbor Point was acquired, materials and workers were landed at the site on May 14, 1884. By the end of June, the twenty-inch-thick stone foundation walls were in place, the first-floor joists were laid, and the brickwork had been carried up to a height of two feet. The red-brick lighthouse, consisting of an eight-and-a-half-foot-square tower attached to the southern end of a one-and-half-story dwelling, was completed on September 18, and the light was exhibited for the first time on September 25, 1884. A fourth-order L. Sautter, Lemonier & Co. Fresnel lens, installed in the tower’s decagonal, cast-iron lantern room, was used to beam forth a fixed red light at a focal plane of forty-one feet above the bay.
In 1887, a forty-five-foot-deep, two-inch drive well was sunk near the dwelling to provide water via a hand pump. Four years later, the station was connected to the city’s main, which provided a steady supply of water for domestic purposes and for protection against fire. A summer kitchen was added to the lighthouse in 1894.
Though a fog bell was mentioned in the original plans for the station, only a light was available to mariners until 1896, when a two-story, square, pyramidal, fog-bell tower, resting atop five brick piers, was erected. The lower portion of the tower was enclosed, and the 1,800-pound bell was hung in the open upper portion. Starting on June 1, 1896, the bell was struck a double blow every thirty seconds when needed. Prior to being installed at Little Traverse Lighthouse, the bell and striking mechanism had been used at Manitowoc, Wisconsin. On June 26, 1914, the characteristic of the fog bell was changed to a single blow every fifteen seconds.
Lighthouse and bell tower in 1914
Photograph courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
A brick oil house was built in 1898 to store the volatile kerosene then being used as the illuminant in the lighthouse. A flagpole was erected in 1905, and in 1907 the station’s wooden sidewalks were replaced by 578 running feet of concrete walks.
Though the details regarding the structures at a light station are interesting to many, the keepers who looked after the light were the real soul of the lighthouse. The first two keepers of Little Traverse Lighthouse both had long tenures, with their combined service accounting for more than half of the time the light was staffed.
Not many lighthouses can claim a woman as its first keeper, but Little Traverse can. Elizabeth Whitney Van Riper Williams was born on Mackinac Island in 1844 and spent most of her childhood on Beaver Island, where she married Captain Clement Van Riper when just sixteen years old. Van Riper was appointed keeper of Beaver Island Harbor Lighthouse in 1869 and served in that role until November 29, 1872, when he drowned while trying to help a ship in distress. Elizabeth took charge of the light after her husband’s death and kept the position even after marrying Daniel Williams in 1876.
Desiring to live on the mainland, Elizabeth applied to be keeper of the newly built Little Traverse Lighthouse. During her time at Little Traverse, she would publish her best-selling biography A Child of the Sea and Life Among the Mormons, in which she records her arrival at her new assignment in 1884.
Just a few hours passed when we steamed into Little Traverse Harbor, and the “red light,” just like the one we had left, was flashing its rays over the waters of Little Traverse Bay for the first time. The water was calm and still. The “red light” shone deep into the quiet waters, and many eyes were watching the bright rays from the light-house tower, and the wish of their hearts had been gratified in having a light house on Harbor Point to guide steamers and vessels into the harbor. The evening was clear and the picture was a lovely one as we rounded the point so near the light. Some passengers said to me. “Here is your home. Don’t you know the red light is giving you a welcome?” Yes, it was all one’s heart could wish, yet I felt there was another I had left in the old home that was now just a little more dear to my heart.
We were met by friends and taken to their home for the night. Next morning we drove through the resort grounds to “Harbor Point Light House,” as it is known by the land people, but to the mariner it is “Little Traverse Light House. We were soon at work putting our house in order, and the beautiful lens in the tower seemed to be appealing to me for care and polishing, which I could not resist, and since that time I have given my best efforts to keep my light shining from the lighthouse tower.
Later in her time at Harbor Point, Elizabeth said:
Every evening as I climb my tower-steps I know that there are hundreds of other lightkeepers doing the same thing. I have many sleepless nights when storms are raging. My station is built of brick and stone, and is very comfortable and warm to live in. We lightkeepers feel a great sympathy with our sailors, for we know their eyes are watching to catch the welcome glimmer of the lights as they sail on the stormy deep. … Our lives are given to our work, and we feel the great responsibility resting upon us. We are faithful to the duties assigned us, and we keep our lamps trimmed and burning, a guide to mariners on the way to safe harbors of refuge.
After twenty-nine years at Harbor Point Lighthouse, Elizabeth retired and left the station on November 1, 1913 to live in nearby Charlevoix. Elizabeth’s replacement was veteran keeper Alfred C. Erickson, who had previously served as head keeper at Chicago Harbor Lighthouse and Calumet Harbor Lighthouse. While at Chicago Harbor, Keeper Erickson rendered assistance to thirteen people, saving lives in most of the cases. In an interview given one year after being assigned to Little Traverse Lighthouse, Erickson commented, “It’s the life-savers that always get the credit. We fellows are hired to keep the lights burning, but there isn’t a man in the service who wouldn’t risk his life and do his utmost to render assistance to anyone on the lakes. The average passenger on a lake steamer gives the light keepers little credit. The passengers depend on the captain for safety, but it is on the light keepers the captains have to depend.”
Lighthouse Service records show that Keeper Erickson continued his lifesaving heroics at Harbor Point. In 1915, he towed two disabled boats to safety, and in 1918, he rescued a woman who tumbled into the water while getting out of a boat. In 1923, Erickson picked up six men off the launch Evelyn, which had caught fire, and then helped extinguish the fire.
Keeper Erickson was also known for building model yachts. During the third-annual model-yacht races held in Little Traverse Bay in 1926, every boat vying for the A.C. Erickson trophy had been built by Keeper Erickson. After having served thirty years at the lighthouse, Keeper Erickson passed away in November 1942.
Accretion gradually built up Harbor Point until the lighthouse was situated a significant distance from the entrance to the harbor. On July 28, 1959, the commander of the Ninth Coast Guard District held a public hearing to receive feedback on the plan to discontinue Little Traverse Lighthouse and its fog bell and establish an automated light on a skeletal tower near the extremity of the point. When no adverse comments were received, the Coast Guard requested that the General Services Administration exchange the lighthouse property for a fifty-foot-square parcel owned by the Harbor Point Association, who had agreed to pay for the difference in property value in cash. After the transaction was completed, a forty-one-foot-tall skeletal tower was erected on the point in 1963 to display an automated flashing green light.
As Harbor Point remains an exclusive gated community controlled by the Harbor Point Association, the best public views of the lighthouse are from the water.
Head Keepers: Elizabeth Van Riper Williams (1884 – 1913), Alfred C. Erickson (1913 – 1942), Angus H. Phillips (1943 – 1946), Raymond H. Buttars (1947 – 1948), Henry J. Rocheleau (1949 – 1954), Herman Barr (1955), Frank A. Wollack (1956 – 1962).
Peche Island Lighthouse
Peche Island Front Range Light in 1904
Photograph courtesy National Archives
On July 13, 1892, Congress passed an act that provided for a ship channel with a minimum depth of twenty feet to be dredged in the shallows of the connecting waters of the Great Lakes. The work was carried out over the next five years, and one of the improvements funded was a twenty-foot channel through Grosse Point Flats in Lake St. Clair.
Pile clusters marking the edge of this twenty-foot channel were carried away in January 1898, and it was decided that axial range lights should be built in shoal water north of Peche Island to mark the channel. Isle aux Peches Range Lights were established on April 15, 1898, with the front light consisting of a mast supported by a pile of clusters driven in nineteen feet of water. The mast was topped by a target and had a horizontal arm with two fixed white lens-lantern lights, spaced ten feet apart and displayed at a focal plane of eighteen feet. The rear light was similar in form but stood in eight feet of water, 4,650 feet southwest of the front light, and had a focal plane of thirty-eight feet.
John F. Kerby was hired as the first head keeper of the range lights, and he would have six different assistants helping him with the lights during the fourteen years he served at the station.
As part of what would become a recurring theme at Isle aux Peches, the range lights were carried away by ice in the spring of 1899, but new forty-foot-long piles had been driven by April 20, 1899, and two days later, lights, similar to the original range, were in place. On July 27, 1899, a tugboat carried away the front light, but it was re-established roughly a week later on August 4 at the expense of the tug’s owners. The front light was carried away by another vessel on September 17, 1899, but as it was impractical to determine the party responsible, the government picked up the tab for rebuilding the light.
Both range lights were again carried away by ice in the spring of 1900, but replacements were ready for operation on April 28, 1900. After rebuilding the lights in 1900, the Lighthouse Board noted: “The fact that the piles on which these two lights stand are always carried away by ice in the winter, and during the summer are once or twice run down by passing vessels, shows the need for structures of some strength and permanence which will serve as day beacons for the range and from which lights can be exhibited at night. The present arrangement has proven to be inadequate, as the light is not visible at times when it should be under reasonable atmospheric conditions. Something larger and more substantial is required.” The Board requested $12,000 so that crib lights could be built on the range with a skeletal tower for the rear light and a keeper’s dwelling surmounted by a tower for the front light.
Isle aux Peches Range Lights were again carried away by ice in the spring of 1901 and 1902, but were re-established in April of the corresponding year. The Lighthouse Board repeated its request for funds for a more substantial range, and in 1902, it increased the projected cost to $18,000. The Board felt that the distance between the range lights should be decreased so they could both be seen in thick weather. This change would require the rear range light to be in deeper water, which, along with the increase in labor and material since the initial request, raised the projected cost of the range lights.
Peche Island Front Range Lighthouse in 1935
Photograph courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
The range lights were again carried away by ice in the spring of 1903, and then re-established in April, only to have the front range carried away by an unknown vessel in June. The range lights were carried away by ice during the next three winters, but they were faithfully rebuilt the following spring and put back in service.
Congress finally appropriated $18,000 on June 30, 1906 for a more robust set of range lights at Isle aux Peches. Later that year, a survey was made to select the sites for the lights and plans for the structures were drawn up. Of course, while plans were being made for the new lights, the existing range was carried away by ice during the winter, but it was back in service on April 26, 1907.
Cribs for the lights were built at the Detroit lighthouse depot and then towed out in early May 1907 to the selected sites, where they were secured to piles and filled and riprapped with 342 cords of stone. Work on the superstructure was put off until 1908 so the cribs would have time to settle in place.
The permanent lights were placed in operation on June 15, 1908, and the following description of them was given by the Lake Carriers’ Association: “The front light, which is 38 feet above the water level, is a fourth order light flashing white every ten seconds, and the rear light, which is 57 1/2 feet above the water, is a fixed red reflector light. These structures are conical steel towers, built upon concrete piers, constructed to withstand the action of the ice which each spring heretofore has carried away the temporary pile clusters from which these range lights have been exhibited.”
At the opening of navigation in 1909, the intensity of the front light was increased almost tenfold by changing its illuminant from oil to incandescent oil vapor. At the same time, the rear light was improved by changing it from oil to compressed acetylene in acetone. In 1914, the front light was converted to an acetylene light that was on for one second then off for one second. This change allowed the lights to be automated, and the station’s two keepers were assigned elsewhere.
By 1926, the cribs support the lights had greatly deteriorated and were in a dangerous condition. The Lighthouse Service removed the crib superstructures to the waterline in 1926 and rebuilt them in reinforced concrete. A ten-foot-tall lower story, also built of reinforced concrete, was built under the rear range as mariners had complained that the difference in height between the two lights was so small that they nearly merged along the range line.
On the night of November 5, 1927, a tugboat captain reported that the front range light was ablaze, after having seen two men leave its crib in a rowboat. The fireboat James R. Elliott rushed to the scene, and just as it was tying up to the crib, flames reached the acetylene magazine, which exploded with terrific force. The explosion shattered nearly every window in the fireboat and hurled fireman Harold Koehn into the lake. Hundreds of residents were attracted to the shoreline on both sides of the Detroit River by the explosion and fire. The front tower was blown apart and toppled by the explosion, but a temporary replacement light was established on the crib the next day.
Peche Island Rear Range Lighthouse in 1935
Photograph courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
The following account of the explosion and the lesson learned from it appeared in the Lighthouse Service Bulletin:
The tower consisted of an inclosed conical structural steel plate tower supporting a standard eight-sided lantern, exhibiting an unwatched occulting acetylene light in a fourth-order fixed lens. The focal plane of the lantern was about 30 feet above the base of the tower, which was secured to a reinforced concrete block, supported by a timber stone-filled crib. There were four acetylene tanks in the base of the tower, and the parapet plates of the lantern were provided with the usual ventilators. The tower door was shut and locked, and the structure was secured to the block by foundation bolts.
The fire apparently started on the easterly side of the crib, outside of the concrete block. Two boys, the city fire tug, and the lighthouse tender Thistle responded to the alarm. The fire gained headway, and a crackling noise, followed by a sound of escaping gas was heard inside the tower. The fire tug had just started to put water on the fire when an explosion took place which lifted the tower about 20 or 30 feet in the air and blew it open, the wreck falling in a northeasterly direction partly on the concrete pier and partly on the burning cribwork.
An examination of the station shows that the concrete pier is slightly damaged, with some cracking and spalling; the steel tower, lantern deck, lantern, and lens are a total loss; the four gas tanks show no sign of undue stress, as all the fusible plugs had melted, relieving the gas within; the 1 1/2-inch foundation bolts were all sheared off, and many of the tower joints had been pulled apart, especially at window and door openings. Parts of the lantern, lantern deck, etc., were found scattered over the entire area of the pier.
It seems probable that at least one of the tanks became hot enough to melt a fusible plug, filling the tower with gas, which probably exploded upon reaching the pilot flame at the top of the tower, or the gas may have been ignited by the flames through a small crevice under the base angle of the tower.
The chief lesson to be drawn from this explosion is the need of thoroughly adequate ventilation near the base of similarly arranged structures, and also at a point beneath the compartment in which the light apparatus is located. In any inclosed tower it seems essential that the tank compartment and the space in which the light is located be closed off or isolated from each other and separately ventilated.
A square, pyramidal tower took the place of the destroyed conical tower atop the front range crib.
The range lights were electrified in 1940. By 1980, the rear light had developed a severe list, and in 1983, it was replaced by a modern structure. Michigan Bank – Port Huron acquired the lighthouse from Luedtke Engineering Company, which was contracted to scrap the lighthouse, and then restored the structure and placed it on the riverfront in Marine City. The lighthouse was dedicated at its new home on August 21, 1983.
In 2013, Marine City mayor John Gabor announced that the city had failed to receive a matching grant from the highly competitive Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program, which is funded by the sale of Save Our Lights specialty license plates. A representative of the State Historic Preservation Office explained that it would be difficult for Peche Island Lighthouse to receive grant money as it had been moved from its historic site and because it was built by Canadians. While the first reason may be valid, the 1908 tower is definitely an American lighthouse. Marine City plans to use the money it had reserved as matching funds to proceed with a partial restoration of the tower.
During the fall of 2014, IPC Services placed a penetrating primer on the tower followed by an intermediate coat of paint and then a polyurethane coat to provide UV protection. The latest paint job is expected to last thirty or thirty-five years. In addition to the new paint, the tower also received new windows and upgraded lighting. The total cost for the renovations came to about $35,000, most of which came from a recreation millage fund.
Skeleton towers that display fixed white lights serve Peche Island Range today.
Crisp Point Light House
Located about 14 miles (23 km) west of Whitefish Point, in 1876 it became Life Saving Station Number Ten, of the U.S. Life-Saving Service District 10 (later part of District 11). Crisp Point is named from one of the Life Saving Station keepers, Christopher Crisp, who is said to have been "an iron-willed boatman." Surfmen were stationed there to aid mariners and ships in distress. The station, along with the rest of the United States Life-Saving Service, was integrated into the United States Coast Guard in 1915. (In 1939 the U.S. Lighthouse Service also merged under the control of the Coast Guard). Due to the fact that the US Life-Saving Service and the US Lighthouse Service were originally two distinct entities, the Crisp Point Life Saving Station and the Crisp Point Lighthouse were also originally two separate entities.
The other four Life-Saving Stations were Vermilion Point (now Vermilion, Michigan), about five miles (8 km) east of Crisp Point, Two Hearted River, 5 or 6 miles (8.0 or 9.7 km) west of Crisp Point, Deer Park, Michigan (formerly known as the Sucker River Station and Muskallonge Lake Station), about 10 or 11 miles (16 or 18 km) west of Two Hearted River, and Grand Marais about 15 or 16 miles (24 or 26 km) west of Deer Park.