July 14, 2014
Point Betsie Lighthouse is located on the shore of Lake Michigan just north of Frankfort. It has the distinction of being Michigan’s most photographed lighthouse, and now you can take your photography indoors! The Friends of Point Betsie Lighthouse detail the restoration of the lighthouse and grounds and say:
The first floor is now an exhibition area depicting the history of the lighthouse and the lifesaving operations of the U.S. Lifesaving Service and U.S. Coast Guard at Point Betsie. The rehabilitation process included the installation of all new utility components in the quarters, restoration of the interior walls and floors, and the complete renewal of the tower and lantern. Funding for these projects came from the Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program and a distinctive “Save America’s Treasures” award from the Federal Government, along with necessary matching contributions by Point Betsie’s private donors.
One key donation was for the restoration of the Victorian staircase in the assistant keeper’s quarters, a major gift in memory of former Assistant Keeper Henry LaFreniere and his wife Hattie. The stairway provides access to a beautiful two-bedroom vacation apartment, the rent from which is an important source of revenue for the light station. Another important historic contribution consisted of radiators that had previously heated Point Betsie’s adjacent Coast Guard station.
As the interior rehabilitation was moving forward, many gifts of furnishings and other period-appropriate items were donated or loaned to the Friends group for display and use. Other items, especially for the apartment, were carefully selected for purchase. The hopes of many Point Betsie devotees were realized when the beautiful Fourth-order Fresnel lens which provided the station’s sweeping beam for about a century was returned by the Coast Guard for display on the lighthouse’s first floor.
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July 7, 2014
The entrance into the St. Claire River from Lake Huron had long been deemed of strategic importance. Named after General Charles Gratiot, the engineer in charge of its construction, the Fort Gratiot military outpost was established at the entrance to the river in 1814, and ensured the security of vessels making the passage.
With the surge in vessel traffic on Lake Huron in the early 1800’s, the need for a lighthouse to guide vessels into the river and away from the shallows at the River entrance became a matter of increasing importance. In response to this need, Congress appropriated $3,500 to construct a lighthouse “near Fort Gratiot, in Michigan Territory” on March 3rd of 1823.
The contract for construction of the lighthouse and keepers dwelling was awarded to Captain Winslow Lewis of Massachusetts. Lewis was the inventor of the patented Lewis Lamp, which the Fifth Auditor had universally adopted as the primary source of illumination in the nation’s growing inventory of lighthouses. A staunch supporter and ally of the Fifth Auditor, Lewis had branched out into the business of lighthouse construction, and as the frequent low bidder, was being awarded a growing number of contracts to fulfill the nation’s need for navigational aids on the East Coast.
Lewis sub-contracted the construction of the tower and keepers dwelling that would become known as the “Fort Gratiot Light” to Mr. Daniel Warren of Rochester New York. Work commenced on the structure, but appears to have been running far beyond the scope of the original bid, since Congress appropriated an additional $5,000 for the project’s completion on April 2, 1825.
With the completion of construction on August 8th of that year, Fort Gratiot Light held the honor of becoming the first lighthouse in the State of Michigan.
Read on for much more including a couple of old photos of the light.
Many more Michigan lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures!
June 26, 2014
While many of Michigan’s historic lighthouses have been decommissioned and are mostly ornamental, Pure Michigan tells the story of how the Wawatam Lighthouse started out as an ornamental lighthouse and now actually has a job! Thinking there’s a children’s story here…
This classic lighthouse started life in 1998 as a Michigan Welcome Center travel icon at Monroe, Michigan. In 2004, the Monroe Welcome Center was being revamped and the lighthouse was put up for relocation. The City of St. Ignace was the lucky recipient and the structure was trucked north in five pieces. It stayed on the Chief Wawatam Dock for a time, awaiting the construction of its new platform. The red, white and green lighthouse was repainted in bright white with red accents. In June 2006, a crane reassembled the tower on its new site. Everything was in readiness, just waiting for U.S. Coast Guard certification. Wawatam Lighthouse takes its name from the late railroad ferry Chief Wawatam, which used this same dock from 1911 through the mid-1980s.
When you visit the lighthouse, you will pass right by the Chief’s old lift gate. Wawatam Lighthouse’s beacon was first lit on August 20, 2006. Visible for more than 13 miles out over Lake Huron, it is now an official aid-to-navigation. The 250 millimeter Fresnel lens casts its light in a 152 degree arc. Though the lighthouse’s GPS location is 45-051-19.700 N by 084-42-09.000 W, it will most likely be easier for you to find it straight out east of McCann Street. The tower is 52 feet tall, but the Coast Guard looks at it in a different way. They rate it as 62 feet tall from the water. It is even lit in the winter to guide snowmobiles across the frozen lake.
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May 5, 2014
Terry Pepper writes that the first Presque Isle Light was established in 1840 to serve as a guide to mariners seeking the harbor on Presque Isle, the spit of land protruding from the eastern shore of Lake Huron French trappers named “almost an island.” By 1866, the dwelling was judged to be a tear-down candidate and in March of 1967, Congress appropriated $28,000 for construction of the New Presque Isle Light according to the plan of District Engineer Orlando M Poe:
Poe’s classic design for the new tower was atypically elegant for such a utilitarian structure, and was so successful that it would be duplicated at a number of stations throughout the district, including Outer Island and Au Sable Point on Lake Superior, and at Little Sable, Big Sable and Grosse Point on Lake Michigan. Erected on a limestone foundation that extended almost ten feet below grade, the red brick tower stood 113 feet in height. 19 feet 3 inches in exterior diameter at the base, the structure tapered gracefully to a diameter of 12 feet beneath the gallery. Constructed with a double wall system, the outer walls stood 5 feet three inches in thickness at the base and the inner wall one 1 foot thick with a 2 foot three inch air space between. The inner walls did not reflect the taper of the exterior, but were erected as a pure cylinder, encasing a spiral cast iron stairway consisting of 138 steps and incorporating five landings and a watch room with four windows immediately below the gallery. Each of these windows featured a graceful arched top section, typical of Poe’s groundbreaking design.
Supported by a series of ornate cast iron corbels, the gallery provided a convenient location from which the keepers could observe vessels out on the lake during fair weather, and created a natural location from which to suspend a boatswain’s chair to conduct maintenance on the gallery supports and the masonry of the tower walls. Centered on the gallery, a prefabricated cast iron apparatus room was erected with a smaller encircling gallery. Centered within this secondary gallery, a cast iron lantern with vertical astragals was equipped with hand-holds to provide the keepers with an extra measure of safety while standing on the narrow upper gallery when cleaning or scraping ice from the plate glass lantern panes. A large cast iron pedestal to support for the lens was erected in the mechanical room below the lantern, and the massive Third Order Fresnel lens, which had been ordered from Henry LePaute Cie. of Paris assembled at its upper flare. Consisting of a brass support structure standing 8 feet in diameter, ten prismatic panels, each six feet in height and 2 feet 6 inches wide were carefully assembled within the frame to create the “crystal beehive” look typical of such lenses.
Read on for more about this lighthouse including some old pics.
Many more Michigan lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures!
April 29, 2014
I was looking for something on Michigan in Pictures and came across a series of “Michigan’s Tallest” posts that I did a couple of years ago. I thought it made sense to add to that list, so – according to Wikipedia’s list of the tallest lighthouse towers in the United States – measuring in at 130′ tall, Rock of Ages is Michigan’s tallest lighthouse.
It’s also the tallest lighthouse on the Great Lakes and on his Rock of Ages Light page at Seeing the Light, Terry Pepper writes (in part):
Consisting of a strip of exposed rock 50 feet wide and 210 feet long, with it highest point some sixteen feet above the water, Rock of Ages lies two and a half miles off the western end of Isle Royale. While the 205-foot wooden sidewheel steamer CUMBERLAND had been the rock’s only victim in over a half century of Superior navigation, changing navigation patterns in the final decade of the nineteenth century suddenly made Rock of Ages a critical impediment to safe navigation on the big lake.
As Duluth grew to preeminence as the lake’s major shipping port, a growing number of mariners were choosing to set a course along the northern shore during Superior’s violent storms in order to avoid the uncertain and changeable conditions of open water. With Rock of Ages lurking directly in the path of vessels choosing this course, a cry arose in the maritime community for the establishment of a Light on Rock of Ages.
…On completion, the tower stood eight stories in height, and offered relatively large and comfortable quarters for the complement of four keepers assigned to the station. A steam heating plant located in the upper cellar provided heat to cast iron radiators in all rooms, and the first deck was home to the fog signal plant and hoisting engines for the pillar crane located at the edge of the pier level. This crane was used both for raising supplies delivered by the lighthouse tenders at the wharf and for raising the keeper’s boat for storage on the safety of the pier deck. An office and common room made up the second deck, and a mess room and kitchen the third. The Keeper and First Assistant’s quarters were located on the fourth deck, with the Second and Third Assistants quarters immediately above on the Fifth deck. A service room and watch room comprised the sixth and seventh decks, leaving the huge lantern capping the structure above.
About the photo, Dave writes: Photo taken from the back of Voyageur II heading into Windigo with 7 foot waves at 300mm. Yeah I almost got sea sick from taking these.
More lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures.
February 1, 2014
22 North Photography has declared February as Lighthouse Month, sharing 28 Michigan lighthouses in 28 days. Day 1 is the Frankfort North Breakwater Light which marks the entrance to Betsie Lake and the Betsie River in Frankfort.
Many more lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures.
January 29, 2014
December 4, 2013
November 13, 2013
We’ve covered the Haunting of Seul Choix Lighthouse on Michigan in Pictures. Dave Wobster has an article on Seul Choix Light at Boatnerd.com. He writes that Seul Choix (“only choice” as the only safe harbor in the area) was popular with Native Americans as early as the 1600s due to the abundant whitefish and lake trout that were waiting to be caught in Lake Michigan. A fishing village was established in the mid 1800s and a trading post around 1850.
The early navigation aids along the northern Lake Michigan coast were the lighthouses at St. Helena Island (1872) and Peninsula Point (1866). This left a 100-mile gap of dark shoreline with Seul Choix Bay located near the middle. Efforts were soon started to have a lighthouse constructed on Seul Choix Point. The efforts were successful in 1886 when Congress appropriated $15,000 to build a light tower and fog signal on the point. Another $8,000 was added before the project was completed. Various complications and the rebuilding of the original tower delayed completion of the station.The light was first shown in August, 1892, but the complex was not completed until 1895 with the finishing of the fog signal building. The complex consisted of the present conical 78-foot tower and attached 2-story keeper’s dwelling, a steam fog signal building, stable, boathouse, two oil storage buildings, a brick privy, and boat dock and tramway to the fog signal building.
The keeper’s dwelling was expanded in 1925 with a lean-to addition to the west side. The interior living space was divided with a wall to provide equal space for an additional family. The wall has since been removed, but the building still contains two kitchen areas. Particular attention should be paid to the unique rounded gables on the east end of the dwelling. While they are reminiscent of a sailing schooner stern, history does not provide a reason for this detail.
The 78-foot high white conical tower is the typical elaborate “Poe-Style” named after General Orlando M. Poe who provided the original design. The Poe-style light towers are easily recognized by the ornate brackets which support the gallery around the lantern room and the four windows below the gallery which have semi-circular stone arch head pieces.
Read on for more including some photos of Seul Choix details at Boatnerd.com. The Seul Choix Pointe Lighthouse is maintained by the Gulliver Historical Society and you can get a lot more info (and a snippet of a cool song that plays when you load) at their site.
Bill took this shot in 1997 with Plustek OpticFilm 7600. He writes that Seul Choix is located on the north shore of Lake Michigan a little east of Manistique. View his photo background big and see more in his great Lighthouses slideshow.
Many (many) more Michigan lighthouses at Michigan in Pictures!
September 24, 2013
Located just off the mainland coast of Lake Michigan’s east coast, a group of islands known as the Beaver Archipelago form a chain which marked the western edge of a tight passage along the coast. Known as the “Manitou Passage,” vessel masters taking this narrow passage were able to reduce the travel distance between the ports of Lake Michigan’s southern shore and the Straits of Mackinac by sixty miles, as opposed to taking the more circuitous route through open water to the west of the islands. As the most southerly of this chain of islands, South Manitou also featured one of the areas safest natural harbors, and with 5,260-acres of fine timber growth covering the island, it is not surprising that a few enterprising settlers arrived during the mid 1830’s to sell firewood to steamers taking shelter in the harbor when things turned sour out in the lake. By the late 1830’s it was commonplace to find upward of fifty vessels crowded into the harbor seeking refuge and taking-on supplies when things turned sour out in the lake.
Lying a scant few miles west of Sleeping Bear Point, mariners were hard pressed to locate the southern entrance to the busy passage at night or in times of thick weather, and a cry arose throughout the maritime community to light the southern entrance to the passage. Taking up their call on February 19, 1838, Michigan State Representative Isaac Crary entered a motion before the House of Representatives to erect a lighthouse on South Manitou, and fully cognizant of the vital role played by maritime commerce in the area, Congress responded quickly with an appropriation of $5,000 for the station’s construction on July 7 of that same year.
You can read on at Seeing the Light for the troubled saga of this light which saw high keeper turnover and some tragedy in its long tenure before being decommissioned in 1958. There’s also historical photos like this one showing the structure in full operation.
Many more lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures!