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!
September 21, 2013
Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light page for the Medota Channel Light says that in response to increasing industrialization around Lac LaBelle, a cut was created from the Lake Superior into Lac LaBelle to allow access to the big ships that plied the Great Lakes.
As a result, the construction of the Mendota Light was first considered by the US Congress in 1867, when an appropriation of $14,000 for the construction of a light station was approved on March 2, with the terms of the contract called for construction of the structure to begin in 1869, with final completion no later than November 1870.
Later that year, it was realized that declining industrial development in the area would no longer support the planned deepening of the cut into Lac Labelle, and it was deemed that the light would serve no purpose. Decommission was ordered, and instructions to dismantle the structure were issued to the crew of the steamer “Haze,” with all equipment to be returned to USLHS headquarters in St. Joseph for eventual reuse. (The lens and mechanics were later reused in the Marquette Breakwater light.)
Thus, the Mendota light station was decommissioned before it saw real service, and the structure sat idle and blinded for the following twenty two years.
In the following years, Great Lakes shipping increased dramatically, and many ships rounding the Keweenaw began using Bete Grise Bay as a shelter during rough seas. In 1892 it was determined that a reactivation of the Mendota light, along with relocation closer to the bay would make bay entry a far safer proposition for such ships seeking shelter. Authorization for reactivation was issued on February 15, 1893, and $7,500 was appropriated to cover the expenses.
Read on for more about this light.
July 13, 2013
Today’s post is from the “What Are the Odds?” category. Some weeks I will sit down on Sunday evening and write a few posts. I wrote this one last Sunday and then on Tuesday, the State Historic Preservation Office announced 2013 recipients of Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program. Three lighthouses will receive dollars for preservation efforts: the Manistee North Pier Light, the St. Clair South Channel Range Lights (already profiled on Michigan in Pictures) and the DeTour Reef Lighthouse!
Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light tells of the history of the DeTour Reef Lighthouse. He begins:
As freighters plying the St. Marys River grew in length and depth, a reef lying 24 feet below the surface off the entrance to the river between Detour Point and Drummond Island became a menace to safe passage between the lake and river. Without funding to erect a lighthouse, an acetylene buoy was placed to mark the reef on September 29, 1897 as a temporary measure.
As part of a major project to improve aids to navigation in the Straits of Mackinac at the end of the 1920’s, the Lighthouse Bureau had proven its ability in the efficient construction of offshore crib-based lights at Martin Reef in 1927, and Poe Reef 1929. With success already in its back pocket, after receiving an appropriation for the construction of a first-class light station on Detour Reef, the Bureau was immediately able to focus its attention on construction of the new station.
The first order of business was the establishment of a land-based camp as close as possible to the reef. Here, the crib which would form the submarine foundation for the structure could be built, and housing could be obtained for the construction crew. By the twin virtues of having deep water close to its shore and its proximity to the construction site, Detour Village was selected as the best location for the base of operations.
You can read on at Seeing the Light for details and photos of the fascinating construction process of this “crib lighthouse” that culminated with the official lighting of the new tower on the night of November 10, 1931. In 1974 the light was automated and in 1997 the lighthouse was declared excess property by the U.S. Coast Guard, but community members were able to come together to for the DeTour Reef Light Preservation Society (Facebook). This successful partnership renovated the lighthouse and now offers YOU the chance to be a volunteer keeper and stay at the lighthouse!
Many more Michigan lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures.
April 26, 2013
Terry Pepper has (as usual) a very detailed entry for Poe Reef Lighthouse on his Seeing the Light website. This crib style lighthouse is located off Bois Blanc Island in Lake Huron. The reef is very close to the surface and posed a significant threat to navigation until the decision was made in the 1890s to anchor a lightship there. This served until Lighthouse Service decided to build a permanent station on Poe Reef in 1927:
The station building at Poe Reef was to be an exact duplicate of that which the crew had previously completed at Martins Reef. The main twenty-five foot square structure consisted of a steel skeletal framework to which an exterior sheathing of riveted steel plates was applied. Thirty-eight feet tall, it contained three levels, or “decks”, as the crews assigned to the station knew them. The two upper decks were set up as living quarters, while the main lower deck served as housing for the machinery required for powering the lights, heating system and foghorn.
Centered atop the main structure stood sixteen-foot square, ten-foot high watch room of similar construction, with a single observation window on each side. Finally, a decagonal cast iron lantern room was installed on the roof of the watch room, and outfitted with a Third Order Fresnel lens. The combination of pier and tower provided the Fresnel with a seventy-one foot focal plane, and a visibility range of almost twenty nautical miles in clear conditions. Work was completed at the station and the light exhibited for the first time on the evening of August 15, 1929.
At some point in time, in order to eliminate the possibility of the Poe Reef Light being mistaken for the identical all white structure at Martin Reef, the main deck and watch room of the Poe structure were given a contrasting coat of black paint.
Terry has some cool shots of this light as well including this wide shot with cormorants.
More Michigan lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures.
March 14, 2013
Sometimes I see photos of certain places so much that I figure I’ve said all there is to say about them. Such was the case with one of one of Michigan’s most iconic lighthouses. I realized that although I’d seen hundreds of photos, I had no idea how “Big Red” in Holland got its name. Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light tells the story of the Holland Harbor Light from the construction of a timber frame beacon on the south pier in 1870 up until the 1930s when:
The Holland Lights were electrified in 1932. Equipped with a 5,000 candlepower incandescent electric bulb, the Fourth Order lens was now visible for a distance of 15 miles. The old steam-operated ten-inch fog whistle was removed from the fog signal building the following year, and replaced with an air operated whistle powered by an electric motor-driven compressor. In 1936, a square tower was erected at the west end of the fog signal building roof peak, and capped with an octagonal cast iron lantern, the lens from the pierhead beacon moved into the new lantern. The steel pierhead beacon was then removed from the pier and shipped to Calumet, where it was placed at the south end of the breakwater.
A Coast Guard crew arrived in Holland in 1956, and gave the combined fog signal building and lighthouse a fresh coat of bright red paint in order to conform to its “Red Right Return” standard, which called for all aids to navigation located on the right side of a harbor entrance to be red in coloration. Local residents thus began referring to the fifty year old structure as “Big Red,” a name which has stuck through the years. The Fourth Order lens was subsequently removed from the fog signal lantern in the late 1960’s, and replaced with a 250 mm Tidelands Signal acrylic optic.
Much more including photos at Seeing the Light.
Many more Michigan lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures!
February 1, 2013
Craig shared this photo of the North Breakwater Pier and Lighthouse in Ludington on the Absolute Michigan Facebook the other day.
More shots of Ludington (and this lighthouse) on Michigan in Pictures.
January 5, 2013
Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light has information about the ruins of the Cheboygan Main Light Station, explaining:
Located directly across the three mile width of the Straits from the southernmost point of Bois Blanc Island, the eastern prominence of Duncan Bay marked a natural turning point for vessels entering the Straits, and the growing bounty of Lake Michigan beyond.
On December 21, 1850, Congress appropriated the sum of $4,000 for the purchase of a 41.13 acre reservation on what would become known as “Lighthouse Point” at the western end of Duncan Bay for the construction of the first Cheboygan light station … The tower was evidently poorly located, as high water was found to be undermining the stone foundation soon after construction. Fearing collapse was imminent, in 1859 the newly-formed Lighthouse Board decided to build a new station and demolish the original tower, only eight years after its construction.
The replacement station, was similar in design to that built at Port Washington the following year, consisting of a combined keeper’s dwelling and tower, with the tower located at the north apex of the hipped roof. The tower stood thirty-one feet above the foundation, and was capped with an octagonal iron lantern into which the Fresnel from the old tower was carefully relocated. The lights’ thirty-seven foot focal plane provided a twelve mile range of visibility, thereby providing coverage throughout the Straits.
Joel writes that they walked the park’s Yellow Trail to the long (2 miles in the park) beach and walked along Lake Huron’s Mackinac Strait. View his photo background bigtacular, see it on his map and check out more great shots in his Cheboygan slideshow.
Many more Michigan lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures.
December 13, 2012
Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light says that McGulpin Point Lighthouse entry tells the story of this point at the tip of Michigan’s mitten from circa 1000 BC when the great Odawa war chief Sagemaw more or less wiped out the Mus-co-desh tribe for an insult to the Odawa to when John McAlpine and his Native American wife settled on McGulpin Point in the 1760s. Their son Patrick McGulpin was given the patent on this land and the first recorded deed in Emmet County in 1811.
With the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, Americans started to flood to the Chicago area. During the 1850s, vessel traffic through the Straits of Mackinac was increasing rapidly, and while the Waugoshance Light marked the western entry into the Straits, and the Bois Blanc Island light marked the eastern entry, the absence of a navigational aid within the shoal-ridden Straits themselves made passage during darkness and periods of low visibility extremely dangerous. To answer that need, the Lighthouse Board petitioned Congress for the construction of a lighthouse and fog bell at McGulpin Point, approximately two miles west of Fort Michilimackinac. Congress responded favorably to the request on August 3, 1854 with the appropriation of $6,000 for the station’s construction.
However, as a result of difficulties in obtaining clear title to the land, no action was taken on the station’s construction for more than a decade. With the original appropriation unspent and expired, the Board again petitioned Congress for the construction of a station at McGulpin Point in 1864, this time receiving $20,000 for the project on July 26, 1866.
Work began at McGulpin Point early in 1869, and the station was built as a mirror image of the design used at Chambers Island and Eagle Bluff lights under construction in the Door County area that same year. This plan, which is sometimes referred to as the “Norman Gothic” style, was also later also used at Eagle Harbor in 1871, White River in 1875, and at Passage and Sand Islands in 1882. (click for photos of these lights)
The keepers dwelling and integrated tower were constructed of Cream City brick with the tower integrated diagonally into the northwest corner of the dwelling. The first and second stories of the tower were approximately ten feet square with buttressed corners, while the tower’s upper portion consisted of a ten-foot octagon. Similar to other stations built on this plan, the tower is double-walled with a circular inner wall approximately four inches thick and eight feet in diameter to house a set of cast iron spiral stairs. The tower was capped with a prefabricated decagonal cast-iron lantern and outfitted with a fixed white Third-and-a-half Order Fresnel lens.
You can learn a lot more if you read on at Seeing the Light including the role the light played in knowing when the lakes would be opened for navigation, the role of Keeper Davenport and his 9 children in the rescue of the Waldo A. Avery, how the light was decommissioned in 1906 after the construction of Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse and passed into private hands and its return to the public domain.
Many more Michigan lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures.