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.
October 27, 2012
The Lightkeeper’s Ghost tells the tale of George and Loraine Parris who became the beloved caretakers of the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse, running the small museum and giving tours. George was something of a trickster and delighted in playing harmless tricks on visitors. He passed away in 1992, but the story doesn’t end there.
As Loraine was driving to the property on Grand Lake Road, which had a clear view of the lighthouse, she saw that it was illuminated.
She knew that the Coast Guard had rendered this impossible, but there it was before her. By the time that she arrived at the keeper’s house, though, everything was dark. The next day she climbed the steps of the lighthouse to make sure that everything was in order, and she saw that there was no way that someone could have turned the light on. Yet, this same pattern repeated itself again and again. Loraine never said anything about it because she thought that people might think her crazy.
Soon other folks began to see the light, however – a yellowish glow was reported from the lighthouse by several people. Some thought that the light had been put back into operation, but others drove out for a closer look, only to find that it was dark once again.
It was even spotted by members of the Air National Guard, who flew a few missions over the area, and by the Coast Guard, who investigated to make sure that no one could fire the light back up. It had been permanently disabled years before, so there was no way that the light could be shining. Yet it was. Many people believe that the spirit of playful old George is occasionally paying a visit to the lighthouse that he loved so much, just to let folks know that he’s doing just fine and to keep alive the stories of the lighthouse that he loved so much.
This photo from Seeking Michigan and the Archives of Michigan was taken in 1963 at Old Presque Isle Light. See it bigger and check out more of their photos of the old and new lighthouses on Presque Isle.
More ghosts and ghost stories on Michigan in Pictures.
May 14, 2012
The Middle Island Light Keepers Association (MILKA) and the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival “Museum” invite you to be a part of history on Monday, May 28, 2012. On that day, the General Service Administration will deliver a quitclaim deed and the U.S. Coast Guard will deliver the key and ownership and responsibility for upkeep, maintenance and preservation to MILKA. To commemorate this historic event, ferry service will be available to Middle Island (weather permitting), where the tower will have its first official opening to the general public. There will be hot dogs, refreshments, a “Joy Ride” Island Tour, tours of Middle Island Light Station and much more!
The Middle Island Lighthouse page at Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light begins:
Situated approximately 6.5 miles north of Potter Point, Middle Island received its name as a result of its location midway between the North Point of Thunder Bay and Presque Isle. The island had long represented a “triple-edged sword” to mariners. Marking a turning point in the course for vessels making up and down the coast, the island’s lee side also represented an excellent harbor of refuge in which to escape Huron’s fury. However surrounded with shoals with depths of less than six feet on all but its northeast side, the refuge could be hard to find in dark of night or in the thickest weather. In fact, the area was considered dangerous enough that the Life Saving Service built a station on the island in 1881 to help service ships in distress in the area.
As one of the final links in a growing chain of coast lights being constructed along Huron’s western shore, the Lighthouse Board finally recommended that an appropriation of $25,000 be made for a light and fog signal on the Middle Island’s eastern shore in its annual report of 1896. With no appropriation forthcoming, the Board reiterated its request in each of its annual reports for the following six years, until Congress finally responded favorably with the requested appropriation on March 3, 1902.
Read on for more including photos of the station and also see a map with the location of Middle Island Lighthouse. Following the closure of the station, the tower and outbuildings were seriously vandalized. In 1992, a group of concerned citizens in the Alpena area formed the Middle Island Lighthouse Keepers Association in 1992. They converted the fog signal building into the Middle Island Keepers’ Lodge, which opened for business in 2003. Visit that site for photos of the lodge and reconstruction efforts.
Terry Pepper is the Executive Director of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Association and maintains the fantastic Seeing the Light website, a guide to the lighthouses of the western Great Lakes. While he’s appeared as a resource for many of the lighthouse features on Michigan in Pictures, this is the first using his photos!
April 28, 2012
It’s hard to let the Northern Lights go when they come for a visit as they did earlier this week, so here’s one more shot! You can read all about Point Iroquois Light from Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light.
The Iroquois tribe made their home far away in New York. Point Iroquois is located at the east end of Lake Superior, where the lake narrows into the St. Mary’s River. If you’re wondering like I was how this point came to bear their name, the brochure for Point Iroquois has the answer:
The area around Sault Ste. Marie (“The Soo”), including Whitefish Bay, has been called the “Heartland” of the Chippewa Indians. This tribe is also called Ojibwa, and sometimes refer to themselves as “Anishinabeg,” which is their word for “original people.” The Iroquois lived about 400 miles away, mostly in what is now western New York. In the 1600’s these nations were at war, at least in part because of European influence and fur trade competition. The Iroquois often sent expeditions far from their homeland and attempted to control the trade routes leading east from the Great Lakes.
Accounts of an important battle at Point Iroquois in 1662 have been passed down for over 300 years. They tell how an Iroquois war party camped near the point where the lighthouse now stands, and how the Chippewa secretly watched their movements and mounted a surprise attack near dawn. The Iroquois were defeated decisively, and apparently never again ventured this far west.
April 9, 2012
Our tour of the lighthouses of the Keweenaw Peninsula with Aaron Jors continues with the light at Eagle Harbor.
The Eagle Harbor Lighthouse from Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light tells of the first light built in 1850 at the western point of Eagle Harbor built in 1850 and the rubble stone keeper’s dwelling with a square white-painted wooden tower integrated into one end of the roof. As with many lights built during the penny-pinching Pleasonton administration, the light was judged to be “laid together in the rudest manner” and targeted for replacement.
Rather than creating a unique set of plans for the new station, Eleventh District Engineer Brevet Brigadier General Orlando M. Poe resurrected a plan which had been previously used on Chambers Island in 1867 and at Eagle Bluff in 1868. After blasting out a hole for the cellar, the masons crafted a two-story dwelling red brick dwelling, 29-foot by 25-foot in plan, with an integrated 44-foot tall tower oriented diagonally into its northeastern corner. The exterior of 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. The tower was double-walled, with a circular inner wall approximately four inches thick and eight feet in diameter. This cylindrical inner wall supported a cast iron spiral staircase which wound from the oil storage room in the cellar to a hatch in the lantern floor. Since these spiral stairs also served as the only means of moving between floors in the dwelling, steel doors provided access to landings on both the first and second floors to prevent the spread of any fire in either the dwelling or tower.
Many (many) more Michigan Lighthouses from Michigan in Pictures.
March 21, 2012
The South Fox Lighthouse Association maintains this light, has lots of great history and photos and is a worthy target for your donations.
Recently, I made the acquaintance of Terry Pepper. Terry’s Seeing the Light is hands-down the best Great Lakes Lighthouse website out there and I’ve used him as a resource for years in dozens of lighthouse features on Michigan in Pictures. Terry told me I could lean on him (even more) for photos and information. It seems a shame to waste that gift, so here goes. On his South Fox Island Lighthouse page he begins:
South Fox Island is located approximately seventeen miles off Cat’s Head Point, at the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula. The story of this Island light began with Congress’s appropriation of $18,000 for the construction of a lighthouse there on March 2, 1867.
Work on the light station began immediately, with the construction of the Cream City brick tower. With walls thirteen inches in thickness, the square tower topped-out at forty-five feet in height, and contained a forty-eight step cast iron spiral staircase leading to the lantern room.
The lantern was outfitted with a flashing red Fourth Order Fresnel lens, and the station’s first keeper Henry J. Roe climbed the tower steps to exhibit the light for the first time on November 1, 1867.
Read on for much more including Keeper Warner’s battle with drifting sands and snow that piled so high as to interfere with access to the station’s buildings and more about that Cream City brick from Milwaukee.