100 years of Lake Michigan at South Haven Pier Lighthouse

Late October on Lake Michigan

Late October on Lake Michigan, photo by micstolz.

Michael notes that even 100 years of Lake Michigan waves can’t put out the South Haven Light. He has several more in his South Haven Oct 26 2008 set (slideshow) – all uploaded “background big”. You might also want to check out the South Haven Light slideshow from the Absolute Michigan pool.

Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light relates the history (with photos) of the South Haven Pier Lighthouse. He writes that a Fifth Order Fresnel lens from Parisian glass makers Barbier and Fenestre was installed in the lantern in 1902:

While the light was new, the old wooden beacon had withstood thirty years of Lake Michigan’s worst, and as a result of increasing deterioration, Eleventh District engineer James G. Warren laid-out plans to replace the venerable structure with a new cylindrical metal tower.

Contracts for the metalwork and required materials were awarded and delivered to the lighthouse depot in St. Joseph. On October 6, 1903, the tender Hyacinth delivered the prefabricated steel tower and a work crew on the pier, and erection of the new structure continued through the remainder of the month. The thirty-five foot structure was given a gleaming coat of white paint, and the district lampist carefully removed the Fifth-order lens from the old beacon and installed it in the new octagonal lantern. Captain Donahue proudly climbed the spiral stairs within the new tower to exhibit the South Haven light from atop the new tower for the first time on the evening of November 13.

Light and tower remain an active aid to navigation maintained by the Coast Guard and while you’re in South Haven, be sure to visit the Michigan Maritime Museum.

5 thoughts on “100 years of Lake Michigan at South Haven Pier Lighthouse

  1. That is certainly an outstanding foto. I’ve been going to South Haven for all my 74 years. My late mom told me once, (as we entered the piers on a Captain Nichols’ outing) that the first time I ever visited South Haven was as a baby in her arms on the deck of an arriving steamer in 1934. And I lived there from 1939 to 1952.

    Once in the mid-40s we skipped school and went out to the pier. It was completely covered in snow and ice, from the edge of the pier angling up to the edge of the catwalk (We didn’t walk on the ‘walk because we knew it was aganst the law!). When we got to the lighthouse, I crawled around to the west side and scratched my name in the paint. The following summer I looked up 20 feet and could still make out those scratchings. I also remember looking down at about a 1-foot-wide stretch of open water between the 4-5 foot high floating ice and the pier, and thot: Wow! If I slipped down in there I’d have a hard time getting out!


  2. I grew up here! Great picture. I used it for my blog, but linked it back here… hope that’s ok. If not, let me know and I’ll remove it. :) ~Michelle


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