On his Seeing the Light entry for Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, Terry Pepper writes that as the connecting passage between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, the Straits of Mackinac have always been critical to maritime commerce. As the Straits are frequently shrouded with fog, Mackinac Point was an ideal location for a fog signal building and lighthouse and an effort to build a facility began in 1888 and was completed with the installation of a red Fourth Order Fresnel lens in 1892:
As the use of automobiles became increasingly widespread in the early 1900’s, Midwesterners began to take increasing advantage of the newfound freedom that their automobiles provided, driving ever increasing distances to vacation. The unspoiled beauty of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula beckoned, and regular car ferry service began to ply the waters between Mackinaw and St. Ignace. With large amounts of vessel traffic now moving through and across the Straits, the Old Mackinac station became increasingly important as the light enabled the car ferries to operate throughout the night.
When the Mackinac Bridge opened in 1957, the car ferries were out of business, and with the brightly illuminated bridge serving as a navigation aid par excellence, the old light station was immediately rendered obsolete and was decommissioned.
The facility is now part of Mackinac Island State Historic Parks, and you can visit their Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse pages for history of the light and some great old photographs and educational resources for kids.