The Freep had a feature on the most romantic places to visit in Michigan. I was happy to see that two of their 5 sunset spots were in my native Leelanau Peninsula. There’s bunches of Leelanau on Michigan in Pictures, so I figured I’d pick another. Since there are also a whole lot of sunsets, how about a romantic sunrise over the Copper Harbor Lighthouse on the Keweenaw Peninsula?
Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light says that the discovery of copper in the Keweenaw drew so many immigrant Cornish and Finnish miners seeking their fortunes that one pioneer observed that “the shores of the Keweenaw became whitened with tents.” Terry’s entry on the Copper Harbor Lighthouse says that the original light from 1849 was exemplary of the poor planning and tight budgets of the administration of Stephen Pleasonton. Pleasonton was also the man who saved the original copy of the Declaration of Independence, so you win some and lose some I guess. In any case:
By the early 1850’s a cry arose in the maritime community, voicing concern over Pleasonton’s tight-fisted administration of the nation’s aids to navigation. A clerical administrator, Pleasonton had no maritime experience, and it showed-up in the sub standard workmanship and poorly chosen locations of many of the lighthouses erected under his administration. A study commissioned by Congress recommended the establishment of a nine-member Board to oversee the administration of aids to navigation. Staffed with Navy officers and Engineers from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Lighthouse Board was established in 1852, relieving Pleasonton from any further involvement. One of the Board’s first orders of priority was the upgrading of illumination systems from the dim and poorly performing Argand lamps to the far more efficient and powerful Fresnel lenses manufactured in Paris. However, with the Copper Harbor Light not being of major importance in the greater scheme of things, it would be some time before its lens would be upgraded, and thus the Argand lamps continued to light the way into the harbor.
…In 1856, a work crew finally arrived in at the station and removed the Argand lamps from the lantern, and replaced them with a single fixed white Sixth Order Fresnel lens, thus increasing the station’s range of visibility to ten miles at sea. Three years later, the Light was upgraded further through the replacement of the Sixth Order lens with a more powerful fixed white lens of the Fourth Order.
As was the case with virtually all of the lighthouses built on the Great Lakes during the Pleasonton administration, the true costs of inferior materials and shoddy workmanship began to show. After his 1864 visit to the station, the Eleventh District Inspector remarked that the Copper Harbor lighthouse required “extensive repairs.” On subsequent investigation, the condition of the tower was determined to be beyond repair, and the following year the decision was made to raze the old tower and erect a completely new structure.
Read on for more on the construction of the new light and to see some great old photos. Also see Terry Pepper’s explanation of Argand and Fresnel lamps.