Holland Harbor’s Big Red Lighthouse and the Red Right Return

Big Red

Big Red, photo by Rick Lanting

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.

Check this out Big Red big and see more in Rick’s Lighthouses or Hipstamatic slideshows.

Many more Michigan lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures!

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