April 10, 2015
Stannard Rock Lighthouse, photo by Michigan Tech University College of Engineering
I came across this stunning video overflight of Stannard Rock Lighthouse last month and discovered a lighthouse I wasn’t familiar with.
Stannard Rock Lighthouse at Lighthouse Friends says (in part):
Stannard Rock, a substantial reef barely covered by the waters of Lake Superior, was named for its discoverer, Captain Charles C. Stannard of the American Fur Company, who charted the hazard in 1835. Because of its remoteness – the nearest land is twenty-five miles away, and the harbor at Marquette is distant forty-five miles – the lighthouse atop the reef has been called “the loneliest spot in the United States” and “the loneliest lighthouse in the world.”
The first plan to mark the reef came in 1849, when $1,000 was appropriated for “a floating bell at Stannard rock,” but as this amount was insufficient to moor a vessel with a bell there, it appears the effort was abandoned. In 1866, the Lighthouse Board determined the time had come to mark the nearly hidden menace to navigation:
Stannard’s rock, lying about twenty-three miles southeast of Manitou Island light, is the most serious danger to navigation in Lake Superior. This shoal is about three-fourths of a mile in extent; it rises two and a half to three feet above the water, and is fifteen or twenty feet in diameter. Its exact locality is known to but few; being so far from land it is seldom seen, and is much dreaded by all navigators. The increasing commerce of the lakes will, at no distant day, demand that it be marked by a light-house, the construction of which will, from the circumstances of its location, be a serious engineering difficulty. As a preliminary to this, and to render navigators familiar with its location, the board recommend that it be marked by a day-beacon, to be composed of a single wrought-iron shaft, not less than one foot in diameter, surmounted by a cage that would be visible not less than five or six miles.
…Stannard Rock Lighthouse stands seventy-eight feet tall and exhibits its light at a height of 102 feet above Lake Superior. The tower tapers from a diameter of twenty-nine feet at the pier to just under eighteen feet at the lantern room, while the seven floors inside the tower all have a diameter of fourteen feet.
Read on for a whole lot more about the history of this now abandoned light, including photos.
The photo comes from the Michigan Tech College of Engineering, part of the documentation of their Ecology of Lake Superior aboard the EPA Research Vessel Lake Guardian presentation. It’s pretty cool and I definitely recommend clicking through to see more photos & video and read about their mission.
View the pic big as Lake Superior and see more in their Lake Superior on board the RV Lake Guardian slideshow.
March 21, 2015
Lighthouse Friends’ page on the Muskegon South Pier Light begins:
The name ‘Muskegon’ comes from the Ottawa Indian term ‘Masquigon,’ meaning “marshy river or swamp,” and refers to the Muskegon River that expands into Muskegon Lake before emptying into Lake Michigan. Settlement on the shores of Lake Muskegon began in 1837 with the establishment of Muskegon Township. Nicknamed the ‘Lumber Queen of the World,’ Muskegon was home to more millionaires than any other town in America during the late 1800s, when its lumber helped rebuild Chicago after the great fire of 1871.
In August 1838, Lieutenant James T. Homans visited the river and included the following in a report to the Secretary of the Treasury:
Muskegon river, on lake Michigan, came next under my observation, it is a large stream, opening, within half a mile of its outlet, into a considerable lake, eight miles long by four wide. The channel in, is wide and easy of access, and not less than twelve feet of water in it; making this harbor, in my estimation, the best on lake Michigan, all things considered. Its value as a safe haven, and the rich lumber trade in which it will soon be engaged, (three extensive steam saw-mills having been erected there,) entitle it to a light-house near the entrance. I selected a point, on the south side of the river’s mouth, as the best location, in the event of an appropriation being made for a light there.
On March 3, 1849, Congress set aside $3,500 for a lighthouse at the site selected by Homans, and in 1851 a one-and-a-half-story, rubblestone dwelling, surmounted by a wooden tower, was built. The dwelling measured thirty-six by eighteen feet, and the top of the tower stood twenty-six feet above the ground. Six lamps with fourteen-inch reflectors were originally used in the lantern room, but a sixth-order Fresnel lens replaced these in 1856. Alexander Wilson was hired as the light’s first keeper at an annual salary of $450.
Read on for lots more including photos.
March 7, 2015
Estately has compiled a list of what each state has the most of and for once, Michigan appears to have come off well:
Click through for the whole list from Alabama (racist tweets) to Wyoming (people who chew tobacco).
It was easy to find a connection between lighthouses (of which we once had 247, still at least 125) and engineers (60,000) in the person of Orlando Metcalfe Poe, who coincidentally enough, would be celebrating his 183rd birthday today. After reviewing his service in the Civil War, Terry Pepper of Seeing the Light writes in Orlando Metcalfe Poe: The Great Engineer of the Western Great Lakes:
With the end of the Civil War, Poe assumed the position of Engineer Secretary of the Lighthouse Board in 1865, in which capacity he was charged with the supervision of building projects. In 1870, he was promoted to Chief Engineer of the Upper Great Lakes Lighthouse District.
In this capacity, Poe was responsible for all lighthouse construction, and he was largely responsible for the design of a style of lighthouse tower that has become known as the “Poe style” tower. These towers are all tall brick structures, with a gentle taper from bottom to top. All of the Poe designed feature graceful embellishments in the form of masonry gallery support corbels and arch topped windows. Exemplified by the towers at Grosse Pointe and Presque Isle, all together Poe was responsible for the construction of a number of such towers throughout Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron.
…Many consider Poe’s crowning achievement to be the engineering, design and supervision of a new lock to at Sault St. Marie during the 1890’s. This project was instrumental in the development of commerce on the Great Lakes, permitting large ore carrying vessels from mining regions bordering Lake Superior to access the lower Great Lakes and Atlantic seaboard. At a length of eight hundred feet, and with a width of 100 feet wide, the new lock was the largest in the world, and in honor of the designer was named “Poe Lock,” a name that it carries to this day.
Connect the dots to the Poe Reef Lighthouse, about which Lighthouse Friends explains:
From the southeast point of Bois Blanc Island, a spit covered with fifteen feet of water extends a mile into Lake Huron, and five-eighths of a mile beyond this spit lies dangerous Poe Reef, a detached shoal, with a least depth of just twelve feet. In 1892, the Craig Shipbuilding Company of Toledo, Ohio was contracted to build four lightships for use on the Great Lakes. LV 62, a wooden-hulled vessel with a length of just over eighty-seven feet, was placed on Poe Reef on September 29, 1893, while her three sister ships LV 59, LV 60, and LV 61 were stationed, respectively, on Bar Point, Eleven Foot Shoal, and Corsica Shoal. With a red hull and POE REEF stenciled on its sides in white letters, LV 62 displayed a fixed white light from her foremast to mark the north side of the eastern entrance to South Channel.
LV 62 served Poe Reef, which is named after Orlando M. Poe, who served as the chief engineer of the eleventh lighthouse district, through the 1910 season, and then swapped stations with LV 59. In 1915, Poe Reef received a steel-hulled lightship, when LV 96 replaced LV 59. LV 96 marked the reef through the 1920 shipping season, and the following spring LV 99 started its service at Poe Reef.
The Lake Carriers’ Association had requested a permanent lighthouse and fog signal for Poe Reef as early as 1913, but it wasn’t until 1926 that the Commissioner of Lighthouses requested funds for such a project. Besides being less costly to maintain, lighthouses had an additional advantage over lightships: they could remain on station throughout the year rather than having to be withdrawn when ice started to form on the lakes.
February 10, 2015
We’ve all been seeing a bunch of photos from the frozen St. Joseph Pier, so I thought it would be good to give you a little primer about which is which. It took a little digging, but Dave Wobster at Boatnerd.com has the best info on St. Joseph North Pier Outer & Inner Lights:
The present range lights were built in 1907 when the north pier was extended 1000-feet necessitating two lights which serve as range lights. Previously, there had been lights erected as early as 1832 at this location. A round stone tower, built in 1859, was replaced by the present lights.
Outer – (Front Range) is a round, cast-iron plate 35-foot tall tower topped by a round watch room and 10-sided lantern room. The tower is painted white, and the lantern room is black. The fixed light is exhibited via a Fifth-Order Fresnel lens and two brass reflecting panels manufactured by Barbier & Benard of Paris. The light is visible for 180 degrees. (above)
Inner – (Rear Range) was built in 1898 and rebuilt 1907. A 26-foot square steel-framed fog signal building encased in 3/8″ cast iron plates with an octagonal light tower on a hip roof. The helical bar lantern room contains a Fourth-Order fixed Fresnel lens with a brass reflector manufactured by Sautter & Company of Paris. The building is white with a red roof, and the lantern room is painted black. The light is visible over a range of 270 degrees. (below)
The lights are connected by an elevated catwalk that extends from the shore to the outer light. The walkway was constructed to permit the light keepers access to the light during rough weather.
Yesterday I featured a photo by Jackie as the cover of the Absolute Michigan Facebook page. Click the photos to view them bigger on Flickr, see more in her Winter slideshow and follow her at Jackie Novak Photography on Facebook.
St Joseph Lighthouse, photo by PhotoJacko
January 12, 2015
While the St. Joseph Lighthouse just made an appearance in my 2014 roundup, sometimes you can’t have too much of a good thing. Speaking of good things, there’s a webcam at the St. Joseph lighthouse that allows you to look in on this incredible scene whenever you want!
PS: Also a shout-out to Michigan in Pictures regular John McCormick whose 2013 pic of the St. Joseph Light has (according to USA Today) “gone viral” as the face of the Polar Vortex!
Lots more lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures.
August 6, 2014
Sand Point Lighthouse in Baraga is one of two Michigan Sand Point Lights listed in Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light. (the other being Sand Point in Escanaba):
At the dawn of the 1870’s, the small town of L’Anse found itself in the thick of the iron boom. With plans in place to complete the construction of the Marquette, Houghton and Ontonagon Railroad tracks into town in 1872, the naturally protected harbor at L’Anse was considered to be primary competition for Marquette and Escanaba ore shipments. With an infusion of East Coast investment dollars, ore docks and wharves quickly sprang up along the waterfront and the town’s population skyrocketed as people moved into the area to take advantage of the coming boom.
Expecting a dramatic rise in maritime traffic, the city fathers began applying every possible pressure to the Federal Government for the construction of a lighthouse to guide mariners into the harbor. Agreeing with the areas potential, the Lighthouse Board reported in 1871 that on completion of the railroad “the place will at once become an important point for the shipment of iron ore. A good harbor is found at the head of the bay, and it should be lighted.
…In September 1873, New York financier Jay Cooke declared bankruptcy. Among other interests, Cooke had served as primary financier of the North’s cause in the Civil War and was the principal backer of the Northern Pacific Railroad. The company’s collapse rippled throughout the country, with almost all of the nation’s railroads declaring bankruptcy. This Financial Panic of 1873, had disastrous impact on the nation’s business, ore shipments from Lake Superior virtually dried-up, and the docks at L’Anse sat empty
The light was finally exhibited on the night of August 10, 1878, but it has to be one of the most hard luck lights on the lakes. Read all about the trials and tribulations of Sand Point at Seeing the Light and also see some great old photos!
Many more Michigan lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures.
August 5, 2014
The beacon shines brightly from both the North Breakwater Lighthouse and the South Breakwater Light in Ludington Michigan at night. The Milky Way and other stars shine brightly on this Lake Michigan scene.
July 14, 2014
Point Betsie Lighthouse is located on the shore of Lake Michigan just north of Frankfort. It has the distinction of being Michigan’s most photographed lighthouse, and now you can take your photography indoors! The Friends of Point Betsie Lighthouse detail the restoration of the lighthouse and grounds and say:
The first floor is now an exhibition area depicting the history of the lighthouse and the lifesaving operations of the U.S. Lifesaving Service and U.S. Coast Guard at Point Betsie. The rehabilitation process included the installation of all new utility components in the quarters, restoration of the interior walls and floors, and the complete renewal of the tower and lantern. Funding for these projects came from the Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program and a distinctive “Save America’s Treasures” award from the Federal Government, along with necessary matching contributions by Point Betsie’s private donors.
One key donation was for the restoration of the Victorian staircase in the assistant keeper’s quarters, a major gift in memory of former Assistant Keeper Henry LaFreniere and his wife Hattie. The stairway provides access to a beautiful two-bedroom vacation apartment, the rent from which is an important source of revenue for the light station. Another important historic contribution consisted of radiators that had previously heated Point Betsie’s adjacent Coast Guard station.
As the interior rehabilitation was moving forward, many gifts of furnishings and other period-appropriate items were donated or loaned to the Friends group for display and use. Other items, especially for the apartment, were carefully selected for purchase. The hopes of many Point Betsie devotees were realized when the beautiful Fourth-order Fresnel lens which provided the station’s sweeping beam for about a century was returned by the Coast Guard for display on the lighthouse’s first floor.
More Point Betsie on Michigan in Pictures!
July 7, 2014
The entrance into the St. Claire River from Lake Huron had long been deemed of strategic importance. Named after General Charles Gratiot, the engineer in charge of its construction, the Fort Gratiot military outpost was established at the entrance to the river in 1814, and ensured the security of vessels making the passage.
With the surge in vessel traffic on Lake Huron in the early 1800’s, the need for a lighthouse to guide vessels into the river and away from the shallows at the River entrance became a matter of increasing importance. In response to this need, Congress appropriated $3,500 to construct a lighthouse “near Fort Gratiot, in Michigan Territory” on March 3rd of 1823.
The contract for construction of the lighthouse and keepers dwelling was awarded to Captain Winslow Lewis of Massachusetts. Lewis was the inventor of the patented Lewis Lamp, which the Fifth Auditor had universally adopted as the primary source of illumination in the nation’s growing inventory of lighthouses. A staunch supporter and ally of the Fifth Auditor, Lewis had branched out into the business of lighthouse construction, and as the frequent low bidder, was being awarded a growing number of contracts to fulfill the nation’s need for navigational aids on the East Coast.
Lewis sub-contracted the construction of the tower and keepers dwelling that would become known as the “Fort Gratiot Light” to Mr. Daniel Warren of Rochester New York. Work commenced on the structure, but appears to have been running far beyond the scope of the original bid, since Congress appropriated an additional $5,000 for the project’s completion on April 2, 1825.
With the completion of construction on August 8th of that year, Fort Gratiot Light held the honor of becoming the first lighthouse in the State of Michigan.
Read on for much more including a couple of old photos of the light.
Many more Michigan lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures!
June 26, 2014
While many of Michigan’s historic lighthouses have been decommissioned and are mostly ornamental, Pure Michigan tells the story of how the Wawatam Lighthouse started out as an ornamental lighthouse and now actually has a job! Thinking there’s a children’s story here…
This classic lighthouse started life in 1998 as a Michigan Welcome Center travel icon at Monroe, Michigan. In 2004, the Monroe Welcome Center was being revamped and the lighthouse was put up for relocation. The City of St. Ignace was the lucky recipient and the structure was trucked north in five pieces. It stayed on the Chief Wawatam Dock for a time, awaiting the construction of its new platform. The red, white and green lighthouse was repainted in bright white with red accents. In June 2006, a crane reassembled the tower on its new site. Everything was in readiness, just waiting for U.S. Coast Guard certification. Wawatam Lighthouse takes its name from the late railroad ferry Chief Wawatam, which used this same dock from 1911 through the mid-1980s.
When you visit the lighthouse, you will pass right by the Chief’s old lift gate. Wawatam Lighthouse’s beacon was first lit on August 20, 2006. Visible for more than 13 miles out over Lake Huron, it is now an official aid-to-navigation. The 250 millimeter Fresnel lens casts its light in a 152 degree arc. Though the lighthouse’s GPS location is 45-051-19.700 N by 084-42-09.000 W, it will most likely be easier for you to find it straight out east of McCann Street. The tower is 52 feet tall, but the Coast Guard looks at it in a different way. They rate it as 62 feet tall from the water. It is even lit in the winter to guide snowmobiles across the frozen lake.
More Michigan lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures!