Rock of Ages Lighthouse is Michigan’s tallest

Rock of Ages Lighthouse

Rock of Ages Lighthouse, photo by Dave

I was looking for something on Michigan in Pictures and came across a series of “Michigan’s Tallest” posts that I did a couple of years ago. I thought it made sense to add to that list, so – according to Wikipedia’s list of the tallest lighthouse towers in the United States – measuring in at 130′ tall, Rock of Ages is Michigan’s tallest lighthouse.

It’s also the tallest lighthouse on the Great Lakes and on his Rock of Ages Light page at Seeing the Light, Terry Pepper writes (in part):

Consisting of a strip of exposed rock 50 feet wide and 210 feet long, with it highest point some sixteen feet above the water, Rock of Ages lies two and a half miles off the western end of Isle Royale. While the 205-foot wooden sidewheel steamer CUMBERLAND had been the rock’s only victim in over a half century of Superior navigation, changing navigation patterns in the final decade of the nineteenth century suddenly made Rock of Ages a critical impediment to safe navigation on the big lake.

As Duluth grew to preeminence as the lake’s major shipping port, a growing number of mariners were choosing to set a course along the northern shore during Superior’s violent storms in order to avoid the uncertain and changeable conditions of open water. With Rock of Ages lurking directly in the path of vessels choosing this course, a cry arose in the maritime community for the establishment of a Light on Rock of Ages.

…On completion, the tower stood eight stories in height, and offered relatively large and comfortable quarters for the complement of four keepers assigned to the station. A steam heating plant located in the upper cellar provided heat to cast iron radiators in all rooms, and the first deck was home to the fog signal plant and hoisting engines for the pillar crane located at the edge of the pier level. This crane was used both for raising supplies delivered by the lighthouse tenders at the wharf and for raising the keeper’s boat for storage on the safety of the pier deck. An office and common room made up the second deck, and a mess room and kitchen the third. The Keeper and First Assistant’s quarters were located on the fourth deck, with the Second and Third Assistants quarters immediately above on the Fifth deck. A service room and watch room comprised the sixth and seventh decks, leaving the huge lantern capping the structure above.

Much more at Seeing the Light including an aerial photo of this lonely location. Terry has a listing of verified tower heights for anyone who’s interested too.

About the photo, Dave writes: Photo taken from the back of Voyageur II heading into Windigo with 7 foot waves at 300mm. Yeah I almost got sea sick from taking these.

View his photo bigger and see more in his Lighthouses of Michigan slideshow.

More lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures.

Michigan’s State Tree: White Pine (Pinus strobus)


13/52, photo by Wenström

This week is Arbor Week, a week dedicated to celebrating and planting trees. One tree for Michiganders to celebrate is the eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus), which was adopted as our official State Tree by Act 7 on March 4, 1955. Here’s an edited summary of what I’ve learned about white pines.

The eastern white pine, is also known as “soft pine.” It was called the Tree of Peace by the Iroquois and in Ojibway, Zhingwaak. Mature white pines can easily live 200+ years of age, with some Michigan trees that have approached 500 years in age. The eastern white pine has the distinction of being the tallest tree in eastern North America, and pre-colonial stands were reported over 200′ in height.

It was said that when settlers arrived, a squirrel could travel in the forest canopy from one side of the state to the other. With this amazing resource, Michigan led the nation in lumber production in the 1880s and 1890s, and by the early 1900s, over 100 million of Michigan pine trees worth more than all the gold mined in California had been felled in the Lower Peninsula. Most of that value was in white pine, an when the forest was depleted, timber companies moved to the UP.

Small white pines are popular as Christmas trees due to their ability to hold needles, while large white pines were prized as ship masts and known as mast pines by the British navy. These trees were marked with a broad arrow by agents of the crown, a very controversial action that was one of the factors leading to the Revolutionary War. The original masts on the USS Constitution (aka Old Ironsides) were single trees before they realized that laminated trees were better about to withstand cannon fire.

More about the White Pine in Michigan

Scott writes that this mighty 200+ year old White Pine was spared the lumberjack’s axe, but he’s glad to have this remnant of the forest that once covered Upper Michigan standing sentinel in the forest surrounding his cabin. Check it out bigger and in his Fisheye slideshow. More of Scott’s work on his Facebook.

More of Michigan’s tallest things on Michigan in Pictures.

Michigan’s Tallest Man: Louis “Big Louie” Moilanen

Louis “Big Louie” Moilanen

Our impromptu “Michigan’s Tallest” series continues with the tale of Louis “Big Louie” Moilanen. The entry on Louis Moilanen at explains:

Louis Moilanen (also known as Lauri Moilanen and Louie Moilanen) came to the Keweenaw at the age of four in 1889, the son of Louis and Annie Moilanen. The family arrived from Finland and homesteaded just north of Hancock in the Salo district. Little Louie thrived in the new environment overlooking Lake Superior and at nine years old he was the height of an average man. Ten years later he was declared to be the tallest man in the world. Big Louie was seven foot nine inch tall, even though his parents were just five foot. When young Louie came to town in his horse drawn buck board it was quite a sight. Buying clothes was difficult, so the Ed Haas Men’s Store in Houghton tailored clothes for Louie and special ordered size 19 shoes and size nine Stetson hats. Louie lived not too far from the Boston mine where he got his first non-farming job as a timber man in the Franklin Junior. Setting and shimming large timbers with block and tackle in the small stopes and drifts was hard work, but fellow miners said he could do the work of two men. Louie’s size was a handicap and he soon found out that the mines were designed for five foot men.

Read on for more about Big Louie (including photos) and his career with Ringling Brothers, as a tavern owner in Hancock and as Justice of the Peace. There’s a little more information at Yooper Steez including Louie’s hometown of Boston, now a ghost town. The comments are especially great, with many memories of Louis and his family. While Louis Moilanen’s height was never verified, he would have ranked between 4th (at 8’4″) and 9th (at 8’4″) among the tallest people in the world. Curiously enough, the tallest person ever recorded, 8’11” tall Robert Wadlow of Alton Illinois, died in Michigan on July 15, 1940. The Daily Mining Gazette adds that:

Although exactly how tall Moilanen was is a matter of debate, with descriptions ranging from 8 feet, 1 inch to 8 feet, 4 inches, Richter said the death certificate he found in the Houghton County Court House indicates he was 8 feet, 1 inch at the time of his death on Sept. 16, 1913. The certificate lists his age as 27 years, 7 months and 12 days.

There’s also information about the Big Louie Monument Project. Donations can be sent to the Houghton County Historical Society P.O. Box 127 Lake Linden, MI 49945.

Mt Arvon: Michigan’s Highest Point


n21_104-7586, photo by sgowtham

Yesterday we featured Mark Chamerberlin’s photo of Michigan’s tallest building (the Renaissance Center) in our Daily Michigan email along with some more of Michigan’s tallest things. Seemed like a good theme to continue…

You can view Gowtham’s photo bigger and in his Michigan slideshow. About Mount Arvon, which is part of the ancient Huron Mountains, he writes:

Mt. Arvon is Michigan’s highest point standing at 1,979.238 ft above sea level. It is located in the rugged backwoods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, about 25 [driving] miles from L’Anse. Getting to Mt. Arvon is no easy feat if one doesn’t know her/his way around. Due to logging operations, the roads in the area change frequently. In the winter, the roads become impassable due to the heavy snow the area receives. During the rainy season, the roads become muddy and are often unfit for passenger cars. As if that weren’t sufficient, the peak is not prominent as it is located in a heavily wooded area.

He adds that the blue waters in the distance are Lake Superior and:

…the edge of tiny strip of land [Copper Country State Forest] marks Point Abbaye. The piece of land lining up with horizon is the Keweenaw Peninsula. For many years, Mt. Curwood, located a few miles south of Mt. Arvon, was recognized as the highest point in Michigan. However, in 1982, the U.S. Department of Interior’s Geological Survey team gathered new measurements and found Mt. Curwood to be slightly lower in elevation than Mt. Arvon measuring in at 1,978.24 ft above sea level.

Slightly is an understatement – Wikipedia’s Mount Arvon entry explains that the surveyors found Arvon to be a whopping ONE FOOT taller than Curwood.

Check out both peaks on Google Maps and get a little more info in Summit Post’s entry for Mt. Arvon.

Michigan’s Tallest: The Renaissance Center in Detroit

renaissance center detroit

renaissance center detroit, photo by Detroitmi97.

The list of the tallest buildings in Michigan says that the title of tallest building in Michigan belongs to the Renaissance Center at 77 stories and 722 feet tall. It also has the distinction of being the tallest all-hotel skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere.

The RenCen is owned by General Motors and Wikipedia says that the Ren Cen was conceived as a catalyst for Detroit’s economy by Henery Ford II and investors, and that it generated in excess of $1 billion in economic growth for downtown Detroit in its first year of operation.

John Portman was the principal architect for the original design. The first phase constructed a five tower rosette rising from a common base. Four 39-story office towers surround the 73-story hotel rising from a square-shaped podium which includes a shopping center, restaurants, brokerage firms, banks, a four-screen movie theatre, private clubs.The first phase officially opened in March 1977. Portman’s design renewed attention to city architecture, constructing the world’s tallest hotel at the time. Two additional 21-story office towers (known as Tower 500 and Tower 600) opened in 1981. This type of complex has been termed a city within a city.

…The architects’ initial design for the Renaissance Center focused on creating secure interior spaces, while its design later expanded and improved to connect with the exterior spaces and waterfront through a reconfigured interior, open glass entryways, and a Wintergarden.

While it might be a little over-photographed, it’s an amazing space for photographers to explore, inside and out.

Mark says he can see the whole world from here – can you? Check it out background boomtacular and see some other shots from high up in the RenCen in his detroit top slideshow.

More Renaissance Center and don’t miss the RenCen slideshow from the Absolute Michigan pool!

More of Michigan’s tallest on Michigan in Pictures.