FORT GRATIOT LIGHTHOUSE

Fort Gratiot Lighthouse:
A New Beginning
By Dick Wicklund

Fort Gratiot Lighthouse Post Card Dated 1906
xxxxMichigan was still a territory, and soon after the War of 1812 with Britain, a fort was established at the southern end of Lake Huron, at the entrance to the St. Clair River. This outpost, built in 1814, was to protect the U. S. border with Canada, then British territory. This was the beginning of a place called Fort Gratiot.
xxxxSailing vessels had been on the Great Lakes since early exploration and settlement, but in the 1820’s the earliest steamboats began to be developed. With this, water transportation would be the best way to travel, before good roads, and the soon construction of railroads. Increasing commerce brought a need for a lighthouse, and Fort Gratiot was the ideal location.
xxxxThe first lighthouse was built here in 1825, but it was poorly constructed, and a storm wrecked it in 1828. During 1829 another lighthouse was built, and it was in operation in December of that year. This second Fort Gratiot Lighthouse is the one still standing today, and to think it was built eight years before Michigan became a state, and only 53 years after 1776.
xxxxAlmost 28 years after Fort Gratiot Lighthouse was built, the city of Port Huron was incorporated in 1857. The city was growing, and the St. Clair River area would become busy with settlement, lumbering, industry, and shipbuilding. With this growth, Fort Gratiot Lighthouse was in the right place to aid navigation at this waterborne crossroads.
xxxxImprovements would come to the lighthouse: Twelve feet was added to the tower’s height in 1861, to the light’s present 86 feet. A brick two family keeper’s house was added in 1874. The original fourth order Fresnel lens was replaced by a larger third order in 1913. The light was automated in 1933. Later, the Fresnel lens was removed, and electric beacons have served since.
xxxxFort Gratiot Lighthouse is Michigan’s first, and oldest lighthouse. It stands among the older lights on the Great Lakes, since most others were constructed after 1840. It will soon be among those restored for the public to see close-up, and that is a new beginning!
xxxxTo think that this lighthouse has been standing here long enough to have guided so many types of vessels on the Great Lakes is something to be realized. The rugged sailing ship, the early wood hulled steamboats, then the iron and steel built vessels all passed Fort Gratiot’s beacon, including the biggest now!
xxxxWithout the ships, Fort Gratiot, or any lighthouse, would not have a purpose. The ship and the lighthouse are linked together. The light, how it flashes, the color, and the shape of the tower all aid the navigator night or day. Some lights are to warn of danger, and say, “Stay away!” Others, like Fort Gratiot, say, “Come! This is the way.”
xxxxAnd you can make your way to Fort Gratiot Lighthouse, by contacting the Port Huron Museum for a tour - see our link on this site to the museum, or call (810) 982-0891 for information. As of now, all tours must be booked in advance through the Port Huron Museum. Come, and let Fort Gratiot Lighthouse welcome you as it begins a new beginning!
A Photographic Tour: Fort Gratiot Lighthouse
(CLICK ON ANY PHOTO TO ENLARGE)

Bob Hanford
Keeper and Guide

Up the stairs!

Fog Horn Building

Passing Ship

Through the Hole!

Gallery above

North along the beach

East toward Canada

South East
Point Edward, Ontario

South Blue Water Bridges
and St. Clair River

South West

Main Keepers house below

Towers shadow

Silhouette and Sun

Looking up!

Thanks Bob!
Additional Photos : Fort Gratiot Lighthouse

Fort Gratiot Lighthouse
by Roy Westin

Fort Gratiot Lighthouse
7/15/2000
by Dick Wicklund

Fort Gratiot Lighthouse
6/30/2003
by Dick Wicklund

Calcite II from Blue Water Bridge 4-20-87
by Dick Wicklund

Irvin L. Clymer
8/27/1983
by Dick Wicklund

John A. France
10/9/1991
by Dick Wicklund

John Purves
9/24/1983
by Dick Wicklund

Kinsman Independent
9/24/1983
by Dick Wicklund

Paul R. Tregurtha
7/11/1991
by Dick Wicklund

Willowglen
11/24/90
by Dick Wicklund

E. J. Newberry
11/14/81
by Dick Wicklund

Henry Ford ll
11/14/81
by Dick Wicklund

J. A. W. Iglehart
10/27/90

by Dick Wicklund

J. Burton Ayers
11/14/81
by Dick Wicklund

Mantadoc
11/24/89
by Dick Wicklund

Merle M. McCurdy
11/30/81

by Dick Wicklund

Robert S. Pierson
11/30/81

by Dick Wicklund

George M. Carl
5/23/81
by Dick Wicklund

American Republic
5/23/81
by Dick Wicklund

Manitoulin
8/22/81
by Dick Wicklund