LIGHTHOUSE FEATURE

Touring Presque Isle Lighthouse
Port Sanilac Lighthouse
The Tri-Centennial Light of Detroit
Tawas Point Lighthouse
Harbor Beach Lighthouse
Saginaw River Rear Range Lighthouse
By Dick Wicklund
(CLICK ON PHOTOS TO ENLARGE)
xxxxMany lighthouses are open to the public along the Great Lakes, and Lake Huron, but the Saginaw River Rear Range Lighthouse at Bay City, is not. The property is closed to the public, and is owned by Dow Chemical. With the efforts of Dow, the Saginaw River Marine Historical Society is working to restore this lighthouse. The work is truly a labor of love, after years of neglect. Members come to the lighthouse to work at designated times, and that is about all one can see of it close up.
xxxxOnce a year the society has an annual picnic on the grounds for members and guests by invitation. It is at that time, as a member, I took the pictures featured here, for you to see this lighthouse close up. This includes views inside, and from the tower, overlooking the Saginaw River just before it flows into Saginaw Bay.
xxxxThis lighthouse was built in 1876, and is of a unique design not seen repeated elsewhere. At times in the early days of Bay City the residence came to the light for picnics on the grounds. It is hoped that once the light is restored, such events could be done on the grounds again, for anyone and everyone!
xxxxMay that come to pass, and this grand lighthouse then can join the other lights on Lake Huron open to the public. Enjoy them, but in the meantime, you can check on the restoration of this one, by using the link on this site to the Saginaw River Marine Historical Society.
Touring Presque Isle Lighthouse
By Dick Wicklund
xxxxThe two Presque Isle lighthouses are situated between Alpena and Rogers City, Michigan, on the sunrise side of Lake Huron. The name Presque Isle means, “almost an island.” The older lighthouse was built in 1840, and was replaced when the New Presque Isle Lighthouse was completed in 1871. Both are still pleasant lighthouses to visit.
xxxxWhen touring the taller 109 foot New Presque Isle Lighthouse, one is struck by its functional beauty, and its height. It is the tallest on Lake Huron, and is among the taller lights on the Great Lakes. It is the tallest that is open for the public to tour.
xxxxAt Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, the largest of the locks is named for General Orlando M. Poe. This Corps of Engineers general designed Presque Isle Lighthouse, and seven others like it on the Great Lakes. The Poe style lights are identified by four arched windows evenly circled below the lantern room, or gallery. Wrought iron upward curved brackets help support the gallery, which look decorative, but are functional.
xxxxOf the Poe style lights, five are on Lake Michigan: South Manitou Island, (Michigan), 104 feet tall, built in 1871; Little Sable, ( Michigan), 107 feet, built in 1874; Grosse Point,( Illinois), 113 feet, built also in 1874; Wind Point, (Wisconsin), 108 feet, built in 1880; and Seul Choix, (Michigan), 78 feet, built in 1895.
xxxxBoth Lake Superior Poe style lighthouses were completed in 1874. Au Sable at 87 feet is in Michigan’s Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Outer Island light, at 86 feet tall, is in western Lake Superior in Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Although Presque Isle Lighthouse is the only one of this style on Lake Huron, its graceful, stately appearance is also seen in these other Great Lakes lighthouses.
xxxxPresque Isle’s original keeper’s quarters are attached to the tower, and it is used for a gift shop. Plans are to move it nearby, so it can be restored like it was originally. However, a second light keeper’s house, unattached, was built in 1905. It has been beautifully restored by the Presque Isle Township Museum Society. This well built barn roof style house welcomes visitors.

xxxxThe pictures in this Presque Isle Lighthouse feature start at the ground level, circling the tower. The second group shows views from the top, including the arrival of a lake boat in the distance coming to load stone at Stoneport. What a great view!
xxxxThe third group of pictures is a tour of the 1905 built keeper’s house. Most furnishings were added, but the woodwork is original. Downstairs or upstairs, this is a pleasant tour. Outside, flowers, like tiger lilies, add to the charm of Presque Isle.
xxxxIn all, the New Presque Isle Lighthouse sets a standard for lighthouse restoration and preservation. The lore, or history, of Lake Huron is enhanced by this stately lighthouse!

(For more on this, and other lighthouses, see our Lake Huron Lore links, like the Presque Isle Museum Society web site. Also, Great Lakes and Seaway Shipping, the boatnerd.com, is another for a great search.)

Port Sanilac Lighthouse
By Dick Wicklund
xxxxAbout thirty miles north of Port Huron, Michigan, the town of Port Sanilac is located on the blue water shores of Lake Huron. This town of over 650 people was first settled in the late 1840’s by lumbermen. The work of the lumbermen at the sawmill brought the development of the town with homes, stores, and schools in the 1850’s. Lumbering was “king” then, and towns like this started and prospered all over the Great Lakes.
xxxxThe lumbermen who came to this place built a shanty to make shingles, and other products from the cut wood. This shanty became a landmark, even for the sailors passing by in the lake. From this landmark came the community’s first name, “Bark Shanty Point.” In 1857 the town was organized and took the name Port Sanilac. A legend says the name was derived from a Wyandotte Indian chief, named Chief Sanilac.
xxxxThe need for another lighthouse to aid the mariner along Lake Huron made Port Sanilac with its harbor of refuge an obvious choice. Unlike many lighthouses that are in remote locations, this one was built in the residential area of the town. It was completed in 1886 at a height of 59 feet. The focal plain over the lake would be 69 feet because of the gentle slope to the shoreline, less then a quarter mile away.
xxxxAlthough the light was electrified around 1929, the original fourth order Fresnel lens remains in place. The tower is maintained by the U. S. Coast Guard. The unique attached red brick keeper’s house is a private residence, so neither it, or the tower is accessible to the public. However, the lighthouse is easily seen from the nearby park, the street, and especially from the marina and pier from the lakeshore.
xxxxThe design of the house seems to have a European style, and the tower is also interesting and attractive. Instead of a round cone shaped tower, it is an eight sided octagon. The white painted brick tower slopes upward, and gently flares outward below the lantern room, or gallery, giving an hourglass appearance. From the narrow point, the bricks are built outward, but this is not a decoration, but functionally supports the gallery above.
xxxxThe Port Sanilac Lighthouse will soon be 120 years old, and the town it is in will be 150 years old in 2007. This simple pleasing appearing lighthouse still guides the mariner along the blue water shores of Lake Huron.

Port Sanilac Lighthouse
10-1-2005
by Dick Wicklund

Port Sanilac Lighthouse
10-1-2005
by Dick Wicklund

Port Sanilac Lighthouse
10-1-2005
by Dick Wicklund

Port Sanilac Lighthouse
10-1-2005
by Dick Wicklund

Port Sanilac Lighthouse
by Dave Bury

Port Sanilac Lighthouse
by Dave Bury
The Tri-Centennial Light of Detroit
By Dave Bury
xxxxDedicated on May 20, 2004, the Tri-centennial Light at Detroit is Michigan’s newest lighthouse. This light marks the entrance to Tri-centennial Park and harbor, built in honor of Detroit’s 300th birthday by the State of Michigan. The park and harbor is Michigan’s 97th state park, and the first in an urban setting.
xxxxThe light is a smaller version of Lake Huron’s Tawas Point Lighthouse built in 1876. The light measures 63 feet high, 16 feet at the base, and 8 feet at the top. Of course, it is not officially a lighthouse by the U. S. Coast Guard, but it is called a safety tower, although not an aid to navigation.
xxxxAccording to the National Park Service, the oldest surviving lighthouse on the Great Lakes is the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse at Port Huron, Michigan, built in 1829. In contrast, the most recent lighthouse built for navigation is the Round Island Passage Light in the Straits of Mackinac, Lake Huron, built in 1948.
xxxxThe Tri-centennial Light is located at 1900 Atwater, one mile east of the Renaissance Center. Go, and be reminded of Detroit’s maritime history!
 

xxxx(Editors note: The Tri-centennial Light also represents various lighthouses and navigational aids that once lined the Detroit River from Lake Erie to Lake St. Clair. Fewer are needed now, but for most of Detroit’s 300 years, navigation by water to and from this port made these aids very important.
xxxxDetroit, known as the “Motor City” for the last century, has a history of at least two centuries before the automobile. The name Detroit means, “The Straits,” which appropriately reminds us of its maritime history, and the Tri-centennial Light represents this heritage, and Detroit’s place on the Great Lakes.)


Tri-Centennial Light
by Dave Bury

Tri-Centennial Light
by Dave Bury

Tri-Centennial Light
by Dave Bury

Tri-Centennial Light
by Dave Bury

Tri-Centennial Light
by Dave Bury

Tri-Centennial Light
by Dave Bury

Tri-Centennial Light
by Dave Bury

Tawas Point Lighthouse
8-3-2005
by Dick Wicklund

City of Detroit III
at Detroit
by Peter J. Van der Linden
Tawas Point Lighthouse
By Dick Wicklund
xxxxDuring 1852 the Ottawa Point Lighthouse was built, and in use in 1853. It was the first light built at this location that would eventually have the name changed to Tawas Point. On Lake Huron, this light would be one of ten built before the Civil War. However, this first lighthouse was to short at only 45 feet tall, not well constructed, had poor light illumination, and proved to be in the wrong location. Since no photographs of this light are known, a comparison can be made with the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse that still stands 100 miles up Lake Huron’s shore, north of Alpena. It was built in 1840, at only 30 feet tall. Although smaller and older, it may have been similar in appearance.
xxxxThe complaints of mariners on Lake Huron were heard, and in 1876 the second and current lighthouse was built at Tawas Point. The shifting and growing sands on the point helped to bring the new light into existence at a better location so it could be seen. The old light was torn down, and the new 67 foot tower was first used in early 1877.
xxxxThe new Tawas Point Lighthouse was not only to guide vessels on Lake Huron, but to mark the entrance to Saginaw Bay. Across the mouth of the bay, Tawas was to compliment lights on Michigan’s thumb at Port Austin Reef (1878), and the Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse (1857). In the bay, Charity Island light (1857) would guide ships to the busy lumber towns of Bay City and Saginaw.
xxxxBehind the lighthouse is Tawas Bay, a natural harbor in which vessels could seek shelter in storms. In this bay, Tawas City was established in 1857, and its neighboring town of East Tawas in 1864. To the south is the port of Alabaster, and further north along Lake Huron’s shore, are the towns of Au Sable and Oscoda. This was the coastal towns of Iosco County, which was officially organized in 1857.
xxxxIosco County, Michigan, was part of the land ceded by the Chippewa Indians in the Treaty of Saginaw in 1819. The first settlers were French fur traders arriving about 1828, followed by fishermen by the late 1840’s. By the time the first lighthouse was built at the then named Ottawa Point in 1853, lumbermen arrived to purchase acres of forests of white pine and hardwood trees along the county’s Au Sable River. This was the beginning of the great lumbering era that would last for some 50 years.
xxxxIn the 1860’s lumbering and milling was in full swing to meet the demand for wood to construct towns and cities, including those in the western prairie states where trees were scarce. Steamboats and sailing ships were used first, before the Detroit & Mackinaw Railroad came in 1867 to compete in this trade. Better roads would be built in the 1870’s, along with telegraph lines, because of the lumber boom. It is in this setting that the second Tawas Point Lighthouse was built in 1876.
xxxxAnother commodity would be mined and produced in this county. A gypsum quarry was opened in 1862 at Alabaster. Douglas Houghton had discovered this mineral here in 1837, the year Michigan became a state. Gypsum would be used in plaster, wall board, fertilizer, chemicals, and food production. With such a variety of uses, gypsum mining grew in importance. In 1902 the United States Gypsum Company bought this operation. In 1928, they built a dock so larger ships could be loaded. This unusual dock was built over one mile out in the bay, using buckets suspended from a tramway. It would be in use for about 70 years, when railroads continued to haul gypsum more economically.
xxxxThe Tawas Point Lighthouse as a result had great importance guiding vessels in this area, as well as being a beacon for the mariner sailing into Saginaw Bay, and on Lake Huron. Sailing ships would pass, along with steamboats. A few would even be named for this area, like the Iosco, and the Oscoda. The lighthouse would also see the arrival of the big passenger steamers bringing tourists to visit this area.
xxxxNot only passenger ships brought tourists, but the railroads as well. Roads along the shore brought them by car also. This tourist trade would become the main “industry” of this area. Iosco County would become what it is now, a popular recreational area with a great history. The lumber era is not forgotten in the Lumbermens Memorial along the Au Sable River, a reminder of that bygone time.
xxxxThe Tawas Point Lighthouse is part of this history, and now attracts the tourist to see the light. Until the late 1930’s the Lighthouse Service, then the U. S. Coast Guard has taken care of the lighthouse. The light was automated in 1953. In the late 1990’s, the lighthouse as a navigational aid was no longer needed, and was turned over to the State of Michigan to become part of the Tawas Point State Park in 2001.
xxxxThis however meant changes to turn it back to its pre-1900 appearance. In 2002 the large white house next to it was torn down, which has been part of so many pictures of the lighthouse since 1922. The colors of the gallery area have been changed from the dark green to gray. The roof of the tower was red for years, but it is now black. The attached keeper’s house has a new roof, in bright red. The keeper’s house is under restoration, and the tower has plans of being open to climb. The grounds are open in the meantime, which includes a gift shop, and friendly park tour guides. Tawas Point Lighthouse is now waiting to share its history as part of Lake Huron’s lore!

(For More, log on: ioscomuseum.org, and/or terrypepper.com)


Tawas Point Lighthouse
8-3-2005
by Dick Wicklund

Tawas Point Lighthouse
8-3-2005
by Dick Wicklund

Tawas Point Lighthouse
8-3-2005
by Dick Wicklund

Tawas Point Lighthouse
8-3-2005
by Dick Wicklund

Old Preque Isle Light
8-5-2005
by Dick Wicklund

Tawas Point Lighthouse
5-15-1995
by Dick Wicklund

Tawas Point Lighthouse
10-7-1992
by Dick Wicklund

Tawas Point Lighthouse
10-7-1992
by Dick Wicklund

South American
Tawas Bay 1961
by Neil Thornton

Stmr. United States
Gypsum Alabaster 1954
by Neil Thornton


Lumber Steamer
Oscoda
Port Huron Museum
Inches Collection


Tawas Point Lighthouse
by Roy Weston
Harbor Beach Lighthouse
By Dick Wicklund
xxxxVarious places on the Great Lakes are call-in points for ships sailing the Lakes. They report there position, direction, and estimated time of arrival at the next destination. Sixty miles north of Port Huron, Michigan, on Lake Huron’s western shore, Harbor Beach is one of these call-in points.
xxxxMore then a navigational point, Harbor Beach, Michigan, is rich in Great Lakes maritime history. Early settlement came to this area in 1837 when Michigan became a state, and lumbering was the reason. This small settlement’s first name was Barnettsville. With increased growth by 1855, the developing town became known as Sand Beach. The name Harbor Beach was adopted in 1899, and it was made official upon incorporation in 1910.
xxxxMariners sailing along Michigan’s thumb in the 1860’s began to complain about a lack of a harbor to seek shelter during storms. Many ships had to ride out storms in the open lake causing damage and danger to them, including the possibility of shipwreck. Also noted was the lack of a lighthouse to give them direction. Between the 1829 built Fort Gratiot light at Port Huron, and the 1848 built Point Aux Barques Lighthouse at the tip of Michigan’s thumb, about 80 miles of shore had no other lighthouse in 1870.
xxxxThe small lumbering village of Sand Beach was chosen for the construction of a man-made harbor of refuge. Breakwaters were built, starting in 1873. On the north breakwater, at the harbor entrance, a light tower was built in 1875. This light was built of wood, with a fourth order Fresnel lens installed, 44 feet above water level. When it was completed this new harbor and light proved to be useful to the mariner during the frequent storms on Lake Huron. The wood hulled sailing ships and steamboats at this time were small and vulnerable. In 1882, for example, over one thousand vessels used the harbor of refuge.
xxxxHowever, a severe storm in May, 1883, made a change. The light tower was badly damaged, and showed that any further storms would likely destroy it. The wood tower was torn down, and a more substantial lighthouse was built in its place during 1885. This 1885 built lighthouse rose 54 feet above the water. It was built with a very wide circumference made in four prefabricated cast iron sections that were brought from Detroit and placed on top of each other. The tower was originally painted dark brown, stood four stories tall, and housed the keepers as well. A fog horn building was constructed next to it on the break wall.
xxxxInterestingly, the Lighthouse Service had another lighthouse built in the same manner in 1885, nearly identical to the then named Sand Beach Lighthouse. This was also a prefabricated lighthouse which became the Detroit River Light at the mouth of the Detroit River just out in Lake Erie. It would be shorter at 49 feet tall, and painted black and white.
xxxxPrior to the construction of Sand Beach Lighthouse in 1885, the keepers had to find housing in town, even at their own expense. Now, the keepers would live inside the new tower. With major improvements to the harbor of refuge included, the cost of the entire project cost well over one million dollars, a tidy sum for the 1880’s. This seemed elaborate, to expensive, and thus it got the nickname, “The million dollar harbor!”
xxxxHowever, from 1874 to 1900, the harbor of refuge sheltered over 47,000 vessels, and saved many lives, which made the expense minimal in human terms. But, in time as ships became bigger and constructed of steel, the harbor was used less as a place of refuge, except for the older wood hulled boats, after 1900. The lighthouse and the big life saving station would continue the harbor’s importance to the navigator.
xxxxIn spite of the best efforts, shipwrecks still occurred off Michigan’s Thumb, no matter when or what was built to help. The biggest storm on Lake Huron, and among the strongest recorded on the Great Lakes occurred in November, 1913. About twenty vessels were damaged or lost, with well over 200 lives taken in this storm. The waters off Harbor Beach literally became the center of this massive storm, and ironically it was not the older ships that were lost, but the newer steel steamers. One was the five year old steel steamer John A. McGean, considered large at 452 feet long. She simply vanished with her twenty-three man crew. It was not until 1986 that the McGean was finally found northeast of Harbor Beach, far out from Port Hope, up side down, in almost 200 feet of water.
xxxxToday, the 1885 built Harbor Beach Lighthouse still guides the mariner on Lake Huron. It has been painted white since 1900. Its fourth order Fresnel lens was replaced in the 1960’s, and is on display at the Grice Museum in town. The harbor is the refuge more for pleasure craft now. The town of over 2000 still retains the charm, and history of its bygone days. The Thumb Area Underwater Preserve gives the diver the chance to explore the shipwrecks off shore. But, the Harbor Beach Lighthouse still guides the mariner, as they call in there location, passing on Lake Huron!

(For more log on: harborbeachchamber.com, &/or michiganpreserves.org/thumb.htm)


Harbor Beach Lighthouse
by Roy Westin

Harbor Beach Lighthouse
by Roy Westin

Harbor Beach Lighthouse
by Roy Westin

Detroit River Light
by Dave Bury

John A. McGean
Pesha
Dick Wicklund Collection

Pawnee
Port Huron Museum
Inches Collection