Beacons in the Night - Michigan Lighthouse Chronology



  • Administration of U.S. lighthouses placed under Fifth Auditor of the Treasury, "General Superintendent of Lights."


  • Fort Gratiot Light constructed. First light in Michigan.


  • Bois Blanc Island (Lake Huron) Light lit.
  • Fort Gratiot Light reconstructed.



  • Lightship placed at Waugoshance Shoal. First lightship on Great Lakes.
  • St. Joseph Light constructed. The Chicago Harbor and St. Joseph Lights, both constructed in 1832, were the first lights on Lake Michigan.
  • Thunder Bay Island Light constructed.


  • Bois Blanc Island (Lake Huron) Light replaced. Original tower collapsed in same year.
  • Gibraltar Light constructed (Detroit River, south)
  • Windmill Point light constructed (Detroit River, north)


  • Bois Blanc Island (Lake Huron) Light reconstructed.
  • Grand River (Grand Haven) Light constructed.
  • Saugatuck (Kalamazoo River) Light constructed.
  • South Manitou Island light constructed.

1840 - 1849


  • Old Presque Isle Light (Lake Huron) constructed.


  • Saginaw River Rear Range Light constructed.


  • DeTour Light constructed.
  • Little Traverse Light constructed.


  • Copper Harbor Light constructed.
  • Whitefish Point Light constructed. Copper Harbor and Whitefish Point Lights first lights on Lake Superior.


1850 - 1859


Manitou Island (Lake Superior) Light constructed.


  • Eagle Harbor Light constructed.
  • Skillagalee (Ile Aux Galets) Light constructed.
  • Waugoshance Light constructed, replacing lightship stationed at site. First major crib structure built for lighthouse on Great Lakes.


  • Beaver Island (Beaver Head) Light constructed.
  • Muskegon Light constructed.
  • Ontonagon Light constructed.
  • U.S. Congress creates nine member Lighthouse Board to manage lighthouses throughout America, replacing the "General Superintendent of Lights." Action reorganizes administrative structure, lighthouse equipment, and lighthouse practices in America.


  • Cheboygan Light (Lighthouse Point) constructed.
  • Grand Traverse (Cat's Head) Light constructed.
  • Marquette Harbor light constructed.
  • Tawas Point (Ottawa Point) Light constructed.


  • Eagle River Light constructed.
  • U.S. Congress appropriates funds for lifeboats for 25 stations on Great Lakes, but makes no provision for personnel.


  • Grand Island North Light constructed.
  • Grand Haven Light constructed supplementing Grand River light.
  • Point Iroquois Light constructed.
  • Rock Harbor (Isle Royale) Light constructed
  • Round Island (St. Mary's River) Light constructed
  • Sault Ste. Marie locks opened. Lock measures 350 feet long, 70 feet wide, 9 feet deep.


  • Beaver Island Harbor (St. James) Light constructed.
  • Portage River (Jacobsville) Light constructed.


  • Charity Island Light constructed.
  • Pointe Aux Barques Light constructed.
  • Thunder Bay Island Light reconstructed.
  • Schooners Lamplighter and Watchful purchased as lighthouse tenders. First two vessels dedicated exclusively to lighthouse service on Great Lakes.


  • Beaver Island (Beaver Head) Light reconstructed.
  • Grand Traverse Light (Cat's Head Point) reconstructed. Original structures destroyed.
  • Harbor Beach Point Light constructed.
  • Point Betsie Light constructed.
  • Point Iroquois Light constructed.
  • Rock Harbor (Isle Royale) Light discontinued.
  • South Manitou Island Light (Lake Michigan) reconstructed.


  • Saugatuck (Kalamazoo River) Light rebuilt after original structure washed out by erosion.
  • St Clair Flats Old Channel (South Channel) Lights constructed.
  • St Joseph Light relocated and reconstructed.



1860 - 1869



  • DeTour Light reconstructed using design similar to Manitou Island Light (Lake Superior).
  • Fort Gratiot Light reconstructed.
  • Manitou Island (Lake Superior) Light reconstructed using design similar to Whitefish Point.
  • Whitefish Point Light tower replaced.


  • Schooner Dream replaces lighthouse tender Lamplighter.


  • Schooner Belle enters lighthouse tender service.


  • Copper Harbor Range Lights constructed.


  • Beaver Island (Beaver Head) Light keeper's house constructed.
  • Huron Island (28 miles southeast of Houghton) Light constructed
  • Marquette Harbor Light reconstructed.
  • Peninsula Point Light constructed.
  • Windmill Point Light reconstructed.


  • Big Sable Point Light lit November 1.
  • Copper Harbor Light relocated and reconstructed.
  • Escanaba (Sand Point) Light constructed.
  • Gull Rock Light lit November 1.
  • Ontonagon Light reconstructed, replacing original light.
  • Schooner Watchful leaves service as lighthouse tender.
  • Steam Propeller Haze enters service as first, steam powered lighthouse tender on Great Lakes.


  • Bois Blanc Island (Lake Michigan) Light built. 1838 tower and keeper dwelling abandoned.
  • Grand Island East Channel (Munising) Light constructed.
  • Grand Island North Light reconstructed.
  • Granite Island (11 miles north of Marquette) Light constructed.
  • Huron Island Light lit October 28.
  • Portage River Range Lights constructed.
  • Skillagalee (Ile Aux Galets) Light reconstructed.
  • South Fox Island Light constructed.
  • Thunder Bay Island Light Keepers residence reconstructed.


  • Copper Harbor Rear Range Light reconstructed.
  • McGulpin's Point Light completed.
  • Sturgeon Point Light completed (light first lit 1870).

1870 - 1879


  • Beaver Island (St. James) Light reconstructed.
  • Manistee Pierhead Light constructed.
  • Mendota (Bete Grise) Light constructed.
  • Point Iroquois Light reconstructed.
  • Portage River (Jacobsville) Light reconstructed.
  • Presque Isle Range Lights constructed.
  • Old Mission Point Light constructed.
  • Waugoshance Light reconstructed.


  • Eagle Harbor Light reconstructed
  • Ludington Pierhead Light constructed.
  • Manistee Pierhead Light destroyed by fire.
  • Mendota (Bete Grise) Light abandoned.
  • New Presque Isle Light (Lake Huron) constructed. Old Presque Isle Light abandoned.
  • Point Iroquois Light reconstructed. Original buildings destroyed.
  • White River Pier light constructed.
  • Steam propeller Warrington enters service as lighthouse tender.
  • U.S. Congress, after loss of 214 lives during the 1870-71 Great Lakes navigational season, appropriates funds for new lifesaving stations and to hire paid crews.


  • Holland Harbor Light constructed.
  • South Haven South Pier Light constructed.
  • South Manitou Island Light reconstructed.


  • Frankfort Breakwater light constructed.
  • Gibraltar Light reconstructed
  • Manistee South Pierhead Light constructed.
  • St. Helena Island Light constructed.
  • Schooner Belle runs aground and is abandoned as lighthouse tender.


  • Au Sable Point Light constructed.
  • Eagle River Light moved to new location.
  • Little Sable Point Light constructed.
  • Rock Harbor (Isle Royale) Light refurbished and relit.
  • Spectacle Reef Light lit June 1.
  • Steam propeller Dahlia, first vessel specifically designed to serve as a Great Lakes lighthouse tender, enters service.


  • Alpena Light constructed.
  • Grand Haven South Pierhead Light added, likely originally as a fog signal building to supplement existing Grand Haven South Pier Inner Light.
  • Isle Royale (Menagerie Island) Light constructed
  • Marquette Breakwater Outer Light constructed.
  • Poverty Island Light constructed.
  • St. Clair Flats Channel (South Channel) Lights reconstructed. St. Clair Flats original channel lights abandoned.
  • White River Light constructed, replacing pier light.
  • Windmill Point Light reconstructed.


  • New Saginaw River Rear Range Light constructed. Original Saginaw River Rear Range light abandoned.
  • New Tawas Point Light constructed. Original Tawas Point Light abandoned.
  • First new life saving stations open on Great Lakes.


  • Menonimee River Light constructed.


  • Point Austin Reef Light constructed.
  • Sand Point (Keweenaw Bay, northeast of Baraga) Light constructed.
  • U.S. Congress creates Life-Saving Service as a separate agency within Treasury Dept.


  • Gibraltar Light abandoned.
  • Rock Harbor (Isle Royale) Light abandoned.

1880 - 1889


  • Big Sable Point Light tower brick tuckpointed due to severe deterioration.
  • Cheboygan River Range Lights lit.
  • Pipe Island Light constructed (date approximate).
  • Lighthouse tender Lotus enters service.



  • Sault Ste. Marie, Weitzel Lock opens. Lock measures 515 feet long, 60 feet wide, 11.4 feet deep.


  • Passage Island (Isle Royale) Light lit July 1. Northernmost U.S. Lighthouse on the Great Lakes.
  • Stannard Rock Light lit July 4.
  • Tonnage of steam powered vessels on Great Lakes equals that of sail powered vessels for first time.


  • Copper Harbor Light discontinued.
  • Waugoshance Light reconstructed to include fog signal.


  • Little Traverse (Harbor Point) Light lit September 25.


  • Detroit River Light constructed.
  • Charlevoix Pier Light (north pier) constructed.
  • Harbor Beach (Sand Beach) Breakwater Light constructed. Detroit River Light and Harbor Beach Light share identical designs.


  • Port Sanilac Light constructed.


  • Alpena Light reconstructed.
  • Copper Harbor Light relit.
  • Skillagalee (Ile Aux Galets) Light reconstructed. Tower built in 1868 demolished.

1890 - 1899


  • Ontonagon Light addition completed
  • Lighthouse tender Marigold enters service.


  • Windmill Point Light reconstructed.
  • Lightship #55 stationed at Simmon's Reef
  • Lightship #56 stationed at White Shoal
  • Lightship #57 stationed at Gray's Reef.
  • Lighthouse tender Amaranth enters service.


  • Old Mackinac Point Light constructed.
  • Round Island Light (St. Mary's River) constructed.
  • Seul Choix Point Light lit.
  • Squaw Island Light constructed.


  • Fourteen Mile Point (14 miles north of Ontonagon) Light constructed.
  • Grosse Ile North Channel Light constructed.
  • Point Betsie Light keeper's house modified.


  • Eagle Harbor Light adds fog signal
  • Grand Haven South Pier Inner Light reconstructed.
  • Grand Marais Harbor Range Outer Light constructed.
  • Mendota (Bete Grise) Light reestablished.
  • Round Island (Lake Huron) Light constructed.
  • Seul Choix Point Light construction completed.


  • Big Bay Point (24 miles northwest of Marquette) Light constructed.
  • Sault Ste. Marie Poe Lock opened. Lock measures 800 feet long, by 100 feet wide, by 18 feet deep.


  • Forty Mile Point (seven miles northwest of Rogers City) Light lit.  


  • Grand Marais Harbor Range Inner Light constructed.


  • Grand Traverse (Cat's Head Point) Light adds fog signal building.
  • Port Austin Reef Light modified.



1900 - 1909


  • Charity Island Light fully automated.
  • Big Sable Point Light brick tower encased in steel plates.
  • Lightship #55 stationed at Lansing Shoal.


  • Lighthouse tender Lotus leaves service.


  • Point Iroquois Light expanded.


  • Muskegon South Pier Light constructed, replacing former light.
  • South Haven South Pier Light reconstructed.
  • Crisp Point Light fog signal activated at site of pre-existing Life Saving Service station.


  • Crisp Point Light lit May 5.


  • Grand Haven South Pier Inner Light reconstructed.
  • Middle Island Light constructed.
  • St. Martin Island Light constructed.
  • Steam Propeller Haze leaves lighthouse service.


  • Grosse Ile North Channel Front Range Light reconstructed.
  • Marquette Harbor Light reconstructed.
  • McGulpin's Point Light abandoned.
  • Lighthouse tender Aspen enters service.


  • Holland Harbor Light (Big Red) reconstructed.
  • Marquette Harbor Light keeper's house modified.
  • St. Joseph Norther Pier Inner and Outer Lights reconstructed, replacing earlier St. Joseph Light.


  • Eagle River Light abandoned, eventually replaced by Sand Hills Light.
  • Marquette Breakwater Outer Light reconstructed.
  • Munising Range Lights constructed.
  • Peche Island Rear Range Light constructed.
  • Rock of Ages (Isle Royale) Light constructed with temporary light.


  • Au Sable Point Light addition
  • Lightship Martin stationed off Martin Reef.
  • Lighthouse tender Dahlia retired from service.

1910 - 1919


  • Rock of Ages permanent light installed.
  • White Shoal Light lit September 1, replacing lightship.
  • U.S. Congress creates Bureau of Lighthouses, replacing the Lighthouse Board.


  • Steam propeller Warrington leaves lighthouse tender service.


  • Waugoshance Light abandoned (replaced by White Shoal Light).


  • Grand Island East Channel Light (Munising) abandoned, replaced by Munising Range Lights.


  • Alpena Light reconstructed.
  • Charlevoix Pier Light moved from north to south pier.
  • Sault Ste. Marie, Davis Lock opened. Lock measures 1,350 feet long, 80 feet wide, 25 feet deep.


  • Saugatuck (Kalamazoo River) Light abandoned.
  • U.S. Congress creates U.S. Coast Guard by combining U.S. Life- Saving Service and Revenue Cutter Service. Lighthouse Service remains an independent federal agency.


  • Manistique Harbor Light constructed.


  • Copper Harbor Light automated.
  • Sand Hills Light (located 22 miles north of Houghton) constructed, replaced closed Eagle River Light.
  • Sault Ste. Marie, Sabin Lock opened. Lock measures 1,350 long, 80 feet wide, 25 feet deep.

1920 - 1929


  • Portage River (Keweenaw) Lower Entrance Light reconstructed.


  • Lightship #103, Relief commissioned. Used as relief vessel to replace other lightships on Great Lakes.


  • Grand Haven South Pierhead Light reconstructed.


  • Round Island (St. Mary's River) Light replaced by skeletal steel tower.
  • St. Helena Island Light fully automated.


  • Ludington North Pierhead Light reconstructed.


  • Cheboygan Light (Lighthouse Point) abandoned (date approximate).
  • First radio navigation beacon used in Great Lakes installed on lightship in Lake Huron.


  • Copper Harbor Front Range Light reconstructed.
  • Manistee North Pierhead Light reconstructed.
  • Martin Reef Light constructed, replacing lightship Martin.
  • Menominee River (Pierhead) Light reconstructed.  


  • Squaw Island Light abandoned (replaced by Lansing Shoal Light).
  • Lansing Shoal Light constructed replacing lightship.


  • Poe Reef Light constructed replacing lightship. Light design identical to that of Martin Reef.
  • William Livingstone Memorial Light (Belle Isle, Detroit) constructed.

1930 - 1939


  • Fourteen Foot Shoal (Cheboygan Harbor) Light constructed as a fully automated light, serviced by crew of nearby Poe Reef Light.
  • Our Son, last commercial sailing ship on the Great Lakes, sinks in Lake Michigan.
  • Crisp Point Light likely decommissioned (sources disagree, alternate decommissioning date 1947).


  • DeTour Point Light constructed, replacing light located onshore in town of DeTour, which was abandoned.


  • Frankfort North Breakwater Light reconstructed.
  • Holland Harbor Light (Big Red) automated.


  • Copper Harbor Light rebuilt
  • Fort Gratiot Light fully automated.
  • Old Mission Point Light decommissioned.
  • Windmill Point Light reconstructed.


  • Minneapolis Shoal Light constructed.
  • South Fox Island Light rebuilt. Original tower abandoned.


  • Forty Mile Point Light reconstructed.
  • North Manitou Shoal Light (Lake Michigan) constructed.
  • Lightship Relief permanently stationed off Corsica Shores, renamed Huron.


  • Holland Harbor Light tower removed and light relocated to tower placed on new tower projecting from roof of keeper's residence. Building covered with steel plates that are painted red.
  • Gray's Reef Light constructed replacing lightship. Identical to Minneapolis Shoal Light.


  • Lighthouse tender Hollyhock enters service.


  • Charity Island Light abandoned, replaced by Gravelly Shoal Light.
  • Escanaba (Sand Point) Light abandoned, replaced by Escanaba Crib Light.
  • Escanaba Crib Light constructed.
  • Granite Island Light fully automated.
  • Gravelly Shoal Light constructed.
  • Sand Hills Light fully automated.
  • Lighthouse tender Walnut enters service.
  • U.S. Congress transfers Lighthouse Service to jurisdiction of Coast Guard.

1940 - 1949


  • Big Bay Point Light automated.
  • Isle Royale (Menagerie Island) Light fully automated.
  • Presque Isle Harbor Breakwater Light constructed.
  • St. Clair Crib Light constructed.
  • White River Light decommissioned.


  • Bois Blanc Island (Lake Huron) Light reconstructed.
  • Cheboygan Light abandoned (date approximate)
  • Sault Ste. Marie, MacArthur Lock opened, replacing Weitzel Lock. MacArthur Lock 800 feet long, 80 feet wide, 31 feet deep.


  • Point Iroquois Light expanded.


  • Old Mission Point Light purchased by state of Michigan as site for public park (date approximate).
  • Lighthouse tender Marigold leaves service. Hull rebuilt as dredge Miss Mudhen II.
  • Lighthouse tender Amaranth leaves service. Sold to private company and renamed South Wind.  


  • Round Island (Lake Huron) Light abandoned.  


  • Charlevoix South Pier Light reconstructed.
  • Lighthouse tender Aspen leaves service.

1950 - 1959


  • Keweenaw Waterway Upper Entrance Light constructed


  • Port Austin Reef Light abandoned.


  • Little Sable Point light automated. Keeper's dwelling demolished.
  • Sand Hills Light decommissioned.


  • Abandoned Saugatuck (Kalamazoo River) Light destroyed by tornado.
  • Bois Blanc Island Light (Lake Michigan) decommissioned.


  • Old Mackinac Point Light decommissioned, "replaced" by lights on newly constructed Mackinac Bridge.


  • Au Sable Point Light automated. Ownership of land eventually transferred to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
  • South Manitou Island Light (Lake Michigan) abandoned. Station eventually becomes a historical museum, part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.


  • Peninsula Point Light keeper's residence destroyed by fire.

1960 - 1969


  • Old Mackinac Point Light acquired by Mackinac Island State Park Commission.


  • Big Bay Point Light replaced by nearby steel tower.
  • Grand Island North Light fully automated.
  • Stannard Rock Light, while in process of being fully automated, damaged by propane gas explosion, June 18.


  • Beaver Island (Beaver Head) Light decommissioned, replaced by radio beacon on same site.
  • Rock Harbor (Isle Royale) Light restoration begun by National Park Service, which holds jurisdiction over light as part of the Isle Royale National Park.
  • Saginaw River Rear Range Light decommissioned.
  • Stannard Rock Light fully automated.


  • Copper Harbor Light property acquired by Michigan Department of Natural Resources and eventually becomes a maritime museum incorporated into the Fort Wilkins State Park.
  • Grosse Ile North Channel Front Light decommissioned and sold to Grosse Ile Historical Society.


  • Copper Harbor Rear Range Light reconstructed.
  • Ontonagon Light decommissioned.


  • Point Iroquois Light abandoned and ownership of land transferred to United States Forest Service.


  • White River Light property purchased by Fruitland Township. Keeper's dwelling used as local museum.


  • Skillagalee (Ile Aux Galets) Light keeper's dwelling and fog signal building demolished.
  • Sault Ste. Marie, reconstructed Poe Lock opened. Lock measures 1,200 feet long, 110 feet wide, 31 feet deep.

1970 - 1979


  • Holland Harbor Light structure (Big Red) abandoned by Coast Guard. Holland Harbor Lighthouse Historical Commission organized to restore and preserve landmark.
  • Whitefish Point Light automated.
  • Huron, last U.S. lightship on lakes, decommissioned and in 1971 donated to city of Port Huron to become a museum ship.


  • Grand Traverse (Cat's Head) Light abandoned and replaced by skeletal steel tower with automatic light. Land subsequently leased to state of Michigan and currently forms part of Leelanau State park.
  • Huron Island Light fully automated.


  • Gray's Reef Light fully automated.
  • Lansing Shoal Light fully automated
  • White Shoal Light fully automated.


  • Rock of Ages Light fully automated.

1980 - 1989


  • Eagle Harbor Light fully automated


  • Eagle Harbor Lighthouse licensed by Coast Guard to the Keweenaw County Historical Society for use as a museum. Museum opened to public July 17, 1983.
  • Peche Island Rear Range light tower replaced. Old tower moved to maritime park in Marine City.
  • Spectacle Reef Lighthouse third order Fresnal lens replaced by automated beacon. Lens donated to Inland Seas Maritime Museum, Vermillion, OH were it is displayed.


  • Point Betsie, last attended light in Michigan, fully automated.
  • Point Iroquois Light restoration begun by Mills-Brimley Historical Society.


  • Fourteen Mile Point Light severely damaged by fire, July 30.
  • Port Austin Reef Light restoration begun under a ten year contract negotiated by Lou Schillinger.


  • Escanaba (Sand Point) obtained by Delta County Historical Society which begins extensive restoration project.


  • Cheboygan Crib Light relocated onshore by city of Cheboygan after being abandoned by Coast Guard.
  • St. Helena Island Light restoration undertaken by Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers' Association (GLLKA).


  • New Presque Isle Light (Lake Huron) reconstructed as part of Presque Isle Township Park.
  • Port Austin Reef Lighthouse Association formed to continue restoration of light.

1990 - 1999


  • Saginaw River Rear Range Light purchased by Dow Chemical Company, whose property surrounded light.


  • Robert H. Manning Memorial Light constructed in Empire.


  • Crisp Point Light tower becomes property of Luce County, working in cooperation with Crisp Point Light Historical Society.


  • One thousand cubic yards of stone placed in front of Crisp Point Light tower in effort to stabilize structure by stopping beach erosion.


There is no single source from which to extract a chronology of Michigan lighthouses and lighthouse-related information. This chronology rests largely on information drawn from John L. Wagner, Michigan Lighthouses: An Aerial Photographic Perspective (East Lansing: John L. Wagner, 1994); Francis Ross Holland, Jr., America's Lighthouses: Their Illustrated History since 1716 (Brattleboro, Vermont: Stephen Greene Press, 1972), and Charles Hyde, The Northern Lights: Lighthouses of the Upper Great Lakes (Lansing: Two Peninsula Press, 1986).