Lighthouse Preservation

Photos Courtesy Of The National Park Service

Photos Courtesy Of The National Park Service

Far north of the shining city lights lies a place where the water is clear and bright. In this place is housed a beacon that has guided mariners safely home for more than a century. 

However, after so many years, the structure itself needed its own assistance. In 2011, the lighthouse on SouthManitouIsland in Michigan underwent a restoration and exterior whitewashing that returned the building to its heyday. 

A History Lesson

Located 8 miles northwest of the town of Glen Arbor, South Manitou is considered a part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This area’s rich history dates to 1673 when the islands were first mapped by the French explorer Louis Joliet. In the early 1800s, sailed schooners transiting the Great Lakes used South Manitou as a means of navigation, but the island became most significant for fueling and feeding the steamboat crews transporting goods from the southernmost ports on Lake Michigan through the Straits of Mackinac to ports near Detroit.

The site of the current lighthouse has been home to three different configurations during the 1800s, with the most current one erected in 1871. The lighthouse stands 104 feet tall, and is connected by an enclosed hallway that leads to the two-story light keeper’s quarters. Imagine the men who constructed this monumental beacon, which by its mere location, must have logistically taken a considerable number of trips across Manitou passage to transport all of the large hand-chiseled limestone blocks that form the radius of the structure’s foundation. The enormity of the task was compounded by the extraordinary number of bricks used to form the inner and outer walls that combined were 3 feet thick. Due to the close proximity of Lake Michigan and the consistency of the sand, just digging the foundation must have been a monumental task. One rumor is that the foundation is almost as deep as the lighthouse is tall, and the limestone blocks used are set on oak timbers at the base of the construction. 

Safety First

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