Our Lighthouses Get Some Love

Eight Michigan lighthouses just received word that they will shine a little brighter in 2008. If approved by the State Administrative Board, checks will be in the mail from the Save our Lights license plate program, and eight historic lighthouses will share more than $215,800. “With more lighthouses than any other state in the nation, Michigan has an opportunity to build upon these communities’ character and unique sense of place,” said Dr. Anderson, Department of History, Arts and Libraries.

Each “Save Our Lights” license plate that you see on the road represents a commitment by that car owner to the preservation of the picturesque lighthouses that help define the Great Lakes State.” Our state’s lighthouses have played a critical role in maritime history and that of our coastal communities. The many freighters plying the Great Lakes from the Midwest to the East Coast and back again have relied heavily on the lights to guide them. And given the treacherous nature of the Great Lakes, these lighthouses have often meant the difference between life and death.

The Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program was established to assist in the preservation, rehabilitation and protection of lighthouses in Michigan. The program arose from a concern about the disposal of over 70 lighthouses in Michigan by the U.S. Coast Guard. Administered by the State Historic Preservation Office, lighthouse grants are given to state and local governments or nonprofit organizations that are maintaining or restoring a lighthouse. Recipients must provide 50 percent of the grant award as matching funds. Since the program’s inception in 2000, more than $1 million has been awarded. “Whether perched on a small island in the middle of Lake Huron, or high on a bluff overlooking Lake Superior, these beacons are preserved through the hard work and dedication of our grant recipients,” said Michigan Historical Center Director Sandra Clark. “The lighthouse people are committed to maintaining some of our most remote and important structures.”

Michigan residents can support the preservation of Michigan’s lighthouses by purchasing “Save Our Lights” license plates through the Secretary of State. The first year adds an additional $35 to the regular registration fee, and reduces to a $10 fee in subsequent years. This year’s grant recipients are:

$39,800 – Charlevoix Historical Society – Charlevoix South Pier Lighthouse: Phase II of the rehabilitation of the exterior will include rust removal and paint preparation work, including lead paint abatement and repainting. This is the third MLAP grant for this lighthouse.

$20,000 – DeTour Reef Light Preservation Society – DeTour Reef Light Station: The DeTour Reef Light Preservation Society has received $105,000 in Michigan Lighthouse Assistance grants in five previous awards. The society has already completed a major rehabilitation of the lighthouse. This project will rehabilitate the diaphone foghorn system, including the procurement of tanks, valves, non-functional diaphone, housing and piping and a compressor.
$40,000 – Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum—Grand Traverse Light Station: The Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum will use its third MLAP grant to replace windows in the lighthouse and fog signal building with historically correct wood windows.

$21,000 – Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association – Cheboygan River Front Range Light: The GLLKA will use this second MLAP grant to reinforce the deteriorated timber frame, repair damaged windowsill at lantern, and restore the lantern room exterior and the walkway surface of the observation deck.

$9,000 – Peninsula Township – Old Mission Point Lighthouse: Peninsula Township will use the grant funds to repair the lighthouse fascia and soffit, re-roof and paint the catwalk, and pay for scaffolding rental.

$40,000 – Ontonagon County Historical Society – Ontonagon Harbor Lighthouse: MLAP grants funded a Historic Structures Report in 2000, and plans and specifications in 2006. The 2008 grant will be used to perform masonry repairs on the keeper’s dwelling, privy and oil house as specified in the previous projects.

$6,000 – Delta County Historical Society – Sand Point Lighthouse: The Delta County Historical Society will hire an architect to prepare plans and specifications for directing water away from the masonry base and walls of the lighthouse in addition to partially rebuilding and repainting the chimney.

$40,000 – Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society – Whitefish Point Light Tower: This project will include stripping the paint from the light tower, doing lead paint abatement, and priming and painting the tower. To learn more about this lighthouse project and other state historic preservation projects, contact Denise Sachau, 517-373-1904, or visit michigan.gov/hal.