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Ongoing Restoration Work at Old Mackinac Point

If you’ve visited the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse this summer, you’ve probably seen evidence of a major restoration project: piles of bricks, power tools, and scaffolding surrounding the tower and keepers’ quarters. This work, which is progressing nicely, is carefully repairing and rehabilitating the bricks and mortar of the lighthouse, ensuring that Old Mackinac Point can continue welcoming guests for years to come.

These bricks and the surrounding mortar have been heavily damaged, and will be repaired by the National Restoration masons.

Problems with the masonry structure of the lighthouse have been apparent for years. The lighthouse’s distinctive creamy yellow color is created by thousands of Cream City bricks, so named because they were manufactured from cream-colored clay quarried near Milwaukee. Unfortunately, these bricks are especially porous, and contain larger pebbles and other pieces of aggregate. As a result, they are prone to spalling, a process in which moisture penetrates the bricks and then breaks them apart as the water expands and contracts with temperature changes. Many parts of Old Mackinac Point’s exterior were significantly deteriorated because of this destructive process.

Work on the south wall wrapped up a few weeks ago. The masons have moved on to the west wall and tower.

To stabilize the lighthouse’s masonry structure, Mackinac State Historic Parks partnered with National Restoration of Milford, Michigan to repair damaged bricks and mortar throughout the tower and keepers’ quarters. A team of National Restoration masons has been working at the lighthouse since early summer. The crew has been replacing heavily damaged bricks with unbroken originals salvaged from other historic buildings. They have also been replacing deteriorated mortar around the bricks, carefully dyeing the new mortar to match the color of the original 19th century mortar which remains solid in other places. All of this work is vitally necessary to preserve the historic 19th century structures at Old Mackinac Point.

The masons have completed their work on the south side of the keepers’ quarters, and have now moved on to the west wall and the tower. They will continue working at the lighthouse until late summer. Old Mackinac Point remains open for tours every day through October 7, and the restoration work has not significantly impacted any of the exhibits or interpretive programs inside.

Restoration work has shifted to the light tower.

We hope that you’ll join us at the lighthouse sometime this summer. In addition to a new technology exhibit, guided tours with interpreters, and the Straits of Mackinac Shipwreck Museum, you’ll also have the chance to see history preserved before your eyes. Visit our website for tickets and more information.

All of our interpretive programs, including tower tours, continue every day inside the lighthouse.
Inside the Straits of Mackinac Shipwreck Museum.