Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse History

For sixty-five years, four generations of lighthouse keepers and their families lived at Old Mackinac Point Light Station.  Their devotion to duty helped ensure the safety of vessels in the Straits of Mackinac.  The lighthouse complex included a tower and attached duplex, fog signal building and storage barn.

Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse Chronology 

1889 United States Congress Establishes a light station at Old Mackinac Point.

1890 Title to property secured and construction of Fog Signal begins.  Fog Signal operates for the first time on November 5.

1891 Congress appropriates funds for lighthouse.  George Marshall arrives as first keeper.

1892 Construction begins in May and is completed in October.  Lighted for the first time on October 25.

1907 New Fog Signal building completed.

1913 Lens lamp converted from kerosene to incandescent oil vapor.

1919 George Marshall retires.  His son James appointed keeper.

1928 Electricity and municipal water (and bathrooms) added to dwelling.

1929 Oil lamp of lens replaced with electric light.  Central furnace added to dwelling.  Privy and oil house razed and barn moved form original location to southeast corner of property.

1937-38 Radio beacon established at station.

1940 James Marshall retires.  Henrik Olsen appointed keeper.

1951 Henrik Olsen retires.  John Campbell appointed keeper.

1957 Light station closed following construction of the Mackinac Bridge.

1960 Mackinac Island State Park Commission acquires property.

1972 Mackinac Maritime Park opens with lighthouse as main exhibit gallery.

1989 Maritime park closes.

1999 Restoration of lighthouse begins.

2000 Fog Signal opened to the public as a restoration information center.

2004 Restored lighthouse opens.

Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse Historical Facts and FAQ

  • Established: 1889
  • Years of Operation: Fog Signal completed 1890; Lighthouse completed 1892; Radio Beacon installed 1937-38; Station closes 1957
  • Height of tower:  Approximately 58 feet from ground to lightning rod (about five stories).
  • Focal Plane: 50 feet
  • Height above low water: 62 feet
  • Lens: Fourth Order Fresnel
  • Light characteristics: Red light, flashing every ten seconds.
  • Distance visible: 16 miles

Structures

  • Duplex dwelling and tower (1892)
  • Fog Signal Building (1907)
  • Barn (1892; moved to new location on site in 1929 and converted in to a garage in the 1940s; moved offsite in 1961; restored to original location in 2005)
  • Original Fog Signal Building (1890; moved to new location on site in 1907 and used as a warehouse; destroyed in the 1940s; reconstruction completed 2014)
  • Oil House (1892; destroyed 1929)
  • Privy (ca. 1910; destroyed 1929)

Keepers:

George Marshall (1844-1932) Keeper: 1890-1919

James Marshall (1882-1941) Keeper: 1919-1940

Henrik Olsen (1890-1970) Keeper: 1940-1951

John Campbell (1898-1963) Keeper: 1951-1957

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