The Fresnel Lens

The Fresnel Lens

One of the plano-convex lenses that make up Old Mackinac Point’s original lens. These simple lenses, sometimes called bullseyes, could be grouped together to project multiple beams of light.

Fresnel lenses served as the heart of lighthouses around the world, including at Old Mackinac Point. Invented by French scientist Augustin-Jean Fresnel in 1819, these brass and glass beehives bent, magnified, and focused light to project brilliant beams for miles. (more…)

Ongoing Restoration Work at Old Mackinac Point

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. (more…)

Guarding the Straits: The St. Helena Light Station

Guarding the Straits: The St. Helena Light Station

St. Helena Light Station as it looks today. Photo courtesy Craig Wilson.

Old Mackinac Point is just one of over a dozen light stations that helped guide sailors through the Straits of Mackinac. On a clear day, five of these stations can still be seen from the top of Old Mackinac Point’s tower. About eight miles to the northwest, in Lake Michigan, is the St. Helena light, which shared a great deal of history with Old Mackinac Point.

The island of St. Helena was home to a thriving fishing village for much of the 19th century. Steamships stopped at St. Helena to replenish their supply of wood for fuel, and sought shelter in the island’s natural harbor. However, dangerous shoals extend from the east and west ends of the island, imperiling vessels attempting to reach the safety of the harbor. To warn sailors of these dangers, Congress approved funding for a new light station on St. Helena in 1872, and the tower and keepers’ quarters were completed the next year. The station’s 3½-order Fresnel lens was lit for the first time in September 1873. Additional structures, including an oil house, wharf, and boat house, were added in the 1890s.   (more…)

Coming Soon to Old Mackinac Point

Coming Soon to Old Mackinac Point

Although the museums and historic sites are closed, winter is a busy time here at Mackinac State Historic Parks! One of many projects currently taking place is the installation of a new science and technology exhibit at the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse in Mackinaw City. (more…)

What’s Missing at Old Mackinac Point?

What’s Missing at Old Mackinac Point?

When you visit the Old Mackinac Point Light Station today, you are stepping back in time to the early years of the 20th century. Since 2004, Mackinac State Historic Parks has been working to return the station grounds to their appearance just over 100 years ago. Three original buildings- the 1892 keepers’ quarters and tower, the 1906 fog signal building, and the 1892 barn- have all been restored to their original appearance, while the 1890 warehouse was reconstructed to match the original in 2014. The station looks complete, but there are still a few elements missing.

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Visitors at Old Mackinac Point

Visitors at Old Mackinac Point

Some visitors, like this Lighthouse Service inspector being greeted by Keeper George Marshall, came on official business.

Some visitors, like this Lighthouse Service inspector being greeted by Keeper George Marshall, came on official business.

The Old Mackinac Point light station was always popular with visitors. While tourists today visit the preserved light station as an historic site and museum, beginning in 1890 visitors also toured the station while it served as an active aid to navigation. (more…)

Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse and the Armistice Day Storm of 1940

Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse and the Armistice Day Storm of 1940

November storms on the Great Lakes are infamous for their ferocity and violence. Some, such as the Great Storm of 1913, which sank 12 ships and killed over 250 people, or the 1975 storm that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald, are well known. In November 1940, another strong storm struck the Great Lakes and caused widespread damage, including in the Straits of Mackinac. (more…)

Two New Vingettes Join Nearly 60 Years of Publications

Two New Vingettes Join Nearly 60 Years of Publications

2016_MaritimeTragedyVignette_TanCover Changing Face of Fort MackinacMackinac State Historic Parks is pleased to announce the publication of two new vignettes as part of its Mackinac History series. Numbers six and seven of the fourth volume are “Relics of Maritime Tragedy: Objects from Straits of Mackinac Shipwrecks” by Registrar Brian Jaseschke and “The Changing Face of Fort Mackinac” by Museum Historian Craig Wilson. (more…)