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.

The station grounds as they appeared around 1918. The privy and oil house are located at right. Courtesy State Archives of Michigan

The station grounds as they appeared around 1918. The privy and oil house are located at right. Courtesy State Archives of Michigan

In addition to the four major structures on the station grounds a century ago, there were at least two other, smaller buildings on the site. Both of these buildings served mundane but critical roles in the station’s operation. The oil house, a small, circular iron structure, stood near the south side of the light station property. It was delivered to the station ground by a lighthouse tender in the summer of 1892. Built to a standard Lighthouse Service plan, the oil house had a storage capacity of 360 gallons of kerosene. Stored in 5 gallon cans, the kerosene powered the lamp inside the station’s 4th order Fresnel lens, located at the top of the tower. Keepers carried the fuel up the tower every night to ensure that the light remained lit. Although a compressed gas known as incandescent oil vapor replaced the kerosene lamp as the light source in 1913, the oil house remained on the station grounds until removed in 1928.

Just to the south of the oil house stood another small building, important to everyone who lived and worked at the station: a double privy. Like the oil house, it was constructed in 1892 when the barn and keepers’ quarters were built, and it similarly followed a standard Lighthouse Service plan. The privy was di

Chester Marshall, nephew of keeper George Marshall, plays near the water pump behind the keepers’ quarters.

Chester Marshall, nephew of keeper George Marshall, plays near the water pump behind the keepers’ quarters.

vided into two small rooms, each with its own door. Accompanied by a third privy located inside the barn, the double privy helped serve the large extended families of keeper George Marshall and assistant keeper William Barnum, who lived at the station in the 1910s. Lighthouse Service laborers extensively remodeled the keepers’ quarters in 1928, adding electrical service and installing two indoor bathrooms on the second floor. No longer needed, the double privy was removed in 1929.

As work continues to bring new exhibits to Old Mackinac Point and further restore the station to its historic appearance, we hope to rebuild the oil house and privy in their original locations. Other, smaller additions, such as the water pump originally located just south of the keepers’ quarters, will also help return the station to its historic appearance. We hope you’ll join us in the future to see how Old Mackinac Point continues to grow.

to “What’s Missing at Old Mackinac Point?”

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