Minnesota Point Lighthouse

Sept. 17, 2019

Minnesota Point Lighthouse, Minnesota Point, Lake Superior, Duluth, Minnesota

Built in 1858.


Location: North side of entrance to Lake Superior
Station Established: 1856
Year Current Tower(s) First Lit: 1858
Operational? NO
Automated? NO
Deactivated: 1913
Foundation Materials: BRICK
Construction Materials: BRICK
Tower Shape: Conical
Makings/Pattern: RED BRICK
Relationship to Other Structure: Only about half of
the abandoned brick lighthouse tower remains.

Historical Information:

  • 1823, Lt. H. W. Bayfield of the British Navy began the first survey of Lake Superior. He designated a spot on Minnesota Point as “zero point” for the lake wide survey. The Superior Entry was the original passage through Minnesota Point, the longest freshwater sand bar in the world, to the protected waters of Superior Bay.
  • With the completion of the locks at Sault Ste. Marie in 1855, thoughts and dreams of increased boat traffic to Superior Bay necessitated a lighthouse. Bayfield’s ‘zero point’ in the 1823 survey became the location of the Minnesota Point Lighthouse.
  • 1856 - Lighthouse construction began after the initial appropriation from the U.S. Congress of $15,000 in 1855.
  •  Work did not start on the structure until late the following year, with the delivery of the materials at the site and the laying of the foundation. Work resumed in 1857 and continued throughout the year until cold weather set in, and was stopped until the coming of spring.
  • 1858 - the light was completed and RH Barett, the station's first keeper exhibited the fixed red fifth order Fresnel lens for the first time which provided a constant red signal that was fueled by kerosene.
  •  The site consisted of a 50-foot tall, cylindrical, red brick, whitewashed tower that was crowned by a five-sided lantern room. Adjacent to the lighthouse was a two-story keeper’s house.
  •  Lighthouse Board annual reports indicated that the station was in a constant state of repair. In the 1868 report for the station it was stated that "The dwelling leaks badly around the chimneys. The rain and soot have discolored the walls. The plastering has fallen in many places, and is loose in nearly all the rooms."
  •  1866 -The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers surveyed the harbor and existing entry and recommended a deepening of the natural entry along with the construction of two wooden piers. Money was secured and the project began in July of 1868.
  •  1870- ships sailing to the Duluth railhead had to come through the Superior Entry and then navigate the windy and shallow channel to the Duluth docks. Quite often, ships would run aground. The construction of the Duluth ship canal on the Duluth side of Minnesota Point, ending the need for the Minnesota Point Lighthouse.
  •  Late 1870’s - the federal government built more sturdy rock breakwalls along the Superior Entry to deepen and protect the channel. A lighthouse was constructed on the north breakwall using the Fresnel lens from the Minnesota Point Lighthouse. The present Superior Entry Lighthouse was built on the south breakwall in 1913.
  •  1895 - the Lighthouse Board determined that with the completion of new piers at Superior Entry, navigation would be better served with a light on the pier on the Wisconsin side of the channel, and a new light and keepers dwelling were constructed across the channel on Wisconsin Point. Thus, the Minnesota Point keepers dwelling was abandoned, and without the constant care of the keepers, deteriorated rapidly.
  •  1902 - the Lighthouse Board searched for a location for its planned Duluth Buoy Depot and the Board selected the old lighthouse reservation as the best location for the new depot, with construction of the depot beginning the following year.


Researched and written by Jamie Smith, a volunteer through the Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society.