Passage Island Light, approximately 3 miles northeast of Isle Royale, Lake Superior, Houghton Township, Michigan
Built in 1882.
PASSAGE ISLAND LIGHT, MICHIGAN
PASSAGE ISLAND OFF ISLE ROYALE, LAKE SUPERIOR, MICHIGAN
Station Established: 1882
Year Current Tower(s) First Lit: 1882
Foundation Materials: NATURAL/EMPLACED
Construction Materials: FIELDSTONE
Tower Shape: OCTAGONAL
Markings/Pattern: NATURAL W/RED AND WHITE LANTERN
Relationship to Other Structure: INTEGRAL
Original Lens: FOURTH ORDER FRESNEL
As shipping traffic increased on Lake Superior due to mining, the need for a lighthouse to mark the channel between Isle Royale and Passage Island became apparent. The chosen site was the southern most tip of Passage Island making it the northernmost lighthouse in the United States. Such a remote location increased the cost of the project. A request of $18,000 was made in 1871. Getting no response the request was repeated for the next four years.
A lighthouse was needed on Lake Erie at Colchester Reef to mark the Detroit River. Since this was Canadian territory, Congress used the Passage Island lighthouse site as leverage to get the Canadians to build the lighthouse on Lake Erie by authorizing the money for Passage Island with the condition that it would only be available after Canada built a light at Colchester Reef.
The Colchester Reef was built in 1885 and Passage Island was complete in 1882 so the money was released without the condition being met. The lighthouse at Passage Island is in the “Norman Gothic” style. This style was used at other sites including McGulpin’s Point, Eagle Bluff, and Chamber’s Island. The keeper’s dwelling is a 26’ x 30’ fieldstone two story structure with a 44 foot tower in the southwest corner.
A fourth order Fresnel lens was installed with a fixed red light and lit on July 1, 1882. A 1,500 pound fog bell was completed in time for the lighting. In 1898, it was determined a flashing white light would be more effective so the lamp was fitted with a rotating beacon.
The light station was automated on December 20, 1978. In 1989 the Fresnel lens was removed and replaced with a 190 mm acrylic optic. The Fresnel lens is on display at the Portage Coast Guard Station. The Passage Island Lighthouse is still an active aid to navigation. It is not open to the public. The grounds are part of the Isle Royale National Park.
Researched and written by Melissa Buckler, a volunteer through the Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society.