Point Betsie Lighthouse

Oct. 1, 2019

Point Betsie Lighthouse, northeast shore of Lake Michigan, Frankfort, Benzie County, Michigan

Built in 1858.


Station Established: 1854
Year Current Tower(s) First Lit: 1858
Operational? YES
Automated? 1984
Deactivated: N/A
Foundation Materials: CONCRETE
Construction Materials: BRICK
Markings/Pattern: WHITE WITH RED ROOF
Relationship to Other Structure: ATTACHED

Historical Information:

Construction was supposed to begin on the Point Betsie Lighthouse in 1854 but was not completed until 1858, costing $5000.  The 37-foot Cream City brick tower was fitted with a white fourth order Fresnel lens. A two-story keeper’s dwelling was attached to the tower with a covered passage way.

After just a few years of operation, repairs were needed at the station due to erosion of the dunes the light was built on. Timber was placed under the rock foundation to steady the tower. At the same time, repairs were made to the keeper’s quarter’s roof.

In 1875 a life-saving station was established at the light station, costing $3000.  By 1890 erosion was once again a problem along with moisture in the tower. This time a ring of concrete was inserted under the tower. A curved revetment was constructed at the water’s edge to absorb the energy of the waves crashing into the shore.

A fog signal building was added to the station in 1891. In 1892, the light pattern was changed from a fixed white light to a flashing light with the addition of a new fourth order lens.  An assistant keeper was assigned to the lighthouse. The keeper’s quarters were far too small for two keepers and their families. The house was enlarged to a duplex.

Point Betsie was the last manned lighthouse on the Great Lakes. It was automated in 1983. The Fresnel lens was removed in 1996 and replaced with a modern optic.   Ownership of the light was transferred to Benzie County in 2004. The light remains an active aid to navigation.

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