Port Sanilac Lighthouse, Port Sanilac, Michigan
Built in 1886.
PORT SANILAC LIGHT
POINT SANILAC, LAKE HURON, MICHIGAN
Station Established: 1886
Year Current Tower(s) First Lit: 1886
Foundation Materials: DRESSED STONE/TIMBER
Construction Materials: BRICK
Tower Shape: OCTAGONAL HOURGLASS
Markings/Pattern: WHITE WITH RED ROOF
Relationship to Other Structure: ATTACHED
Original Lens: FOURTH ORDER FRESNEL
The stretch of Michigan waterways between Pointe Aux Barques and Fort Gratiot was unlit leaving vessels 75 miles of treacherous coastline to navigate, 40 miles of which was beyond the range of visibility of either light station.
In 1875, the Sand Beach Harbor of Refuge light was built and left 30 miles still in the dark. In 1868, the Lighthouse Board asked Congress for $30,000 to build a lighthouse somewhere along the coastline but it was decided the need wasn’t there. The request was repeated for several years after and each year it fell on deaf ears. Finally in 1885, $20,000 was appropriated and Point Sanilac was chosen as the optimal site. Construction began in June of 1886, leaving only four and a half months to complete the project.
The tower is fourteen feet in diameter at the base and gradually narrows to nine feet beneath the gallery. Immediately beneath the gallery, bricks were laid out to create an upside down staircase effect giving the lighthouse a sort of hourglass shape. Four windows were added to create a watch room, as each direction could be seen from the room. The lantern was fitted with a fourth order Fresnel lens and could be seen 13 miles at sea. It was lit on October 20, 1886.
The keepers dwelling was built to south of the tower and connected to the tower by a covered walkway with the only entrance to both structures. The light was changed to a fix red in 1889. Electricity came to the station in 1924 and it was automated in 1925.
The last keeper of the light left in 1928. The buildings went into private ownership some time after that though the Coast Guard maintains the tower and the lantern. The original fourth order lens remains in the lighthouse and the lighthouse remains an active aid to navigation.
Researched and written by Melissa Buckler, a volunteer through the Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society.