South Fox Island Lighthouse, north end of Lake Michigan, Leelanau County, Michigan
Built in 1867.
SOUTH FOX ISLAND LIGHT
Location: Approach to straits of Mackinac/Lake Michigan
Historic Tower with Lightkeeper’s Quarters
Date Built: 1867
Year light first lit: 1867
Type of Structure: Brick, Schoolhouse type
Tower Shape: Square
Light height: 39 feet above base and 68 feet above lake level
Markings/Pattern: Original cream brick painted white with red trim
Relationship to Other Structure: Attached
Original Lens: Fourth Order Fresnel lens, manufactured by L. Sauttier & Co. of Paris
Status: Standing and not operational
Date Erected: 1934 (previously on Sapelo Island, GA, 1905-1933)
Year light first lit: 1934
Year abandoned: 1958 (replaced with automatic light system)
Year deactivated: 1969
Type of Structure: Square pyramidal cast iron Steel skeletal, Sanibel Class
Foundation: Concrete foundation for the tower’s legs
Light height: 60 feet above base
Status: Standing and not operational
Fox Island is located in Lake Michigan approximately 17 miles off the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula. In 1867 Congress granted $18,000 for construction of the lighthouse. Tower is square with 13 inch thick walls, with circular iron stairs with two landings leading to the lantern room. A board fence was constructed around the station in 1880 to help keep drifting sand and snow from interfering with access to the stations buildings.
In 1895 a fog signal building was erected and a ten inch steam whistle fog signal was put into operation. Also, a brick oil house was built for kerosene for the new lantern that replaced the lard oil lantern. In 1897 a new boat house was built. In the following year of 1898 a well was dug and a pump house constructed for supplying the fog signal. A wood frame assistant keepers dwelling consisting of five room for two keepers was constructed.
The assistant keepers dwelling was replaced in 1910 with a red brick building. During this time period the tower was given a coat of white brick to protect the tower from wind and rain. Other historical structures include a carpenter’s shop in the former summer kitchen, a well house, and privy.
Light was fixed red, varied by red flash. In 1916 the intensity of the light was increased to show fixed light and flash, with duration of flash at five seconds. The light was changed to electricity, provided by generators, in 1929, and the steam fog signal was replaced with an air diaphone signal.
Due to its location the station was difficult to maintain and in 1933 the decision was made to replace the use of the brick tower with a more permanent structure. A steel skeletal tower was acquired in 1933 from Sapelo Island, Georgia and erected in 1934 near the original lighthouse on the southern tip of the island closer to the shoreline.
In 1958 the light station was converted to an automatic light and the last light keeper left the island. In 1959 the equipment from the lantern room including the fourth order Fresnel lens of the original tower was moved to the Old Presque Isle light on Lake Huron. The automatic light system was shut down in 1968, being rendered obsolete by electronic navigation.
In 1971 the US Department of Interior transferred the southernmost 115 acres of the island to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. In 1980 the US Department of Interior transferred the lighthouse and grounds to the State of Michigan.
In 2005 a group name the Fox Island Lighthouse Association (FILA) applied to non-profit status and achieved non-profit status in 2006. FILA have performed and are continuing many actions toward restoration and preservation of the lighthouse station.
Henry J. Roe (1867-1871), William Bruin (1871-8176), Willis Warner (1876-1882), William Lewis (1882-1885), Capt. Joseph Fountain (1885-1891), Lewis Bourissau (1891-1915), James McCormick (1915-1923), William Green (1924-1940), Frederick Leslie (1940-1946), William Kruwell (1946-1947), Peter Timmer (1947-1948), Allen Cain (1948-1958).
Researched and written by Ed Shaw, a volunteer through the Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society.