St. Martin Island Lighthouse, Delta County, Michigan
Built in 1905.
ST. MARTIN ISLAND LIGHT
ST. MARTIN ISLAND, NORTHWESTERN LAKE MICHIGAN, MICHIGAN
Station Established: 1905
Year Current Tower(s) First Lit: 1905
Foundation Materials: GRANITE
Construction Materials: REINFORCED CONCRETE
Tower Shape: HEXAGONAL EXOSKELETAL
Markings/Pattern: WHITE WITH BLACK LANTERN
Relationship to Other Structure: SPERATE
Original Lens: FOURTH ORDER FRESNEL
With the completion of the Peninsula Railroad in 1864 which connected Escanaba, Michigan to the Negaunee Iron Mines. Ships loaded with ore had to navigate the treacherous shoals and islands along the coast. Any ship heading south out of the port Escanaba had to traverse the St. Martin Passage.
The Lighthouse Board appealed to Congress for the funds to construct a lighthouse on St. Martin Island to help the ships navigate the shoal that extended a mile from the island. Congress refused the request. The Board felt so strongly about the need for a light on this vital shipping route, it repeated the request for seven years. Congress agreed to the funds in 1898. This site was approved but the owners did not want to sell. It wasn’t until 1901 the title was clear and the project could begin.
Since so much time had passed between the original approval of funds and the start of construction, another $10,000 was needed. The money was appropriated and work was set to begin 1902. Unfortunately, there was an iron shortage. Construction was halted until September, 1903. Due to the harsh winter conditions in the Great Lakes, shipping and construction have “seasons”. At the end of the construction season in 1903 a two story duplex style keeper’s house was underway. When construction resumed in 1904 the “cream city brick” keepers house was completed using the same plans as the Plum Island Light built in 1897. The fog signal building was also built using plans from previous lighthouses built on the Lakes, Old Mackinac and Beaver Island.
The tower remains unique in it’s design. It is hexagonal in shape with an iron exoskeleton and extends to a height of 75ft. The curved lantern room housed a Fourth Order Fresnel lens. The lighthouse was completed in 1904. However, it was not lit until the navigation season opened in 1905 due to a lack of funds to hire keepers. Before 1939, the steam whistles were removed from the station. Telephones lines and electricity lines were run to the station as well. It is unknown when the station was automated. The original lens was removed and sent to the Point Iroquois Light Station and is displayed in the keeper’s quarters.
The light station is in private ownership and is not open to the public.
Researched and written by Melissa Buckler, a volunteer through the Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society.