Tawas Point Lighthouse

Oct. 22, 2019

Tawas Point Lighthouse, Tawas Bay, Lake Huron, Baldwin County, Iosco County, Michigan

Originally built in 1853, current tower built in 1876.


Station Established: 1853
Year Current Tower(s) First Lit: 1876
Operational? YES
Deactivated: N/A
Foundation Materials: DRESSED STONE/TIMBER
Construction Materials: BRICK
Tower Shape: CONICAL
Markings/Pattern: WHITE WITH RED TRIM
Relationship to Other Structure: ATTACHED

Historical Information:

The hook of Tawas Point offered ships protection in Tawas Bay from the winds of Lake Huron. However, it was dangerous to navigate the end of the point in bad weather or darkness.  Construction began on a light station on Ottawa Point as it was known in 1852. A squat 45-foot rubblestone tower was completed at the end of 1852.  A small keeper’s quarters was also built. Since the station was completed so late in the “shipping season” the decision was made to wait until the shipping season of 1853 to light it.

The original system of lighting was a system of “Lewis Lamps”. These proved on more than occasion to be inadequate. With the establishment of the Lighthouse Board by Congress, one of the priorities of the new board was to replace the Lewis Lamps with the much more effective and powerful Fresnel Lens manufactured in Paris, France. Ottawa Point received a Fifth Order lens in 1856.  By 1867 the tower was disintegrating. Another natural phenomenon was also at play. Ottawa Point was “growing”. The short tower was of little real use to mariners as it was now almost three quarters of a mile from the end of the point.

Construction began on a new tower in 1876. Just like the first tower, it was completed at the end of the season and the onset of winter so lighting was postponed until the following spring. During the winter the Fifth Order lens was removed from the original tower and placed in the newly completed structure.  The date of the first lighting is unknown but some time during the 1877 shipping season it was shining. In 1891 a new Fourth Order lens was installed.

The tower is attached to the keepers quarters by a small passageway. As the need for an assistant became clear, so did the need for quarters for such a position. In 1922 a house in town was purchased and moved to the site for the assistant.  In 1902 the name of Ottawa Point officially became Tawas Point. Electricity arrived in 1935. The actual date of automation is unknown but it is believed to be in 1953. By this time the lighthouse was again far from the actual point. In 2001 ownership moved to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources who are currently renovating the property. They have demolished the 1922 Assistant Keeper’s Quarters.

The light station is located with the Tawas Point State Park and is open to the public. It remains an active aid to navigation.

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