Waugoshance Lighthouse

Nov. 12, 2019

Waugoshance Lighthouse, Waugoshance Island, Emmet County, Michigan


Location: Northwest of Waugoshance Island at the western edge of the Straits of Mackinac/ Lake Michigan/Emmet County
Historic Tower:
Date Built: 1851
Date Light first lit: 1851
Date Deactivated: 1912
Foundation Materials: Timber crib filled with stone and cement base
Construction Materials: Originally brick, encased with iron plate in the 1880’s.
Tower Height: 76 feet
Markings: Natural
Relationship to other structures: keeper’s quarter is integral part of lighthouse
Original Lens: Fourth Order Fresnel
Status: Standing, not operational, optic removed

Historical Information:

Site was original location of the wooden lightship Lois McLane in 1832.  Lightship was replaced by the tower constructed on the shoal in 1851. A crib was taken to the site and a coffer dam built allowing the water to be removed and cement was placed on the shoal for the base. Limestone slabs were then placed on the cement base and finished with solid masonry.  The 76-foot high tower was built upon the crib base, twenty feet in diameter at the bottom, with five foot thick walls.  The tower was topped with a large “bird cage” style lantern room, one of only three of this style in the Great Lakes.
The lantern was equipped with a Fourth Order Fresnel lens, the first one of these lenses in the Great Lakes.  The light had a fixed white light varied by a white flash every 45 seconds.

Two-and-a-half story keeper’s quarters were constructed in 1852 as an integral part of the lighthouse station. The building is made of brick with iron plating on the outside.  Due to the hard climate of Lake Michigan and winter ice, the lighthouse needed major repairs in 1865 and again in the late 1880s.  In 1883 a contract was given the Buhl Iron Works Company of Detroit to encase the entire tower with iron plate. Upon completion the tower was painted with horizontal red and white bands.

A steam whistle fog signal was installed in 1883.  In the early 1896 further deterioration to the crib and pier resulted in Congress approving funding for major renovations. Stone and old timber were removed and new timber, steel casing for the enlarged pier, and stone and cement added.  In 1902 the west corner of the protecting pier was filled in with concrete and stone and faced with iron plating.

In 1891 a lightship had been stationed on nearby White Shoal. Due to the short working season for lightships it was decided to construct a lighthouse on White Shoal to provide better protection for shipping in this part of Lake Michigan. In 1908 a lighthouse was begun and completed in 1910 and known as the White Shoal Light.  Due to the larger and more powerful White Shoal Light a few miles away, the Waugostance Light was no longer needed and was decommissioned in 1912.

In the early 1940s the lighthouse was used for bombing practice from military aircraft and a hit caused a fire that gutted the interior of the tower and keepers dwelling of anything combustible.  In the 1980s the iron plating peeled off, exposing the tower brick. The copper roof of the lantern room and the iron stairs within the tower were removed.

The US Coast Guard recommended the structure be demolished.  In 1998 the Waugoshance Lighthouse Preservation Society was formed with a goal of complete restoration of the structure. The Society is working to raise funds to stabilize the lighthouse structure.  The lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


John Levaks (1852), Lewis Laskey (1852 and 1853-8155), Nathaniel Johnson (1852-8153), Augustus Todd (1855-1861), Noal Leville (1861-8164), Charles Wackler 1864-8165), John McHaney (1865-1877), John Mulcroone 1877-1881), Levi Chapman (1881-1882), Thomas Marshall (1882-1886), George Marshall (1886-1890), John Herman (1890-1900), James Gallagher (1900-1902), Ingvald Olsen (1902-1910), Joseph Kilgore (1910-1911), Everitt Sterritt (1911-1912).

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