Granite Island Lighthouse

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Granite Island Lighthouse
Granite Island Light Station - Michigan.jpg
Granite Island lighthouse
Granite Island Lighthouse is located in Michigan
Granite Island Lighthouse
Location Granite Island, Michigan
Coordinates 46°43′15″N 87°24′43″W / 46.72083°N 87.41194°W / 46.72083; -87.41194Coordinates: 46°43′15″N 87°24′43″W / 46.72083°N 87.41194°W / 46.72083; -87.41194
Year first constructed 1868[1]
Year first lit 1869
Automated 1937
Construction granite
Tower shape bell tower[2] attached "church style" to 2 story lighthouse keepers dwelling[3]
Markings / pattern red brick with white lantern
Height Tower - 40 feet (12 m)[4]
Focal height Focal plane - 93 feet (28 m)[5]
Original lens Fourth order Fresnel lens[6]
Range 10 nautical miles (19 km; 12 mi)[7] (new tower)
Characteristic white flash 6 seconds.
ARLHS number USA-333[8][9]
USCG number


Granite Island Light Station
Nearest city Marquette, Michigan
Area 2 acres (0.81 ha)
MPS U.S. Coast Guard Lighthouses and Light Stations on the Great Lakes TR
NRHP reference # 83000884[11]
Added to NRHP August 04, 1983
Heritage place listed on the National Register of Historic Places Edit this on Wikidata

Because it was positioned near the busy shipping lanes of the mid-19th century, a lighthouse was built on Granite Island in 1868 by the U.S. Lighthouse Board and commissioned in 1869.[12]

The lighthouse keeper's dwelling and the square tower attached to it are built of cut stone with white limestone decorations on the corners and windows. The 112-story dwelling shares its design with lighthouses found on Gull Rock and Huron Islands Lighthouse as well as the Marquette Harbor Light. There is an existing Fog Signal Building, which was constructed in 1910 to replace the one originally built in 1879. It is made of structural steel and is a bell tower. The fog bell was the one from the light at Thunder Bay Island Light, and was removed.[2][13] in 1939.[14]

Lighthouse keepers and assistant keepers operated Granite Island Light until 1937 when the facility was automated and the living quarters were abandoned. Aids to navigation consisted of a 4th order Fresnel lens and a fog bell tower. The focal height is 89 feet (27 m). At one time it had a red flash every 90 seconds.[15]

Private ownership[edit]

Modern navigation moved shipping lanes away from the island and the light, and farther out into Lake Superior.[16] This tended to make the Coast Guard view it as "surplus," and it was put up for private sale. The sale in fact helped precipitate a later reaction by the U.S. Congress, which enacted a preference for selling such facilities to communities and charitable organizations under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000, which was sponsored by Michigan Senator Carl Levin and passed in 2000. Nevertheless, this island's sale and its results have advocates.[17]

Granite Island and the lighthouse were purchased by Scott and Martine Holman in 1999 from the U.S. Coast Guard. The facilities underwent a three-year restoration process at large expense, and which has inured to the public good.[18] The house was completely gutted and rebuilt, with waste being boated out and materials bought in. This is a challenging place to reach and live upon – they have to transport all of their water in, for example; composting toilets must be used, so not many visitors are welcomed. The web site,, has live camera feeds, history, videos of the restoration process and photographs and discussion of its ecology and geology. The lighthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.[2][19]

Current status[edit]

Despite its remoteness, and because of its picturesque location, form and color it is often the subject of photographs, and drawings.[20]

The Island's infrastructure is host to an Internet relay station operated by Northern Michigan University to provide live real-time classes to the rural area of Big Bay and its school system.

The Holman's have donated a sophisticated weather research station to study the evaporative effects on the rise and fall of the water levels in the great Lakes. This station is operated by Northern Michigan University and the data is made available to the National Weather Service to aid in Near Shore Forecasting.

The living quarters of the light station is made available to the NMU English Department for creative writing retreats.

Transportation to and from the Island is provided by two "rib" Zodiacs 24' and 30' which can navigate the often rough water 12 miles south to the Marquette Lower harbor.

Power on the island is remote controlled year round and consists of solar panels, wind generators with back up propane generators.

Although the island is privately owned, an automated aid to navigation on a gray steel tower (with a 96 feet (29 m) focal plane) and a range of 10 nautical miles (19 km; 12 mi) is maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. Its characteristic is a white flash every 6 seconds.[7]

Granite Island Light is one of more than 150 past and present lighthouses in Michigan. Michigan has more lighthouses than any other state. See Lighthouses in the United States.

The highest recorded wind speed on the island was 143 miles per hour (230 km/h) on January 18, 2003.[21]

Best views of this light are from the water. The privately owned island and light are closed to the public.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lighthouse Central, Granite Island lighthouse The Ultimate Guide to Upper Michigan Lighthouses by Jerry Roach. (Publisher: Bugs Publishing LLC - 2007). ISBN 978-0-9747977-2-4.
  2. ^ a b c Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy, Granite Island Light.
  3. ^ Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of the United States: Michigan's Western Lower Peninsula". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 
  4. ^ Pepper, Terry. "Database of Tower Heights". Seeing the Light. Archived from the original on 2000-09-18. 
  5. ^ Pepper, Terry. "Database of Focal Heights". Seeing the Light. Archived from the original on 2008-08-30. 
  6. ^ Pepper, Terry. "Database of Original Lenses". Seeing the Light. Archived from the original on 2000-09-18. 
  7. ^ a b Light List, Volume VII, Great Lakes (PDF). Light List. United States Coast Guard. 
  8. ^ "Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society, Granite Island (Lake Superior) Light, ARLHS USA-333". 
  9. ^ "Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society, World List of Lights (WLOL)". 
  10. ^ Note: the USCG number relates to the new tower, and the ARLHS number is the old lighthouse.
  11. ^ National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  12. ^ Wagner, John L., Beacons Shining in the Night, Michigan Lighthouse Bibliography, Chronology, History, and Photographs, Clarke Historical Library, Central, Michigan University.
  13. ^ National Park Service Maritime History Project, Inventory of Historic Lights, Granite Island Light.
  14. ^ Granite Island, Picture of the bell tower with bell removed.
  15. ^ Terry Pepper, Seeing the Light, Granite Island Light.
  16. ^ Wobser, David, "Granite Island Light," at
  17. ^ LaFave, Michael Mackinac Center for Public Policy), Privatization Shines (article on the general subject of privatization of lighthouses.
  18. ^ Excerpt from LaFave, Michael (Mackinac Center), Privatization Shines specifically on Granite Island.
  19. ^ National Park Service (2008-04-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. Reference #83000884
  20. ^ Mulgrew, Marilyn, Drawing of Granite Island Light. Archived 2007-08-28 at the Wayback Machine.{Dead link|date=September 2009}
  21. ^ Granite Island weather station.
  22. ^ Anderson, Kraig, Lighthouse friends, Granite Island Lighthouse.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

USCG archive image of Granite Island Light