Harbor Beach Light
Undated USCG photo
|Location||Northside breakwater Harbor Beach, Michigan|
|Year first constructed||1858|
|Year first lit||1885|
|Construction||Cast iron, brick lining|
|Tower shape||Frustum of a cone|
|Markings / pattern||White with red roof on lantern|
|Height||45 feet (14 m)|
|Focal height||54 feet (16 m)|
|Original lens||Fourth-order Fresnel lens|
|Current lens||VRB-25 acrylic|
|Range||Red 16 nautical miles (30 km; 18 mi), white 19 nautical miles (35 km; 22 mi)|
|Characteristic||Al WR 10s|
|Fog signal||HORN: 1 blast ev 30s (3s bl). Operational remotely all year.|
Harbor Beach Lighthouse
Michigan Historic Landmark
|Area||0.1 acres (0.040 ha)|
|Governing body||COAST GUARD|
|MPS||U.S. Coast Guard Lighthouses and Light Stations on the Great Lakes TR|
|NRHP Reference #||83000850|
|Added to NRHP||August 04, 1983|
The Harbor Beach Lighthouse is a "sparkplug lighthouse" located at the end of the north breakwall entrance to the harbor of refuge on Lake Huron. The breakwall and light were created by the United States Army Corps of Engineers to protect the harbor of Harbor Beach, Michigan, which is the largest man-made freshwater harbor in the world. Harbor Beach is located on the eastern edge of the Thumb of Huron County, in the state of Michigan.
Prior to the 1900s, this port was a major harbor of refuge and was the home of one of the most active lifesaving crews on Lake Huron. In the 1880s, a massive breakwater extension was constructed and many lake boats took shelter. Dozens of shipwrecks lie around the area, evidence of the boats that tried, but did not make, the shelter.
Since 1885, the Harbor Beach Breakwater Lighthouse has been an area of refuge to ships caught in the fury of Mother Nature and Lake Huron during stormy seas. This lighthouse replaced the wood skeleton lighthouse which was built in 1877.
The new lighthouse was built on a timber foundation crib. It is a conical, brick structure encased in cast iron plates. The building was originally painted brown; it thereafter went through iterations where it had a black parapet and lantern. At the top a round cast-iron watch room supports a ten-sided, cast iron lantern. The light sits 54 feet (16 m) above the harbor and can be seen for up to 16 nautical miles (30 km; 18 mi) out to sea. A concrete cap, partially faced with brick veneer, supports the 45-foot (14 m) tower. Below the brick veneer, extending to the lake bottom is a timber cribbing filled with 100 to 300 pounds (45 to 136 kg) stones, which provides the necessary counterweight needed to prevent the structure from overturning or sliding.
In the lighthouse, the first deck housed a kitchen with a cook stove and also was a living area. The next two decks were sleeping quarters. The second deck was for the assistants, the third deck for the keeper. The fourth deck was used as a workroom and fifth was the watch room at the balcony level. The lantern room is located at the top on the sixth deck. This housed the original Fresnel lens, made by Barbier & Fenstre in Paris in 1884, which is now on display at the Grice House and Museum in Harbor Beach. Next to the Harbor Beach lighthouse was a small wooden building, which contained equipment to operate the fog signal (see undated USCG photo above), but was removed when the light was automated. There is a diaphone in place.
The Great Storm of 1913 substantially undermined the pier's foundation, necessitating repairs.
Today, the lighthouse is automated and operated remotely, year round, by the United States Coast Guard in Saginaw, Michigan, and is a welcome sight for the many recreational boaters and commercial fishermen that travel Lake Huron between Port Huron and the Saginaw Bay area. In 1967, the fourth order Fresnel lens was removed, and replaced with a 12-inch (300 mm) Vega acrylic optic. The light and fog signal have been solar-powered since 2006. The light is powered with a 20,000 candlepower bulb and the red beam flashes every seven seconds with a visibility of 16 miles (26 km). A fog signal is available by calling channel 79, and keying five times, causing the fog signal to sound with a three-second blast every thirty seconds, which will continue for forty-five minutes.
The City of Harbor Beach is now the owner of the Harbor Beach Lighthouse. Ceremonies to transfer ownership of the historic structure took place in Traverse City on June 16, 2010. A local ceremony took place July 31, 2010. The Harbor Beach Lighthouse Preservation Society (HBLPS) was formed in 1984 and restoration is ongoing. The lighthouse has been waterproofed, ventilated, and its floors, interior walls, and windows restored to original appearance.
From M-25 (Huron Avenue) in Harbor Beach, turn east on Trescott Street and follow to its end at Bathing Beach Park. A good, distant shot of the lighthouse is available from the end of Trescott pier. In addition, the Marina and Waterworks Park, on the north end of the city, offers a good view of the lighthouse.
Lighthouse and harbor timeline
|Lighthouse and Harbor Timeline |
|1872||Sand Beach Selected for a harbor of refuge.|
|1873||Construction begins on the breakwall. Jenks and Co. builds a dock in the harbor.|
|1876||The first lighthouse is constructed. It is a skeletal structure with a lamp room and one other small room below. Willis Graves is the first light keeper. Between 1877 and 1899, 47,460 ships took shelter in the Sand Beach Harbor of Refuge.|
|1878||Loren Trescott appointed Light Keeper. He remained the keeper for 34 years.|
|1880||Lamp converted to kerosene; burned as bright, but less expensive than lard oil.|
|1881||Sand Beach Life Saving Station built.|
|1882||Captain Wagstaff appointed Harbor Master.|
|1884||Foundation for new light house built west of the breakwall, north of the main entrance.|
|1885||Current lighthouse built, original light moved to north entrance. South pier light established.|
|1898||Captain Rice appointed Harbor Master.|
|1899||Sand Beach renamed to Harbor Beach.|
|1904||After years of repairing storm damage, the wood superstructure was replaced with concrete.|
|1909||Life Saving Station moved to the Jenks Dock.|
|1913||Storm of November 1913 does $300,000 damage to the breakwall. Hundreds of sailors killed as their ships sink or are destroyed.|
|1914||Illuminating apparatus within the lens was upgraded from oil wick to incandescent oil vapor.|
|1919||The 10-inch (250 mm) steam boilers and 10 inch whistles were removed from the fog signal building and replaced by a pair of Type "F" diaphones.|
|1920||U.S. Coast Guard takes over Harbor Master duties. Archibald Davidson appointed lighthouse keeper.|
|1935||U.S. Coast Guard station built 300 yards (270 m) off shore in the harbor. Otto Both appointed Lighthouse keeper.|
|1935||Installation of a radio beacon at the station.|
|1940||Thomas Radcliff appointed Lighthouse keeper. Later in the decade the Coast Guard takes over operation of the lighthouse.|
|1967||The lighthouse is operated remotely from shore. Last year for anyone to live in the lighthouse.|
|1984||The Harbor Beach Lighthouse and Breakwall Preservation Society formed.|
|1987||Another storm damaged the lighthouse and breakwater, causing several millions of dollars in damage.|
|1988||Repairs were completed. Canadian Vicki Keith started from Harbor Beach in her historic swim across Lake Huron.|
|1996||The Original Fourth Order Fresnel Lens was replaced.|
|1999||The Coast Guard restored the crib foundation.|
- Roach, Jerry, Lighthouse Central, Harbor Beach Front Lighthouse Photographs, History and Directions, The Ultimate Guide to East Michigan Lighthouses (Publisher: Bugs Publishing LLC - July 2006). ISBN 0-9747977-1-5; ISBN 978-0-9747977-1-7.
- Pepper, Terry. "Database of Tower Heights". Seeing the Light. terrypepper.com.
- Pepper, Terry. "Database of Focal Heights". Seeing the Light. terrypepper.com.
- Pepper, Terry. "Database of Original Lenses". Seeing the Light. terrypepper.com.
- Wobser, David, Harbor Beach Light, Boatnerd.com.
- Light List, Volume VII, Great Lakes (PDF). Light List. United States Coast Guard.
- Coast Guard Station Saginaw River, 2405 Weadock Road, Essexville, MI 48732-9602 -- (989) 892-0556.
- Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society, Harbor Beach Light ARLHS USA-365
- Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society, World List of Lights (WLOL).
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13.
- Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of the United States: Michigan's Eastern Lower Peninsula". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
- Presentation of The Harbor Beach Lighthouse Preservation Society
- Interactive map on Michigan lighthouses. Detroit News.
- Wobser, David, Bar Point Shoal Lighthouse at boatnerd.com
- Pepper, Terry, Seeing the Light - Harbor Beach Lighthouse
- Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy, Harbor Beach Light.
- Michigan Lighthouse project, Harbor Beach.
- National Park Service, Maritime Heritage Program, Inventory of Historic Lights, Harbor Beach light.
- Anderson, Kraig, Lighthouse Friends, Harbor Beach Light.
- The Harbor Beach Lighthouse Preservation Society, P.O. Box 8, Harbor Beach, MI 48441.
- "Historic Light Station Information and Photography: Michigan". United States Coast Guard Historian's Office.
- Official Harbor Beach Lighthouse Preservation Society Website
- Huelse, Klaus -- Meine Leuchtturm-Seite: Leuchttürme USA auf historischen Postkarten -- Historic postcard images of U.S. lighthouses, Historic Post Card View of Harbor Beach Lighthouse.
- Interactive map, list, information for lighthouses in North and West Lake Huron.
- Map of Michigan Lighthouses on Michigan.gov website.
- Presentation of The Harbor Beach Lighthouse Preservation Society.
- Terry Pepper, Seeing the Light, Harbor Beach Light