McGulpin Point Light

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McGulpin Point Light
McGulpin Point Light is located in Michigan
McGulpin Point Light
Location Straits of Mackinac, Michigan
Coordinates 45°47′13″N 84°46′20″W / 45.78690°N 84.7722°W / 45.78690; -84.7722Coordinates: 45°47′13″N 84°46′20″W / 45.78690°N 84.7722°W / 45.78690; -84.7722
Year first constructed 1869
Year first lit 1869, 2009
Deactivated 1906
Construction Cream City brick
Tower shape Octagonal
Markings / pattern natural
Height 38 feet (12 m)[1]
Focal height 102 feet (31 m)[2]
Original lens 3.5 order Fresnel lens
Current lens Replaced
ARLHS number USA-487[3][4]

McGulpin Point Light was constructed as a navigational aid through the Straits of Mackinac. The light began operation in 1869, making it one of the oldest surviving lighthouses in the Straits. The light is located on McGulpin Point, approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) west of Fort Michilimackinac.


Design and operation[edit]

The McGulpin Point Light, a true lighthouse with a light tower and attached lighthouse keeper's living quarters, was completed by the United States Lighthouse Board in 1869 at a cost of $20,000. The living quarters were built as a vernacular 1​12-story brick structure. The lighthouse operated during the Great Lakes navigation seasons from 1869 until 1906.

The design was so successful that the Lighthouse Board chose to use this 1868 design in the construction of Eagle Harbor Light in 1871; White River Light in 1875; and Sand Island Light in 1881.[5] It is a "mirror image of the design" used at Chambers Island Light and Eagle Bluff Light in the "Death's Door" area. The design is sometimes called "Norman Gothic" style[6]

James Davenport was the only lighthouse keeper at this light, and served for 27 years.[7] Correspondence files in the National Archives in Washington show that Davenport made weekly trips through the snow to the lighthouse to report on its condition to the District Inspector in Milwaukee. Perhaps more importantly, these letters also show that he may have played a critical role in the opening of navigation every spring by reporting weekly, and sometimes even more frequently, on ice conditions in the Straits. Because Davenport was the only Straits keeper to submit such frequent reports, it would appear that the Inspector used these reports to gain an understanding as to when navigation would be open throughout the lakes.


In 1906, the McGulpin Point Light was deactivated and privatized due to the Lighthouse Board's judgment that the nearby Old Mackinac Point Light was performing an adequate job of marking the Straits of Mackinac.[8] At some point after deactivation, the lighthouse tower's lantern room was removed, and the building passed into private ownership. The building then entered service as a private residence.[9][10]

In 2005, the lighthouse and adjoining 11.5 acres (47,000 m2) were placed on the market for an asking price of $1.75 million by the Peppler family. In early 2008, the price was $974,900. In June 2008. the governing board of Emmet County voted to purchase the McGulpin Point Lighthouse and 11.5 acres (4.7 ha) of surrounding lakefront property, including 336 feet (102 m) of Lake Michigan footage, and some adjacent property for visitor parking, for $720,000.[11][12]

The county also allocated $25,000 for signs, plaques, a flagpole, and promotional materials to advertise and announce the lighthouse as a new historic resource of the Straits of Mackinac region. With the assistance of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association and private donors, Emmet County authorities had the vanished lantern room rebuilt so that the McGulpin Point Lighthouse could resume its function as a lighthouse. In April 2009, a "replica lantern room, fabricated by Moran Iron Works in Onaway, Michigan, was placed atop" the light, and a lantern was erected in the lantern room. The McGulpin Point Light was ceremonially relighted on May 30, 2009.[13][14]

Approximately 1,200 celebrants attended the May 2009 festival and relighting ceremony. An invocation by Frank Ettawageshik, of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, was followed by a "stirring performance by four Native American drummers." The official relighting was switched on by United States Senator Debbie Stabenow and James Tamlyn, Emmet County Board of Commissioners chairman.[13][15]

Current status[edit]

As of 2009, the McGulpin Point Lighthouse was not yet listed on the National Register of Historic Places; nor was it listed on the state inventory.[16]

As of 2009, the McGulpin lighthouse was staffed in summer by unpaid volunteers. No admission fee is charged, but donations are accepted. Admittance to the lighthouse and tower includes access to the original light tower and replica lantern room atop the original tower.

It was also possible as of 2009 to do a seaplane tour of the Mackinac Straits to see the lights in the area.[17]

The 2009 McGulpin Point Light lantern, a single-flash white light with a duration of 3.0 seconds, can be seen by mariners in the Straits of Mackinac.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pepper, Terry. "Database of Tower Heights". Seeing the Light. Archived from the original on 2000-09-18. 
  2. ^ Pepper, Terry. "Database of Focal Heights". Seeing the Light. Archived from the original on 2008-08-30. 
  3. ^ Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society, McGulpins Point (Lake Michigan) Light, ARLHS USA-487.
  4. ^ Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society, World List of Lights (WLOL).
  5. ^ Terry Pepper, Seeing the Light, Sand Island Light.
  6. ^ Moel, Richard L., of the Great Lakes Lightkeepers Association, McGulpin Point Light at
  7. ^ Lighthouse Central, Photographs, History, Directions and Way points for McGulpin Point Light, The Ultimate Guide to West Michigan Lighthouses by Jerry Roach (Publisher: Bugs Publishing LLC - 2005). ISBN 0-9747977-0-7.
  8. ^ Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy, McGulpin Point Light.
  9. ^ Terry Pepper, Seeing the Light, McGulpin Point Lighthouse.
  10. ^ "McGulpin Point Light". Retrieved 2008-06-30. 
  11. ^ Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of the United States: Michigan's Western Lower Peninsula". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 
  12. ^ "Gingras, Paul "Lighthouse To Become Museum"". St. Ignace News. Retrieved 2008-06-30. 
  13. ^ a b Anderson, Kraig, Lighthouse friends, McGulpin Point Lighthouse.
  14. ^ Straits of Mackinac Lighthouses, New McGulpin's Point Lighthouse Museum.
  15. ^ "Beacon Lit Over Straits". St. Ignace News. Retrieved 2009-06-09. 
  16. ^ National Park Service Maritime Heritage, Inventory of McGulpin's Point Lighthouse.
  17. ^ Stoke, Keith, A seaplane tour of the Straits.

Further reading[edit]

  • Brisson, Steven C. (Mackinac State Historic Parks chief curator). Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse: A History & Pictorial Souvenir (1/29/2008).
  • "A Tour of the Lights of the Straits." Michigan History 70 (Sep/Oct 1986), pp. 17–29.

External links[edit]