Ontonagon Light

Coordinates: 46°52′25″N 89°19′7″W / 46.87361°N 89.31861°W / 46.87361; -89.31861
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Ontonagon Light
LocationOff MI 64, Ontonagon, Michigan
Coordinates46°52′25″N 89°19′7″W / 46.87361°N 89.31861°W / 46.87361; -89.31861
Height34 feet (10 m)
Markingsyellow brick with black lantern
HeritageNational Register of Historic Places listed place, Michigan state historic site Edit this on Wikidata
First lit1853
Lens5th-order Fresnel lens[1]
Ontonagon Lighthouse
Arealess than one acre
Built byW.F. Chittenden
NRHP reference No.75000960[2]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPOctober 7, 1975
Designated MSHSMay 17, 1973[3]

The Ontonagon Light is a lighthouse located off M-64 near Ontonagon, Michigan. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975[2] and designated a Michigan State Historic Site in 1973.[3]


As Ontonagon became a more important Lake Superior port, it was realized that a navigational aid to shipping would be required.[4] Thus, in 1847, funds were appropriated to purchase land on which to site a lighthouse, and in 1850 a further $5000 was appropriated to build the structure.[4] Construction began in 1852 and was completed in 1853. The station was first lit with Lewis lamps, which were replaced in 1857 with a fifth-order Fresnel lens at a cost of $500.[4]

However, by 1866, the original wooden lighthouse had badly deteriorated, and plans were made to replace it.[4] A new brick structure was completed in 1867 by Detroit contractor W.F. Chittenden[3] at a cost of $14000,[5] and the lens was moved from the older wooden structure, which was then demolished.[4] In 1889, an iron galley was installed around the light to make window-washing easier.[5] In 1890, a kitchen addition to the keeper's quarters was constructed.[4]

Use of the light was discontinued in 1963, and it was officially closed in January 1964.[4] The building was leased to the last light keeper, and served as his family's private residence for a few years.[3] The Fresnel lens and keepers' logs were given to the Ontonagon County Historical Society.[5] It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, and in 2003, ownership of the structure was transferred to the Ontonagon County Historical Society.[4] The society undertook a complete restoration of the structure,[4] and conducts tours for visitors.[6]


The Ontonagon light is a rectangular, 112-story cream-colored brick keeper's house on a stone foundation,[3] integral with a three-story, 34-foot (10 m) tall tower.[4] This design was used, with some variations, on a number of Michigan lighthouses, including the Bois Blanc Light, Copper Harbor Light, Grand Island North Light, Granite Island Lighthouse, Gull Rock Light Station, Huron Island Light, Marquette Harbor Light, and the Sand Point Light.[7] The tower is topped with a polygonal iron beacon.[3] A spiral stair within the tower provides access to the light, as well as to the basement and upper floor of the main dwelling.[4] A single-story kitchen addition is attached opposite the tower.[4] Three bays of windows are on each side of the structure, with double-hung six-over-six sash windows with stone lintels and sills on the first floor.[7] The structures gable roof has a single hipped dormer on each side.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d "Historic Light Station Information and Photography: Michigan". United States Coast Guard Historian's Office. Archived from the original on 2017-05-01.
  2. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Ontonagon Lighthouse". Michigan State Housing Development Authority: Historic Sites Online. Archived from the original on June 12, 2012. Retrieved December 20, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Terry Pepper. "Ontonagon Light". Seeing the Light. Retrieved December 20, 2011.
  5. ^ a b c Mary K. Shegan. "Ontonagon Lighthouse Essential to U.S. Development". ighthouse Digest. No. July 2000.
  6. ^ "The Ontonagon Lighthouse". The Ontonagon County Historical Society. Archived from the original on January 11, 2012. Retrieved December 20, 2011.
  7. ^ a b c "Lighthouse". Ontonagon County, MI. Archived from the original on December 4, 2011. Retrieved December 21, 2011.

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