Last week when I was traveling in the Upper Peninsula and Straits of Mackinac, I discovered a lighthouse in Mackinaw City, Michigan I had not seen before.
Look for the signs on Central Avenue as you head west out of town or you might miss it; the lighthouse can’t be seen from the road.
Like many other Michiganders, visiting lighthouses is a favorite pastime for me. With over 3,000 miles of shoreline, Michigan is the state with the most lighthouses in the United States.
Unfortunately, the McGulpin Point Lighthouse wasn’t open; it’s closed for the season.
But that didn’t stop me from exploring the grounds and learning about its history.
History of McGulpin Point Lighthouse
Built in 1869 to help guide boats through the Straits of Mackinac, the McGulpin Point Lighthouse operated for over 35 years.
The lighthouse architecture is “Norman Gothic,” built of Cream City brick from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The tower is double-walled and sits on the northwest corner of the attached living quarters. The design was so successful it was used in the construction of five other lighthouses, including three in Michigan.
The lighthouse had three light keepers:
- Charles Louisignau (1869 to 1875)
- Thomas P. Dunn (1875 to 1879)
- James Davenport (1879 to 1906)
I discovered why the lighthouse didn’t need to be so tall.
The focal plane from the light is 102 feet above the lake due to the hill where the lighthouse stands.
After the Old Mackinac Point light and fog signal station was constructed in 1892, the Lighthouse Board decided the McGulpin Point Lighthouse was no longer needed.
On December 15, 1906 light keeper James Davenport extinguished the McGulpin Point Light.
The Light Shines Again
In 1913, the lighthouse was sold to private owners.
After almost 100 years of private ownership, Emmet County purchased the property in 2008 to expand recreational opportunities. The county begin restoring the McGulpin Point Lighthouse to its 1890’s appearance.
On May 30, 2009, the light was relit and again shines across the Straits of Mackinac.
Planning a Return Trip
Snow covered the ground, but I could tell the property and lighthouse are well-maintained. Outdoor signs and displays share the history of the area. You can also learn about shipwrecks in the the Straits of Mackinac.
Admission is free and docents provide tours of the lighthouse.
I’m planning to return later this year to climb the stairs and get a view of the area and the Mackinac Bridge. The December holiday events sound like fun, with horse-drawn carriage rides, crafts, and choir performances.