Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Grand Island Harbor Range lights

In order to guide mariners through the western entry into Munising Bay, the Lighthouse Board erected a pair of range lights on the mainland east of Bay Furnace in 1868. Known as the “Grand Island Harbor Range", the front range structure took the form of a 19 foot tall octagonal timber tower similar to this little structure erected at Eagle Harbor almost a decade later.

The Front Range structure of the Grand Island Harbor Range was identical to this one built at Eagle Harbor.
 Between 1865 and 1877 a number of identical range light stations were established around the western Great Lakes. Among others, such stations were established at Copper Harbor and Eagle Harbor on Lake Superior; Baileys Harbor on Lake Michigan and at Presque Isle on Lake Huron. In all cases but the Grand Island Harbor Range, the rear range structure consisted of a small timber frame keepers dwelling with a lantern atop its roof, of which this photo of the Baileys Harbor rear range structure is typical.

Most Rear Range structures on the western lakes were identical to this structure at Baileys Harbor on Lake Michigan  
Because of the lay of the land, the rear range light at the Grand Island Harbor Range needed to be taller than those at any of its sister stations, and rather than design a new structure from scratch, the existing plan was modified to include a taller tower and gallery. The second floor of the dwelling was also modified with dormers to provide additional living space within the roof. These modifications combined to create a noticeably more substantial structure, as shown below.

The Rear Range structure at Grand Island showing its more substantial tower and lantern
With advancements in acetylene technology and the adoption of the Sun Valve through which a light could be automatically switched on before dusk and off after dawn, it was decided to automate the Grand Island Harbor Range in 1913. Then 46 years old, the decision was made to replace the old wooden buildings with newer structures requiring less maintenance. The front range was replaced by a 26 foot skeletal iron tower with an integral acetylene storage building in its base, and the rear structure was replaced by a 64 foot tall conical steel and iron tower. This structure is still standing as shown here.

The iron and steel tower added during automation of the range in 1913

 Rather than demolishing the old Grand Island Harbor rear range structure, the decision was made to offer the building for sale, with the stipulation that it be removed from the property. The old lighthouse was thus sold, its tower and lantern removed and the entire building was moved approximately 3 ½ miles to downtown Munising, where it was placed on a new foundation and modified to serve as a private dwelling. The structure still serves as a private home at the corner of West Superior and Oak Street. While it heritage is lost to most people who pass by the building, its proud heritage is still very recognizable, as can be readily seen in the recent photo below.

The old Grand Island Range rear light as it appears in its second life today
 With changing commercial maritime traffic patterns and navigational capability, it was determined that the Grand Island Harbor Range was no longer necessary. In 1969, the light was extinguished in the rear tower, with the light on the skeleton iron tower of the former front range left illuminated, and renamed “The Bay Furnace Directional Light” This structure was itself replaced by a cylindrical “D9” tower in the mid 1980's.

The old steel and iron rear range structure still stands today behind the functioning Bay Furnace Directional Light, and while it has been erroneously referred to as the “Christmas Light,” the “End of the road rear Range” and the “Bay Furnace Rear Range Light” by various sources, you now know its true heritage. It is the old rear light tower of the Grand Island Harbor Range.

The Bay Furnace Directional light to the right & the unlighted 1913 Grand Island Rear Range to the left as seen from the water
If you take the time to walk down to the water's edge, the old concrete steps and foundation of the 1913 skeleton iron tower can still be seen in front of the D9. A closer look shows remnants of the old tower legs protruding from the concrete where they were severed with a gas torch.

This foundation is all that remains of the old 1913 skeletal iron front range light

Monday, July 30, 2012

The easy way to move heavy batteries

When the Coast Guard had two huge wet cell batteries to install at the Huron Island light station in 2006, the National Guard's offer to transport them to the island by Helicopter was doubtless welcome news. It eliminated the need to lug them up the 3/4 mile long trail from the boathouse to the lighthouse which sits atop a 150 foot cliff at the center of the island.

The Helos heading toward the lighthouse

One Helo prepares to lower the batteries

The batteries dropped, the Helos head back to the mainland
The heavy batteries in place within the dwelling
Without the help of the Helos,the crew would have had to carry the batteries up these steps, but one of the many
obstacles encountered along the trail from the dock to the lighthouse.

Rediscovering the Manistee Main Light

The original Manistee lighthouse was lighted for the first time on the opening of navigation in 1870. A year later, a huge fire swept through the endless forest burning virtually the entire town and the lighthouse. A new lighthouse was built in 1873, and appears below in a photograph taken in 1900.

The 1973 Manistee Main Light as it appeared in 1900
This real photo postcard of the the Manistee River postmarked 1906 shows the location of the Main Light in relationship to the piers and the fog signal built on the outer end of the north pier in 1893.

A Real Photo postcard of the Manistee River showing the location of the lighthouse on the north bank
No longer necessary as an aid to navigation the Manistee Main light was sold at public auction. This photograph from the August 30, 1962 edition of the Manistee News Advocate shows the old lighthouse raised on cribs in preparation for loading on a trailer for relocation to its new home in town.

A photo of the lighthouse raised on cribs in preparation for the big move in 1962
The old Manistee Main lighthouse after its relocation to the corner of West Melitzer Street and Third Avenue in 1982. At this time, the heritage of the old structure was still readily recognizable.

The Manistee Main light in 1982
 The old Manistee Main light house as it appears today. While modernized to the point that its heritage is barely recognizable, it is good to know that this slice of Great Lakes history was saved and can still still be found for those who know of its existence.

The old Manistee Main Light as it appears today