harbor master

Harbor Beach Light

The Harbor Beach Lighthouse is a 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 lay 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, built in 1877. The new lighthouse was built on a timber foundation crib. It is a conical, brick structure encased in cast iron plates. At the top a round cast iron watch room supports a ten-sided, cast iron lantern. The light sits 54 feet above the harbor and can be seen for up to 20 miles out to sea. A concrete cap, partially faced with brick veneer, supports the 45-foot tower. Below the brick veneer, extending to the lake bottom is a timber cribbing filled with 100 to 300 pound of stones, which provides the added mass 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 rooms. 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 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 building, which contained equipment to operate the fog signal, but was removed when the light was automated.

Current activities

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 pleasure boats and 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 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. A fog signal is available by calling channel 79 and after keying five times, the fog signal will sound with a blast of three seconds every thirty seconds for forty-five minutes.

The Harbor Beach Lighthouse Preservation Society (HBLPS) was formed in 1984 and restoration is ongoing. The lighthouse was water-proofed, ventilated, and its floors, interior walls, and windows restored to original appearance. The Society now seeks donations of furniture consistent with the era in which the light was built to refurbish the station living quarters. The society applied for ownership through the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act. Additional information is available The Harbor Beach Lighthouse Preservation Society, P.O. Box 8, Harbor Beach, MI 48441.

Getting there

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

{| class="wikitable collapsible collapsed" width="100%" !colspan=2 style="background-color:#66ccff"| Lighthouse and Harbor Timeline |- !Date !!Event |- |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" 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 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. |- |1996||The Original Fourth Order Fresnel Lens was replaced. |- |1999||The Coast Guard restored the crib foundation. |-

External links

Bibliography and further reading

  • Bibliography on Michigan lighthouses.
  • Crompton, Samuel Willard & Michael J. Rhein, The Ultimate Book of Lighthouses (2002) ISBN 1592231020; ISBN 978-1592231027.
  • Hyde, Charles K., and Ann and John Mahan. The Northern Lights: Lighthouses of the Upper Great Lakes. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1995. ISBN 0814325548 ISBN 9780814325544.
  • Jones, Ray & Bruce Roberts, American Lighthouses (Globe Pequot, September 1, 1998, 1st Ed.) ISBN 0762703245; ISBN 978-0762703241.
  • Jones, Ray,The Lighthouse Encyclopedia, The Definitive Reference (Globe Pequot, January 1, 2004, 1st ed.) ISBN 0762727357; ISBN 978-0762727353.
  • Noble, Dennis, Lighthouses & Keepers: U. S. Lighthouse Service and Its Legacy (Annapolis: U. S. Naval Institute Press, 1997). ISBN 1557506388; ISBN 9781557506382.
  • Oleszewski, Wes, Great Lakes Lighthouses, American and Canadian: A Comprehensive Directory/Guide to Great Lakes Lighthouses, (Gwinn, Michigan: Avery Color Studios, Inc., 1998) ISBN 0-932212-98-0.
  • Penrod, John, Lighthouses of Michigan, (Berrien Center, Michigan: Penrod/Hiawatha, 1998) ISBN 9780942618785 ISBN 9781893624238.
  • Pepper, Terry ''Seeing the Light: Harbor Beach Lighthouse. .
  • Putnam, George R., Lighthouses and Lightships of the United States, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1933).
  • United States Coast Guard, Aids to Navigation, (Washington, DC: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1945).
  • United States Coast Guard, Aids to Navigation Historical Bibliography.
  • Wagner, John L. Beacons Shining in the Night: The Lighthouses of Michigan. Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University. .
  • Wagner, John L., Michigan Lighthouses: An Aerial Photographic Perspective, (East Lansing, Michigan: John L. Wagner, 1998) ISBN 1880311011 ISBN 9781880311011.
  • Wargin, Ed, Legends of Light: A Michigan Lighthouse Portfolio (Ann Arbor Media Group, 2006). ISBN 9781587262517.
  • Wright, Larry and Wright, Patricia, Great Lakes Lighthouses Encyclopedia Hardback (Erin: Boston Mills Press, 2006) ISBN 1550463993


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