The Mendota Light, also known as the Bete Grise light, was built on the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan to facilitate travel between Lake Superior and Lac La Belle, Michigan (an artificial canal having been made to connect the two). The original plans were laid in 1867 and the lighthouse was constructed in 1869. Only one year later, the light was decommissioned as it was found by navigators to be of no assistance (nor was there any other commercial reason to make this trip).
The tower was removed and taken to Marquette, but the keeper's house remained in place. In 1892, ships tried to use this bay for a safe harbor during a storm, and the seafarers, observing the house (at this point deserted), suggested that the harbor would be easier to find if there was a light present. By 1895, funds had been allocated to re-establish the light, but it was determined that the existing structure had deteriorated so much that it could not be used. A new structure was built using the original foundations.
In 1933 the light was automated and in 1956 it was decommissioned.
It was a private residence until 1996. The lighthouse, largely unreachable because it sits on an island, was for sale in 1996. It was sold to a person willing to conserve the light. The original fourth order Fresnel lens was found, restored and in 1998 relit. It is still in place and in use. Efforts are being made to maintain the light for the "next 100 years".
The light is now classified as an active private aid to navigation.
To view the light, travel to the Keweenaw Peninsula of Upper Michigan to the town of Bete Grise. The road ends at the Mendota Ship Canal. Take the short walk to the the Ship Canal. You will see the station boathouse across the Canal, and the Mendota Light itself a little to the east.
National Register Status: PART OF LISTING; Reference #80004840 Name of Listing: HISTORIC ENGINEERING & INDUSTRIAL SITES IN MICHIGAN TR.
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: Lighthouses on the western Great Lakes. .
- Putnam, George R., Lighthouses and Lightships of the United States, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1933).
- Splake, T. Kilgore. Superior Land Lights. Battle Creek, MI: Angst Productions, 1984.
- 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
- Aerial photos, Mendota Light, marinas.com.
- lighthousesRus - A map to the Mendota Lighthouse.
- Detroit News, Interactive map on Michigan lighthouses.
- Interactive map of lighthouses in eastern Lake Superior.
- Lighthouse Digest, Michigan Upper Peninsula lights (University of North Carolina).
- Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy, Bete Grise Light.
- Michigan lighthouse fund, Bete Grise Light.
- Michigan organizations, Bete Grise Light.
- National Park Service Haritime Heritage, Inventory of Historic Lighthouses, Bete Grise Light.
- Terry Pepper, Seeing the Light, Bete Grise Light.
- Lighthouse Central - Photographs, history, waypoints and directions to the Mendota Lighthouse.
- U.S. Coast Guard 's complete list of Michigan lights with photographs and descriptions, including Bete Grise Light.
- Volume 7, US Coast Guard Lightlist (PDF).
- Wobser, David, Bete Grise Light (Mendota) boatnerd.com.