515. Little Sable Lighthouse

Little Sable Lighthouse

Alone on a beach on the eastern side of Lake Michigan, the light tower of Little Sable Point Lighthouse appears out of place, almost surreal. Save for the top, the conical brick tower resembles a brick smokestack from a long ago abandoned factory. The catwalk, windows and roof reveal it was a beacon for mariners, with a history worth knowing. But the dwellings and other buildings long since have disappeared, robbing the light of the grandeur of other lights.

 Nonetheless, a sweet heritage remains at the graceful 115-foot-tall structure. Little Sable is located half way between the Michigan- Indiana border and the Straits of Mackinac. Built because of increased commercial boat traffic that Lake Michigan was experiencing in the mid 1800’s (pause) after the schooner Pride ran aground in 1866 and local merchants lobbied Congress for a light in this area. The Light was designed by Col. Orlando Poe with walls five feet thick at the base, tapering to a thickness of two feet at its uppermost. The tower still houses a Third order Fresnel lens manufactured in France. The lens was rotated through the use of a clockwork mechanism powered by a fifty- pound weight which was suspended in a vertical slot in the tower wall. The light was visible from 19 miles away. The tower had other structures including a one and half story dwelling located behind and connected to the tower. There was a barn, a 360-gallon oil storage tank, a brick lean to for wood storage and a boat landing and boat house. In 1954 after electricity was extended to the station, the station no longer had to be manned so the Coast Guard dismantled the buildings and auctioned off the materials to the highest bidders.

Today the lighthouse is owned by the State of Michigan, managed and kept open to the public by Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association.

For more information, visit our web site at www.splka.org