Big Sable Point Light
Big Sable Point Lighthouse
|Year first constructed||1867|
|Year first lit||1867|
|Construction||originally Cream City brick, later encased in cast iron plate|
|Tower shape||Frustum of a Cone|
|Markings / pattern||White and black tower/Black parapet & Lantern|
|Tower height||112 feet (34 m)|
|Focal height||106 feet (32 m)|
|Original lens||Third order Fresnel lens|
|Current lens||12-inch (300 mm) ML-300 Tideland Signal acrylic optic|
|Range||15 nautical miles (28 km; 17 mi)|
|Characteristic||White, fixed light. Obscured from 238° to 346°.|
|Heritage||place listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Michigan state historic site|
Big Sable Point Light Station
|Location||Big Sable Point, Ludington, Michigan|
|Area||2 acres (0.81 ha)|
|Architect||Col. Orlando M. Poe|
|MPS||U.S. Coast Guard Lighthouses and Light Stations on the Great Lakes TR|
|NRHP reference No.||83004296|
|Added to NRHP||August 04, 1983|
|Designated MSHS||May 19, 1988|
On July 28, 1866, Congress appropriated $35,000 for a new lighthouse at Big Sable Point. Approximately 933 acres (378 ha) was deeded from the State of Michigan to the U.S. at no cost and in early 1867 construction began, making it the first light station in the area.
Built in 1867, the 112-foot (34 m) tower was originally made of yellow cream brick. It has a focal plane of 106 feet (32 m). The building was made of so-called Cream City Brick. The brick deteriorated and was thereafter covered with boiler plate in 1900.
Construction materials were brought up by ships. The first road to the site was not completed until 1933.
Because the brick deteriorated from exposure to the elements, a steel plate encasement was installed in 1900 at a cost of $3,225. The yellow brick now encased in steel plate was difficult to see and a daymark was needed. Several changes to the daymark over the years were made. Currently, the tower is painted white with a black watch tower and a black band around the middle of the tower. As shown in a historic post card, it was painted red and white at one time; later to become black and white.
It was the last Great Lakes Lighthouse to get electricity and plumbing, which came in the late 1940s.
The original lens was a third order Fresnel lens, inscribed "Sautter & Co., Constructeurs." It was removed in 1985, and is now on display at the Rose Hawley Museum at White Pine Village. The lighthouse follows a design first used at New Presque Isle Light, which was also used on several other lights on the Great Lakes.
In 1986, the lighthouse station was leased to the Foundation for Behavioral Research. The foundation has worked with the Big Sable Lighthouse Association to preserve the buildings.
Lighthouse keepers were: Alonzo Hyde, Sr. (1867–1869), Alonzo W. Hyde (1869–1871), Newton Bird (1871–1873), Burr Caswell (1874–1882), Hans Hansen (1882–1887), James Rich (1887–1888), Tomas Bailey (1889–1893), George Blake (1899—1903), Samuel Gagnon (1905–1923), Joseph Kimmers (1922–1923), Leweilyn Vanatter (1923–1936), George Rogan (1936–1949), David Sauers (1949–1954), Henry Vavrina (1955–1965), Homer Meverden (1965–1968).
In the middle of the 20th Century, 1949, Big Sable was electrified. It was the last Great Lakes light to give up wicks. This paved the way for automation and the elimination of the Lighthouse keeper's job.
Buildings at the lightstation included the tower and dwelling, fog signal building, boat house, barn, three oil houses, two privy's and a Diaphone fog signal. The fog signal building fell into the lake due to erosion in 1943.
The site is the subject of constant erosion, so that keeping the foundation in place and the water away from undermining it has been a recurrent and expensive battle.
Listed as Big Sable Point Light Station in the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 as reference #83004296. It is also on the state inventory list.
A historical marker in front of the lighthouse reads:
- Called Grande Pointe au Sable by French explorers and traders, Big Sable Point was an important landmark for mariners traveling a treacherous stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline between Big Sable Point and present-day Ludington. In 1855 twelve ships wrecked in that area. Commerce linked to the burgeoning lumber industry required Big Sable Point be suitably lighted. State Senator Charles Mears pressed the legislature to ask the federal government for a light station at Big Sable. In 1866 the U.S. Congress appropriated $35,000 for a lighthouse, which was built the following year. As the lumbering era waned, steamers carrying coal foodstuffs and tourists continued to rely on the lighthouse for navigation.
- The Big Sable Point Lighthouse is one of the few Michigan lights with a tower reaching 100 feet (30 m). Completed in 1867 Big Sable's tower measured 112 feet (34 m) high. In 1900 the deteriorating brick tower was encased in steel. The keeper's dwelling, which once housed a single family, has been enlarged over the years, resulting in the present three-family residence. Indoor plumbing and heating and a diesel electric generator were added in 1953. In 1953 power lines were extended to the Point. In 1966 the tradition of light-keeping begun in 1867 by Alonzo A. Hyde and his wife Laura ended when the station was fully automated. Big Sable Point Light Station is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. 
Current status and getting there
Take state highway M-116 north from Ludington to Lakeshore Drive. Proceed north for 6.5-mile (10.5 km) to Ludington State Park. A vehicle permit is required and a fee collected. It is under the care of the Sable Point Lightkeepers Association, which was formed in 1986. The organization has been instrumental in restoring the light and associated buildings. A volunteer keeper program makes is possible for volunteers to live and work in the lighthouse for two week periods. There is a waiting list to do this. Tours are available, and events do occur (a calendar is available).
Bus transportation is available June 24, July 13 & 29, August 12 & 26th and September 23, 2017. Buses travel from the State Park Rangers House inside the State Park to the lighthouse is from 12pm to 5pm. Round trip cost is $5.00 per adult rider and $2.00 for children 12 and under. Otherwise, access requires a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) walk up the beach or hiking trail.
Big Sable Lighthouse is open daily May 8 through November 4, 2017 from 10am to 5pm. Cost to climb the tower is $5.00 for adults and $2.00 for children 12 and under. Gift shop and video room are open to all at no charge.
- Michigan Lighthouse Fund, Big Sable Point Lighthouse. Archived 2009-01-06 at the Wayback Machine
- "Historic Light Station Information and Photography: Michigan". United States Coast Guard Historian's Office. Archived from the original on 2017-05-01.
- Pepper, Terry. "Database of Tower Heights". Seeing the Light. terrypepper.com. Archived from the original on 2000-09-18.
- But see, Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy, Big Sable Point Light which claims the tower is 112 feet (34 m).
- Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy, Big Sable Point Light. Archived May 22, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
- Pepper, Terry. "Database of Focal Heights". Seeing the Light. terrypepper.com. Archived from the original on 2008-08-30.
- Tideland Signal acrylic optic, Terry Pepper, Seeing the Light.
- Light List, Volume VII, Great Lakes (PDF). Light List. United States Coast Guard.
- Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society, Big Sable Point (Lake Michigan) Light ARLHS USA-054.
- Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society, World List of Lights (WLOL).
- Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of the United States: Michigan's Western Lower Peninsula". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
- State of Michigan (2009). "Big Sable Point Light Station". Archived from the original on May 11, 2012. Retrieved June 26, 2010.
- Ludington State Park. Archived March 3, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
- Thomas A. Tag (1997) Big Sable Point Light Station, p.6. ISBN 0-9649980-3-3
- Interactive map on Michigan lighthouses. Detroit News.
- Cream City Brick, Terry Pepper, Seeing the Light. Archived October 18, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
- Big Sable Point Light official site. Archived June 15, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
- Lighthouse Central, Photographs, History, Directions and Way points for Big Sable Point Light, The Ultimate Guide to West Michigan Lighthouses by Jerry Roach (Publisher: Bugs Publishing LLC - 2005). ISBN 0-9747977-0-7.
- Thomas A. Tag (1997) Big Sable Point Light Station, p.23. ISBN 0-9649980-3-3
- Hyde, Charles K., The Northern Lights (Wayne State University Press, 1987) pp. 118, 121.
- historic post card Archived May 22, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
- black and white Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
- Huelse, Klaus. Historic postcard images of U.S. lighthouses, Historic Post Card View — "Point Sable Lighthouse". Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
- Harrison, Timothy. Big Sable, The Queen of the Lake. Archived June 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine Lighthouse Digest (Jul 1997), pp. 1-3.
- See Third Order Fresnel lens, Terry Pepper, Seeing the Light. Archived May 16, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
- Photograph, Big Sable Point Light Third Order Fresnel Lens, Rose Hawley Museum Archived June 4, 2011, at the Wayback Machine at Lighthouse Friends.
- Wobser, David and Edin Colt, boatnerd.com, Big Sable Point Light. Archived September 7, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
- Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association. Archived October 8, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
- Thomas A. Tag, Big Sable Point Light Station, Softcover (Dayton, OH: Data Image, 1997) p. 36
- Michigan Historical Marker. Archived 2012-02-11 at the Wayback Machine Archived February 11, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
- Lighthouse friends article, Big Sable Point. Archived May 8, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
- National Park Service Maritime History Project, Inventory of Historic Light Stations - Big Sable Point Lighthouse. Archived May 23, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
- Merkel, Jim Volunteers Get Inside Look at Big Sable Archived June 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine Lighthouse Digest (June, 2003).