Monday, January 11, 2010
Heading to Lake Michigan
My first lighthouse design for 2010 is of the station at White River, on the western shore of Michigan, where at this time of year it's very white, indeed!
In the mid-1800s, a number of sawmills began cropping up at the mouth of White River, joining White Lake to Lake Michigan, to take advantage of the extensive forest in the area. Soon ships loaded with lumber for Chicago and Milwaukee amassed in the channel, and the frequency of wrecks grew. Congress appropriated funds for a white pyramidal tower to be constructed of wood on a short pier overlooking the channel. In 1872 William Robinson became its first keeper.
This first lighthouse proved insufficient to handle increasing ship traffic, so a second shore-based light station--shown here-- was built in 1875 with Keeper Robinson helping out in all phases of construction. The foundation was formed of native limestone blocks with walls constructed of yellow Michigan brick. Robinson and his wife Sarah moved into the new keeper's house attached to the tower, where they proceeded to raise 13 children!
Despite the presence of two lighthouses, shipwrecks still plagued the area and the Lighthouse Service blamed the nature of the light signature. Adjustments to the beacon were made in 1892, 1901, 1902 and 1912. After 47 years of faithful service, Keeper Robinson died in 1919 at the age of 87, the oldest active keeper in service at the time of his death. Yet it wasn't until five years later that the newer lighthouse and keeper's house first received electrical power.
The old pierhead lighthouse was replaced in 1930 by a skeletal steel structure and the newer lighthouse was decommissioned in 1960. Purchased in 1966 by Fruitland Township, it was reopened in 1970 as a maritime museum, where its Fresnel lens is still displayed today.