Big Sable Point Light Station, photo taken 1998
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Big Sable Point Light Station
Lake Michigan at Big Sable Point, north of Ludington State Park, Ludington vicinity - Mason County
Other Names Grande Pointe au Sable Light Station
Property Type lighthouse
Historic Use DEFENSE/coast guard facility
Current Use DOMESTIC
Style Other
Architect/Builder United States Coast Guard
Narrative Description The Grand Point au Sable Light Station (Big Sable Point Light Station) is located on the Lake Michigan shoreline, two miles from Ludington State Park. The complex consists of a conical brick tower, encased in black and white steel-encased plates, and a keeper's residence. The tower, which stands one hundred twelve feet to the top of the ventilator ball, is nineteen feet, two inches in diameter at the base, and thirteen feet, four inches in diameter at the parapet. It is surmounted by a round watch room and a ten-sided, cast iron lantern, with an inscribed diameter of eight feet, nine inches. Three of the lantern panels facing the land are blocked. The lantern houses a Third Order Fresnel lens bearing the inscription "Sautter and Co., Constructeurs." The light tower is connected by a covered passage to the keeper's residence, a two-story, gable-roofed, brick rectangular building, built to house two keepers and their families.
Statement of Significance The Lighthouse Board noted in 1865 that Grand Point au Sable was "the most salient point on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan that remained unlighted and unobserved, and that. . . the interests of commerce demanded that it be suitably lighted." Congress appropriated funds for the project in July 1866 and construction was completed the following year, with the light first exhibited on November 1, 1867. The conical brick tower was threatened with beach erosion within two years after it was built, but a long-term problem was the deterioration of the brickwork. The tower was repointed in 1880, but the problem was not permanently solved until 1900, when the entire tower up to the watchroom was encased in steel plates, and the space between the plates and the brickwork was filled with concrete. The watchroom was similarly encased in 1905. Big Sable Point Light Station is now used as a conference center.
Marker Name Big Sable Point Lighthouse
Marker Text BIG SABLE POINT LIGHTHOUSE 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 that 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 light-house, 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. SIDE TWO The Big Sable Point Lighthouse is one of the few Michigan lights with a tower reaching 100 feet. Completed in 1867, Big Sable's tower measures 112 feet high. In 1902 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 electic generator were added in 1949. In 1953 power lines were extended to the Point. In 1968 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.
Period of Significance 1866-1900
Significant Date(s) 1867-1905
Registry Type(s) 05/02/2000 Marker erected
08/04/1983 National Register listed
05/19/1988 State Register listed
Site ID# P24178