Wisconsin Historical Society

Property Record


Architecture and History Inventory
S POINT MICHIGAN ISLAND | Property Record | Wisconsin Historical Society
Reference Number:2486
Township/Village:La Pointe
Unincorporated Community:
Quarter Section:
Quarter/Quarter Section:
Year Built:1857
Survey Date:1975
Historic Use:light house
Architectural Style:Other Vernacular
Structural System:
Wall Material:Stone - Unspecified
Other Buildings On Site:
Demolished Date:
National/State Register Listing Name: Apostle Islands Lighthouses
National Register Listing Date:3/8/1977 12:00:00 AM
State Register Listing Date:1/1/1989 12:00:00 AM
National Register Multiple Property Name:Apostle Island Lighthouse Thematic Group
Additional Information:A 'site file' exists for this property. It contains additional information such as correspondence, newspaper clippings, or historical information. It is a public record and may be viewed in person at the Wisconsin Historical Society, Division of Historic Preservation. CIRCULAR-PLAN LIGHT TOWER ATTACHED TO HOUSE. GABLED ROOF DORMERS. HOUSES: A BRICK VERNACULAR BUNGALOW, BRICK SIDE-GABLED, AND WOOD SIDE-GABLED. TALL SKELETAL LIGHT TOWER WAS BUILT IN 1880 AND MOVED TO THIS SITE IN 1929. HABS WI-317.

For a time after the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, the Great Lakes became the nation’s foremost transportation system. These waterways connected the Atlantic Coast with the Middle West. Ships carried grain, lumber, and coal to eastern cities and returned with manufactured goods. This transportation system reached its fullest development in 1855 with the opening of the St. Mary’s Falls Ship Canal at Sault Ste. Marie, linking Lake Superior with the lower lakes. One result of these developments was a mining boom in the Mesabi and Gobegic ranges around Lake Superior. In turn, the extraction of vast iron, copper, and coal deposits enlarged the Great Lakes shipping industry.

Prerequisite to this shipping boom was the development of a navigation system, including lighthouses to guide ships to harbor. On Lake Superior--which had 91 lights by 1900--it was important to mark harbor entrances and dangerous shoals, reefs, points, and islands. The Michigan Island Light, built in 1857, became the second navigational aid on the Apostle Islands archipelago. The light helped mark two channels for ships headed westward into Bayfield and Ashland. Visitors to Michigan Island discover a remote, wooded site where two lighthouses cluster on the southeastern shore, roughly 90 feet above the lake. Each reflects a different era in design, though both are built of stuccoed and whitewashed stone. The older one combines the light with a simple Keeper’s Dwelling, common for the mid-nineteenth century. The conical light tower attached to one corner of the cottage extends 129 feet above the lake, terminating with a conical lantern surrounded by a railed walkway. A board-and-batten workshop and a privy complete this station.

In 1930, the old tower was retired and its light removed to a taller, 102-foot steel pyramidal structure, about one hundred feet away. Constructed in 1869, it originally stood on the Delaware River near Philadelphia. Its original Fresnel lens is now on display in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Visitor Center in Bayfield. Inside its hexagonal framework stands a diminutive classical cottage, which looks even smaller because the metal skeleton towers above it. Tuscan pilasters support a classical pediment at the entry. (The pediment bears the date 1880; some historians speculate that this structure was relocated from another site.)

Covenant/Easement: From 7/18/1990 to 7/18/2005. A 'covenant file' exists for this property. It may contain additional information such as photos, drawings and correspondence. It is a public record and may be viewed in person at the Wisconsin Historical Society, State Historic Preservation Office.
Bibliographic References:Buildings of Wisconsin manuscript.
Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory, Division of Historic Preservation, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin

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