Beaver Island Head Light

Photo Courtesy of Charles Dawley from Flickr (Some rights reserved)

Beaver Island Chamber Visitor Guide

Beaver Island Beacon History

Location: South end of Beaver Island
Date Built: 1851
Type of Structure: Brick tower, iron lantern room, keepers house attached via covered walk.
Operational: No
Date Automated:
Deactivated: 1962
Height: 46’
Foghorn: added in 1888
Builder: John McReynolds
Appropriation: $5,000
Foundation Material: Reinforced concrete
Construction Material: brick
Tower Shape: conical
Relationship to Other Structure: Attached
Original Lens: 14 Lewis lamps and reflectors
Characteristics: Fixed white
Range: 16 miles after 1858 upgrade.
Status: decommissioned

Historical Information:

  • As early as the 1830’s there were requests for a light marking the southern tip of Beaver Island. Mariners would pass between Beaver Island and North Fox Island to the south and the light would help navigate the area. It was not until September of 1850 that $5,000 was approved for the construction of the light.
  • In November of 1850 a 158-acre tract of Federal land was set aside for the lighthouse which was completed in 1851.
  • Conditions were rough and the light deteriorated rather quickly so a significant amount of repairs were required 1858. The lens was upgraded to a revolving fourth order Fresnel with a flash every 90 seconds. Range was 16 miles.
  • In 1866 the current Keeper’s quarters were constructed.
  • In 1868 the light was threatened by forest fires. Keeper’s had complained about leaking cisterns, but nothing was done about it until the fires almost destroyed the light due to lack of adequate water supply.
  • In 1886 the boat ramp had to be repaired because it had been shifted by heavy ice on the lake the preceding winter. However, the repairs didn’t last long as a particularly severe storm destroyed the boat house and boat ramps. Replacements were built in 1887.
  • In 1888 it was determined that increase in traffic would benefit from a fog signal being placed on the island. An additional 10 acres was acquired and $5,500.00 appropriated for the project. The siren used at Skillagallee light station were transferred to Beaver Head Light and placed in service in December of 1890.
  • To handle the additional chores of the fog signal a second assistant keeper was hired and the Keeper’s dwelling was enlarged to accommodate the additional personnel.
  • The fog building was replaced in 1915 due to extensive deterioration of the original building.
  • In 1917 the illuminating apparatus was upgraded to an incandescent oil vapor system. The characteristic changed to a fixed white light with single flash every 20 seconds.
  • In 1933 the fog signal was upgraded to an air “Tyfon” powered by diesel engine.
  • In 1938 the illuminating apparatus was again changed – this time to an electric arc lamp.
  • 1939 the fog signal was replaced by an air diaphragm horn emitting two blasts every 30 seconds.
  • In 1953 the station received its first telephone.
  • In 1962 the light was decommissioned. The lens was removed and is on display in the keeper’s dwelling.
  • In 1975 ownership of the light and surrounding 64 acres of land were turned over to the Charlevoix Public School System who used the restoration of the light as an educational program.
  • In 1978 summer work programs were begun and various restoration projects took place. In December of 1978 the light was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
  • In 2003 a grant was obtained to restore the fog building which was deteriorating

The above was researched and drafted by Bill Simms, a volunteer through the Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Light House Society and Terry Pepper

Content Courtesy of the US Coast Guard Historian's Office