I found a photo of the Edmond Fitzgerald during my research and realized that the little Frying Pan lighthouse, though decommissioned, would still have been on the island the same sunny late fall day that the Fitzgerald sailed its way north on the St. Mary’s River to pick up iron ore from Duluth, Mn. It did not make the down bound trip, in Nov. 1975, as the ship sank in a November Gail on the return trip in Lake Superior.
The island sits in the St. Mary’s River about 2 miles up steam from Detour Village. It was named for a frying pan found by an early explorer when he first went ashore. In October 1882, a small 18’ white steel conical form light was erected with a 6th order Fresnel lens. When Pipe Island lighthouse was built in 1884, the two lights created range lights that could be lined up to enter or leave Detour Passage safely. The keeper's lodgings was a bunk in an uninsulated small shed. After years of freezing, the accommodations improved, In 1890, a larger oil house that included a living space was built. A landing crib, a pier, a plank walkway and a boat house was added in 1901.
A new light was built just south of the lighthouse in 1935 atop a nearby 700’ coal elevator. in 1937, the light was decommissioned. Now the island is marked by a flashing green light atop a pole. But the little lighthouse has survived. In 1988, it was removed and restored. It now sits outside the Coast Guard station on Waters St. in Sault St. Marie, Mi. Be sure to visit it when you go to the Soo locks.
For more history go to www.lighthousefriends.com. For lighthouse prints, gifts and cards go to my website: www.michiganlighthouseart.com
“Pointe Aux Bec Scies” translated to Pointe of Sawbill Ducks was the original name given by French explorers. The point marked the southern entrance to the Manitou Passage. The 52’ tall light was activated in 1858 with an attached two story dwelling. It was fitted with a Fourth Order Fresnel Lens. The light has been barricaded with steel concrete bunkers and a large concrete collar to fight the constant erosion by Lake Michigan waves and winds. A life saving station , fog building and other upgrades were made over the years. The light was automated in 1983 and the lens removed.
The sight served as a private residence for Coast Guard families until 1996. The light and grounds is leased to the Friends of Pt. Betsie Lighthouse. Much restoration has been done by the group and the Fourth Order Lens has been restored to the light. The group now opens the light to the public and has a two room apartment that can be rented. For information go to www.pointbetsie.org For more history go to www.lighthousefriends.com For a print and cards go to my website: www.michiganlighthouseart.com
This was one of my favorite Michigan lights to paint. The light is often covered by the angry waves of Lake Superior and covered in ice as winter deepens. It is said that because of the ice layer, they left an upper window unlocked so they can get into the tower in the spring
It is isolated in Lake Superior about 45 miles from Marquette and 25 miles from shore atop a rock shoal known as the “Pinnacle of Doom” .jutting up from deep water in the midst of the shipping lanes of ore boats from the Kewenaw Peninsula. Many ships found their bottoms ripped out in bad weather without knowing where the hazard was located. Captain Charles C. Stannard of the American Trading Co. was given credit for marking the hazard in 1832, but it took until July 4, 1882 for the very large 2nd order Fresnel Lens to be lit and mark the hazard permanently.
The lighthouse was one of the most remote, difficult and expensive lights to be built. it is very similar to the Spectacle Reef light in northern Lake Huron and much of the equipment from that light was used in the construction of this one to place the pre-cut 30 ton granite stone sections quarried in Ohio.
The light is said to be haunted by one, William Maxwell, the head keeper killed in a huge propane blast on Father’s Day 1961 and whose body was not recovered. The blast was so large that is was said to register as a 4 on the Richter scale in Canada. The light’s crew lived on the deck for 3 days before a ship could get to them.
The light is now automated. The Fresnel Lens disappeared for a while, but was recovered and is now in the Marquette Museum for viewing. For more details go to www.lighthousefriends.com and for a print or cards go to www.michiganlighthouseart.com/gallery
Grosse Ile North Channel Front and Rear Range Lts. 1906 Detroit River, Michigan. Watercolor by Anita Saviko
I have taken artistic license with this painting as no photograph exists showing the front and rear range lights with the keeper’s quarters. From my research this is how they would have looked in 1906. I really enjoy solving these types of mysteries.
In 1894, range lights were established on Grosse Ise to mark the downbound shipping lanes. The front range light was described as a six sided wooden lantern room on top of a four sided wooden pyramid, no photos seem to exist of it.
In 1906, the current front range light was built. It is an octagon 50’ white wooden tower on a concrete pier. The old 1894 front range light it replaced was removed and disappeared. An old photo of 1906 shows the new Victorian style 2 1/2 story keepers quarters with the upgraded rear range light beside it. The rear range light stood until 1940, just the keeper’s quarters still exists as a private residence. However, if you look closely you can solve the mystery of where the original 1894 front range light wound up. It would appear that it was placed on top of the old rear range light base to give it more height. What do you think?
The interior of the front range light is tongue and groove varnished pine with an impressive circular wooden staircase. The light may be viewed by appointment with the Grosse Ile Historical Society. For more details go to www.lighthousefriends.com and for prints and cards go to my website: www.michiganlighthouseart.com
Michigan Artist, Anita Saviko, Her goal is to research the histories and paint all Michigan lighthouses/range lights past and present, a total of spprox. 150 lights.