Historic Michigan lighthouses awarded $126,667 in lighthouse preservation grants

Friday, March 26, 2021

Three lighthouses around the state receive funds to make repairs, keep shining bright on Michigan’s coasts

North Manitou Light (photo courtesy of David McWilliam, North Manitou Light Keepers


LANSING, MICH. – Three historic Michigan lighthouses will receive repairs and restoration with the help of $126,667 in Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program (MLAP) grants from the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced today.

“Dozens of lighthouses stand sentinel along Michigan’s shorelines and represent an important piece of Michigan’s maritime history. And with the summer travel season fast approaching, lighthouses offer a unique opportunity for tourists to discover and explore off-the-beaten-path destinations,” said Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Martha MacFarlane-Faes. “Through our lighthouse preservation program, we can help restore these beacons, preserving their beauty and keeping them shining bright for years to come.”

The Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program was established to assist in the preservation, rehabilitation, and protection of historic lighthouses in Michigan. To qualify for an MLAP grant, applicants must have at least 50 percent of the MLAP grant amount in matching funds.

The 2021 MLAP grant recipients are:

Crisp Point Light Historical Society
MLAP grant amount: $60,000
Location of nearest city: Newberry
Historic resource: Crisp Point Lighthouse
Match amount: $70,000
Use of funds: The Crisp Point Light Historical Society will hire a contractor to make exterior renovations to this remote and secluded lighthouse located on the shore of Lake Superior, including removal of existing paint, replacement of deteriorating mortar, and brick, and applying appropriate coatings to the exterior.

North Manitou Light Keepers, Inc.
MLAP grant amount: $50,000
Historic resource: North Manitou Shoal Lighthouse
Location of nearest city: Leland Township
Match amount: $30,000
Use of funds: The North Manitou Light Keepers will hire a consultant to rehabilitate the watch deck of this offshore lighthouse known as “the Crib,” including removing non-historic steel plates, repairing holes and cracks in the deck, making improvements to drainage, sealing, and flashing of seams and joints, and resurfacing the entire watch deck.

St. Clair County Parks and Recreation
MLAP grant amount: $16,667
Historic resource: Fort Gratiot Lighthouse
Location of nearest city: Port Huron
Match amount: $8,333
Use of funds: St. Clair County Parks and Recreation will hire a consultant to rehabilitate the watch and lantern rooms of Michigan’s oldest lighthouse, including repairs to the interior and exterior metalwork, painting, caulking, and installing new glass in window openings.

“We are very excited and grateful for this grant, which allows us to replace old decking and stop water intrusion and structural damage to the North Manitou Shoal Light, also called ‘the Crib.’ It’s a fantastic feeling knowing that our friends, neighbors and lighthouse enthusiasts who support the ‘Save Our Lights’ program are working with us every time they purchase or renew their Michigan lighthouse license plates,” said North Manitou Light Keepers Board Member Dave McWilliams. “Since 2016, North Manitou Light Keepers have cleaned and painted the Crib and restored its original windows and lantern glass. This grant is a critical step toward our overall mission to restore the lighthouse, make it accessible to the public for visits and stays, honor Michigan’s maritime history, and protect the beauty of the Great Lakes. We are honored and grateful to receive this second grant and look forward to collaborating with the SHPO staff on this important project.”

Funding for this program comes solely from the sale of specialty Save Our Lights license plates available at all Secretary of State branch offices. To date, SHPO has awarded nearly $2.7 million in matching funds to help rehabilitate and preserve lighthouses for tourists and residents alike to explore and appreciate. To learn more about lighthouse preservation in Michigan, visit http://www.michigan.gov/saveourlights.

“Thanks to those residents who pay a little extra for a lighthouse license plate, we are able to award grants that help preserve these iconic Michigan structures for the long term,” MacFarlane-Faes said.

With more than 120 lighthouses standing sentinel along Michigan’s 3,200 miles of shoreline, Michigan has more lighthouses than any other state in the country. Established in 2000 when many lighthouses were transferred out of federal ownership, the Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program is intended to help lighthouse stewards restore and repair their historic lighthouses, which in turn helps keep them open and an active part of local economies around the state as tourist destinations.

“Michigan’s iconic lighthouses offer something for every traveler – from lighthouse enthusiasts, to history buffs, to curious tourists looking to get out there and experience one of Pure Michigan’s hidden gems,” said Dave Lorenz, vice president of Travel Michigan, a division of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the state’s official agency for the promotion of tourism. “Programs like the Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program are extremely important in supporting our tourism efforts across the state, and we’re pleased that these three one-of-a-kind coastal treasures will soon be restored for all to enjoy.”

Many of Michigan’s lighthouses are open for tours, if only seasonally. Others are home to bed and breakfast lodging or museums. Many lighthouse beacons are still active aids to navigation, but the buildings themselves are owned and maintained by a nonprofit organization or local unit of government. A few are privately owned or in remote locations, inviting admiration from afar. Travelers interested in exploring Michigan’s lighthouses can learn more by visiting here. To watch a video on Michigan’s lighthouses, visit here.

About the State Historic Preservation Office
Focused on the historic preservation of culturally or archaeologically significant sites throughout the state, Michigan's State Historic Preservation Office’s main function is to provide technical assistance to local communities in their efforts to identify, evaluate, designate, interpret and protect Michigan’s historic above- and below-ground resources. SHPO also administers an incentives program that includes federal tax credits and pass-through grants available to certified local governments.

To learn more about the State Historic Preservation Office and the Save Our Lights license plate program, visit https://www.miplace.org/historic-preservation/.

About Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is the state’s marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, job awareness and community development with the focus on growing Michigan’s economy. For more information on the MEDC and our initiatives, visit www.MichiganBusiness.org. For Pure Michigan® tourism information, your trip begins at www.michigan.org. Join the conversation on: Facebook Instagram LinkedIn, and Twitter.