Governor Whitmer and Secretary of State Benson Announce Investment to Rehabilitate Two Lighthouses in the Upper Peninsula

Friday, March 24, 2023

Two lighthouses receive funds to focus on critical preservation initiatives, keep lights shining bright on Lake Superior

LANSING, Mich. - Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced that two historic Michigan lighthouses will make progress on long-term preservation efforts with the help of $106,000 in Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program (MLAP) grants from the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). The lighthouses receiving grants are the Rock of Ages Lighthouse and the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse, both are located in the U.P. On average, every $1 invested in land conservation leads to $4 in economic benefits for families, small businesses, and local communities.

“The historic lighthouses lining our freshwater shoreline—the longest in the world—are part of the splendor of Pure Michigan,” said Governor Whitmer. “I am proud that we are making an investment today to preserve these structures, reminding us of our past and encouraging us to move towards the light.”

“We’re proud to help Michiganders across the state preserve the historic lighthouses that beautify and enrich our state’s shorelines,” said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. “We’re making government work for everyone by providing convenient and efficient services that meet the needs of all Michiganders and our state’s historic treasures.”

“Michigan’s historic lighthouses endure harsh weather, year after year. These icons on our shorelines require constant maintenance and attention,” said Michigan’s Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Martha MacFarlane-Faes. “Our lighthouse preservation grants help repair and restore these beacons, so they can connect us with our maritime heritage for years to come.”

The 2023 MLAP grant recipients are:

Rock of Ages Lighthouse. Photo courtesy: Rock of Ages Lighthouse Preservation Society Volunteer

Rock of Ages Lighthouse Preservation Society

MLAP grant amount: $46,000
Location of nearest city: Windigo, Isle Royale National Park
Historic Resource: Rock of Ages Lighthouse
Match amount: $23,000

Use of funds: The Rock of Ages Lighthouse Preservation Society will hire a contractor to rehabilitate the 132-foot-tall lighthouse by cleaning and painting the exterior. Situated on a tiny island of rock three miles off the coast of Isle Royale, Rock of Ages Lighthouse was last painted in 1985. This is the first MLAP grant award to Rock of Ages Lighthouse Preservation Society.

“We are very excited to receive this grant from the Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program,” said Rock of Ages Lighthouse Preservation Society Executive Director David Gerth. “Cracking, missing vent covers, and heavy lichen growth on the exterior masonry of Rock of Ages Lighthouse are causing water infiltration that threatens to halt interior restoration efforts. This grant will allow us to hire a contractor to clean, repair, and paint the exterior masonry of the tower ensuring that interior restoration may continue as scheduled. This project marks a huge step toward our goal of opening the lighthouse to the public in the future.”

Keweenaw County Historical Society

Eagle Harbor Lighthouse. Photo Courtesy: Bryan Lijewski, State Historic Preservation Office

Keweenaw County Historical Society

MLAP grant amount: $60,000
Location of nearest city: Eagle Harbor
Historic Resource: Eagle Harbor Lighthouse
Match amount: $39,000

Use of funds: The Keweenaw County Historical Society will hire a contractor to rehabilitate the tower of the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse. Proposed work will include replacement of deteriorated brick and selective repointing of the tower, repairing damaged plaster on the tower interior, roof and wall water diversion, and deck and lantern room repair. Since 2000, this is the fifth MLAP grant award to Keweenaw County Historical Society.

The Keweenaw County Historical Society is very appreciative of receiving this grant award, especially since we are a nonprofit, volunteer-run organization,” said Keweenaw County Historical Society President Mel Jones. “This funding will help us preserve and maintain our 150+-year old lighthouse in a manner that is historically correct.”

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 and learning destinations.

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.


Funding for this program comes solely from the sale of specialty Save Our Lights license plates available from the Michigan Secretary of State. To date, the Michigan SHPO has awarded nearly $2.9 million in matching funds to help rehabilitate and preserve lighthouses for tourists and residents alike to explore and appreciate.

“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.”

"I would like to thank both MEDC and SHPO for their continued support of these historic lighthouses which will help maintain and preserve them into the next generation,” said State Rep. Greg Markkanen (R-Hancock).

Governor Whitmer understands the health of our economy is inextricably linked to the health of our people and our planet. She will work with anyone to protect clean air and water and face climate change head-on while creating good-paying jobs for Michiganders.

Expanding Access to Outdoor Recreation

  • Invested over $100 million in parks and public lands through DNR programming.
  • Created the Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry to grow Michigan’s outdoor industry.
  • Proposed Nature Awaits to give every 4th grader a free field trip to a state park or recreation area so that every kid can experience Pure Michigan.
  • Proposed resources to expand our outdoor recreation industry and improve state parks.

To learn more about lighthouse preservation in Michigan, visit

To learn more about the State Historic Preservation Office and the Save Our Lights license plate program, visit

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 For Pure Michigan® tourism information, your trip begins at Join the conversation on: Facebook Instagram LinkedIn, and Twitter.