Round Island Lighthouse

A Welcoming Sight Since May 15, 1896

Round Island Lighthouse is an important Great Lakes Lighthouse since the waters around the Straits of Mackinac are full of dangerous reefs, unpredictable seas due to the quickly changing weather patterns of northern Michigan and the strong churning currents with Lake Huron and Lake Michigan converging to form the Straits.

Put On Your Calendar the Annual Round Island Lighthouse Tour...

to read more about this tour that's scheduled for July 9, 2011 click here!

History of Round Island Lighthouse

Due to the increasing need to have the Straits of Mackinac safe for commercial boating vessels the U.S. Congress in 1894 appropriated $15,000 for the construction of a lighthouse to be located on a shoal off Round Island.

The Round Island Lighthouse was constructed on a forty-foot square concrete pier with a three-story red brick building. The first Round Island Lighthouse Keeper was William Marshall who exhibited the first beacon of light on May 15, 1896. He resigned from the position on February 11, 1907.

There were seven Lighthouse Keepers in total. The last Keeper was Bert Proctor who lived and worked on the lighthouse from 1938 to 1947.

It was equipped with a Fresnel lens. The lamp would show a constant white light with a flash of red every twenty seconds. It was a difficult and tedious work being a lighthouse keeper and most had between two to three assistants.

The first floor were where the boiler and compressors for the steam-powered fog horn were positioned. The second floor was the Keepers' kitchen, living room and small bedroom. The third floor was where the assistants slept and a service room which provided access to the tower and lantern room by way of a ladder.

When the lantern was automated in 1924 there was no need for the Lighthouse Keeper or assistants to live at the lighthouse.

When the Coast Guard took over the responsibility of all the Nation's lighthouses in 1939, the automated Passage Light was built at the harbor breakwater on Mackinac Island, Michigan.

The Lighthouse was abandoned and the care of the building stopped all together.

On October 20, 1972 a violent storm caused severe damage with one lower corner of the lighthouse being stripped away. The once proud lighthouse was subjected to vandals and even more disrepair.

Mackinac Island Residents Feared The Worst

Mackinac Island residents feared that the building might actually collapse and they began the Mackinac Island Society. They raised funds and received a grant from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation in 1977 for its restoration.

Thanks to the hard work of this dedicated group of people the exterior of this important Mackinac Island landmark is in good condition. It still serves as an active guide for all sizes of boats and freighters passing through the Straits of Mackinac.

"There is a stillness, so serene, a calmness that moves my spirit. Impressed upon my soul is a lighthouse." Valerie M. Boggess

The Round Island Lighthouse is a beautiful landmark that visitors and residents enjoy viewing from all parts of the Island. It reminds people how its guiding beacon has been a welcoming sight to countless sailors and visitors since 1896.

Insider Tip: Shepler's Ferry Service out of Mackinac City offers wonderful lighthouse cruises during the summer and early fall. Their "Eastbound Tour" passes by Bois Blanc Island, Poe Reef and Round Island with a wonderful view of all. It's a fun trip! They have several other cruises if you enjoy Great Lakes Lighthouses.

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