Granite Island

Granite Island is a 2½ acre island in Lake Superior located about 12 miles (19 km) northwest of Marquette in the Upper Peninsula of the U.S. state of Michigan. Posted upon it is the Granite Island Lighthouse, also known as Granite Island Light Station, and is "one of the oldest surviving lighthouses on Lake Superior,"

Geography

The island is granite rock that rises nearly perpendicularly to 60 feet (18 m) above the surface of Lake Superior, surrounded by deep water. The Native Americans called it to Na-Be-Quon Island. That apparently meant something like 'vessel'. They called a steam ship an "ishcoda nabequon." which was roughly translated as 'fire vessel.'

Navigational aid

On March 2, 1867, Congress appropriated $20,000 for construction of the lighthouse on the island. In 1868, spring brought the arrival of the lighthouse tender Haze, which landed a construction crew and building supplies. Flattening the top of the island to provide a foundation was difficult and required blasting. Davits were installed, as there was originally no plan for a dock. After a lengthy delay, a fog signal was installed. Life on the island was difficult, and did entail loss of life.

Because it was positioned near the busy shipping lanes of the mid-19th century, a lighthouse was built on Granite Island in 1868 by the U.S. Lighthouse Board and commissioned in 1869.

The Lighthouse keeper's dwelling and the square tower attached to it are built of cut stone with white limestone decorations on the corners and windows. The 1½-story dwelling shares its design with lighthouses found on Gull Rock and Huron Islands Lighthouse as well as the Marquette Harbor Light. There is an existing Fog Signal Building, which was constructed in 1910 to replace the one originally built in 1879. It is made of structural steel and is a bell tower. The fog bell was the one from the light at Thunder Bay Island Light, and was removed. in 1939.

Lighthouse keepers and assistant keepers operated Granite Island Light until 1937 when the facility was automated and the living quarters were abandoned. Aids to navigation consisted of a 4th order Fresnel lens and a fog bell tower. The focal height is 89 feet (27 m). At one time it had a red flash every 90 seconds.

Private ownership

Modern navigation moved shipping lanes away from the island and the light, and farther out into Lake Superior. This tended to make the Coast Guard view it as "surplus," and it was put up for private sale. The sale in fact helped precipitate a later reaction by the U.S. Congress, which enacted a preference for selling such facilities to communities and charitable organizations under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000, which was sponsored by Michigan Senator Carl Levin and passed in 2000. Nevertheless, this island's sale and its results have advocates.

Granite Island and the lighthouse were purchased by Scott and Martine Holman in 1999 from the U.S. Coast Guard. The facilities underwent a three year restoration process at large expense, and which has inured to the public good. The house was completely gutted and rebuilt, with waste being boated out and materials bought in. This is a challenging place to reach and live upon – they have to transport all of their water in, for example; composting toilets must be used, so not many visitors are welcomed. The web site, www.graniteisland.com, has live camera feeds, history, videos of the restoration process and photographs and discussion of its ecology and geology. The lighthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

Current status

Despite its remoteness, and because of its picturesque location, form and color it is often the subject of photographs, and drawings.

Although the island is privately owned, an automated aid to navigation on a gray steel tower (with a 96 feet (29 m) focal plane) and a range of 10 miles (16 km) is maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. Its characteristic is a white flash every 6 seconds.

Granite Island Light is one of more than 150 past and present lighthouses in Michigan. Michigan has more lighthouses than any other state. See Lighthouses in the United States.

The highest recorded wind speed on the island was 143 miles (230 km) per hour on January 18, 2003.

Best views of this light are from the water. The privately owned island and light are closed to the public.

Building Activity

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