McGulpin Point Light

McGulpin Point Light was constructed as a navigational aid through the Straits of Mackinac. The light began operation in 1869, making it one of the oldest surviving lighthouses in the Straits. The light is located on McGulpin Point, approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) west of Fort Michilimackinac.

Design and operation

The McGulpin Point Light, a true lighthouse with a light tower and attached lighthouse keeper's living quarters, was completed by the United States Lighthouse Board in 1869 at a cost of $20,000. The living quarters were built as a vernacular 1½-story brick structure. The lighthouse operated during the Great Lakes navigation seasons from 1869 until 1906.

The design was so successful that the Lighthouse Board chose to use this 1868 design in the construction of Eagle Harbor Light in 1871; White River Light in 1875; and Sand Island Light in 1881. It is a "mirror image of the design" used at Chambers Island Light and Eagle Bluff Light in the "Death's Door" area. The design is sometimes called "Norman Gothic" style

James Davenport was the only lighthouse keeper at this light, and served for 27 years.


In 1906, the McGulpin Point Light was deactivated and privatized due to the Lighthouse Board's judgment that the nearby Old Mackinac Point Light was performing an adequate job of marking the Straits of Mackinac. At some point after deactivation, the lighthouse tower's lantern room was removed, and the building passed into private ownership. The building then entered service as a private residence.

In 2005, the Lighthouse and adjoining 11.5 acres (47,000 m2) were placed on the market for an asking price of $1.75 million by the Peppler family. In early 2008, the price was $974,900. In June 2008. the governing board of Emmet County voted to purchase the McGulpin Point Lighthouse and 11.5 acres (4.5 hectares) of surrounding lakefront property, including 336 feet (100 m) of Lake Michigan footage, and some adjacent property for visitor parking, for $720,000.

The county also allocated $25,000 for signs, plaques, a flagpole, and promotional materials to advertise and announce the lighthouse as a new historic resource of the Straits of Mackinac region. With the assistance of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association and private donors, Emmet County authorities had the vanished lantern room rebuilt so that the McGulpin Point Lighthouse could resume its function as a lighthouse. In April 2009, a "replica lantern room, fabricated by Moran Iron Works in Onaway, Michigan, was placed atop" the light, and a lantern was erected in the lantern room. The McGulpin Point Light was ceremonially relighted on May 30, 2009.

Approximately 1,200 celebrants attended the May 2009 festival and relighting ceremony. An invocation by Frank Ettawageshik, of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, was followed by a "stirring performance by four Native American drummers." The official relighting was switched on by United States Senator Debbie Stabenow and James Tamlyn, Emmet County Board of Commissioners chairman.

Current status

As of 2009, the McGulpin Point Lighthouse was not yet listed on the National Register of Historic Places; nor was it listed on the state inventory.

As of 2009, the McGulpin lighthouse was staffed in summer by unpaid volunteers. No admission fee is charged, but donations are accepted. Admittance to the lighthouse and tower includes access to the original light tower and replica lantern room atop the original tower.

It was also possible as of 2009 to do a seaplane tour of the Mackinac Straits to see the lights in the area.

The 2009 McGulpin Point Light lantern, a single-flash white light with a duration of 3.0 seconds, can be seen by mariners in the Straits of Mackinac.

Specialized further reading
  • Brisson, Steven C. (Mackinac State Historic Parks chief curator). Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse: A History & Pictorial Souvenir (1/29/2008).
  • "A Tour of the Lights of the Straits." Michigan History 70 (Sep/Oct 1986), pp. 17–29.