Sand Hills Lighthouse

Sand Hills is a formerly active lighthouse on the shore of Lake Superior converted into a bed and breakfast. It is located in Ahmeek in Keweenaw County Michigan in the Keweenaw Peninsula, which is the northern part of the Upper Peninsula. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.


Eagle River Light was the only lighthouse between the Keweenaw Waterway and Eagle Harbor Light. With the end of the copper boom in the 1870s the Eagle River, Michigan harbor started to decay. "By the 1890’s, it seemed the only ship coming into the harbor was the lighthouse service tender." It was recommended to build a new lighthouse at Sand Hills where most of the lake traffic was traveling and to decommission Eagle River.

Many years after the decommissioning of the Eagle River Light, Sand Hills Lighthouse was commissioned in 1917, as a response to a number of instances of ships that had run aground on the nearby "Sawtooth" reef -- which lies just below the surface—in the previous few years. It is about halfway between Eagle Harbor Light and Ontonagon, Michigan.

The Lighthouse was completed in May 1919 and was in service for 20 years as a manned aid to navigation. complete with 3 keepers.

It is "the twin" of the ill-fated 1940 Scotch Cap Light on Alaska's Unimak Island. In 1945, Anthony Petit was assigned the lighthouse keeper to the Scotch Cap Light heading up a five-man crew. All were killed on April 1, 1946 when a massive tsunami struck the station, destroying it. This was the worst disaster to ever befall a land-based Coast Guard light station. The United States Coast Guard has named a buoy tender USCGC Anthony Petit based in Ketchikan, Alaska in his honor.

The site includes an oil house, garage, barracks building (1916, and used in World War II, and a concrete breakwater (1917).

The station originally had a Fourth Order bullseye lens lighted by an oil vapor lamp, which was visible for eleven miles.

In 1939, the Coast Guard assumed responsibility for the Lighthouse and automated its use, eliminating the need for keepers.

In 1942, it was converted to a wartime Coast Guard training facility, housing and schooling roughly 200 trainees at a time. In 1943 it was closed as a training location and reverted to being simply a lighthouse.

It continued as an active lighthouse until 1954, when it was decommissioned, in part due to improvements in weather forecasting and the adoption of radar.

It stayed empty and idle through the next few years, finally being liquidated and sold at public auction in 1958 for $26,000 to H. Donald Bliss, an insurance agent from the Detroit area.

In 1961, it was sold again to Bill Frabotta, a Detroit photographer and artist who used the fog station as a summer cottage. In 1992, Mr. Frabotta began a comprehensive 3 year rebuilding project, and along with his wife, Mary, converted the entire facility into a premier Bed and Breakfast Inn. Mary Frabotta plays the 106 year old parlor grand piano each evening for guests. It was selected by American Historic Inns as one of the ten most romantic inns in America" and rated in the top 15 Bed and Breakfasts with the Best Gourmet Breakfast by The Bed and Breakfast Journal.

In 2001 the fog signal building was restored.

The original fourth order Fresnel lens is on display at Dossin Great Lakes Museum in Detroit. However a similar lens is on display in the lighthouse. The original stucco fog signal building was restored in 2001.

Getting there

Take Highway 41 to Ahmeek, Michigan. Turn left at the first street and follow the signs to Five Mile Point Road. 7.5 miles up Five Mile Point Road is the Sand Hills Lighthouse is located 7.5 miles up Five Mile Point Road. On the left there is "a nice sign at the entrance".

The lighthouse operates as the Sand Hills Lighthouse Inn. The Inn is a totally "smoke free," adult environment with no pets and 3000 ft of private Lake Superior shoreline.

The tower's original fourth-order Fresnel lens is on display at the Great Lakes Maritime Institute in Detroit. The lighthouse does have a similar lens on display.

The lighthouse is privately owned. Grounds open, dwelling/tower open for overnight guests.