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New Presque Isle Lighthouse celebrates sesquicentennial

Courtesy Photo This photo by Eugene Cambre shows when the cupola of the New Presque Isle Lighthouse was painted last summer in preparation for the 150th anniversary for the construction of the lighthouse.

Presque Isle –The New Presque Isle Lighthouse has stood as a guiding light for Lake Huron’s mariners over the last 150 years.

The lighthouse was constructed in 1870 on the tip of North Point to replace the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse, which is a smaller lighthouse that marks the entrance to Presque Isle Harbor.

“I think Presque Isle is very lucky to have two historic lighthouses,” Vicky Wright, president of the Presque Isle Township Museum Society, said. “There’s so much history about these lights.”

The new lighthouse was designed by engineers Orlando M. Poe and William Raynolds. It is one of nine “Poe lights” on the Great Lakes, but the only one on Lake Huron. Wright said the design is easily recognizable in the four windows below the lantern room and the functional wrought-iron brackets supporting the gallery.

The new lighthouse is 113 feet tall, making it the tallest lighthouse of the Great Lakes that the public is able to climb. A 138-step spiral staircase takes visitors to the top of the lighthouse.

Courtesy Photo The New Presque Isle Lighthouse is pictured here at sunset in this photo by Eugene Cambre.

Wright said the lighthouse used to have a third-order Fresnel lens, named after French physicist Augustin-Jean Fresnel, which could be seen more than 25 miles out in Lake Huron. The order of the lens refers to how big it is, with sixth order the smallest and first order the largest, according to the Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy.

However, that lens was replaced with an airplane beacon, which can also be seen about 25 miles out on the lake. The restored Fresnel lens is housed in the keeper’s house.

The old lighthouse was decommissioned in 1871, the same year the new lighthouse was up and running for the shipping season.

Two range lights were also constructed in 1870 to continue to guide ships into the Presque Isle Harbor. Those lights are also celebrating their 150th anniversaries this year.

Wright said Presque Isle Township became owner of the old and new lighthouses, as well as one of two range lights, in the mid-1990s.

Courtesy Photo The New Presque Isle Lighthouse is pictured here in 1913.

In preparation for the 150th anniversary, Wright said the new lighthouse’s cupola was sanded and repainted. The tower was also repainted, and the cedar shake shingles over the keeper’s house are being replaced this year.

The repairs were paid for out of a restoration fund established by Presque Isle Township and the Presque Isle Township Museum Society.

“What I want people to know is that these lighthouses, hopefully, will be in here for generations to come, and the township is doing a great job of maintaining (them),” she said.

A weeklong celebration was originally planned for the public, but, because of the coronavirus pandemic, officials decided to close the lighthouses and the keeper’s house for 2020, Wright said.

Instead, Presque Isle Township and the township Museum Society are encouraging the public to remain engaged by participating in a photo contest as well as a shoreline cleanup.

Courtesy Photo An aerial view of the New Presque Isle Lighthouse from 1962.

The public has until Aug. 22 to submit their best photos of the new lighthouse or the keeper’s house as part of the Museum Society’s contest. The shoreline cleanup event is planned for 9 a.m. until noon on Sept. 26, with check-in at the foghorn pavilion.

Guidelines for the contest and more information about the shoreline cleanup can be found online at presqueislelighthouses.org.

The public can visit the New Presque Isle Lighthouse Park at 4500 E. Grand Lake Road, where there are hiking trails and places to picnic. The Old Presque Isle Lighthouse is located just a mile down the peninsula at 5295 E. Grand Lake Road.

Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or cnelson@thealpenanews.com.

News Photo by Crystal Nelson The New Presque Isle Lighthouse as it stands today.

News Photo by Crystal Nelson Vicky Wright, president of the Presque Isle Township Museum Society, talks about the history of the New Presque Isle Lighthouse and the keeper’s house on Aug. 5 at the New Presque Isle Lighthouse Park.

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