A few facts about Middle Island's history:
Middle Island, Michigan (Harbor Lights #320):
Middle Island Light Station is located in Lake Huron, halfway between Thunder Bay Island and Presque Isle.
There are seven buildings on the island, including a light tower, Keepers Quarters, an Oil House, Tool Garage,
a Fog Horn building and two brick privies which are being restored by Middle Island Lighthouse Keeper's
Association. The conical brick tower stands 77 feet tall. The Lighthouse is white with a red band in the middle.
It's light is 78 feet above low water and can be seen for 17 miles.
As lighthouses go, Middle Island Light is "new," entering service in 1905. However, its important role to
mariners traversing the shoals that surround the course between Thunder Bay and Presque Isle on Lake
Huron cannot be overstated.
The sentinel gets its name because the island is midway between these northern Michigan landmarks. The
island had long represented a "triple-edged sword" to mariners. Marking a turning point in the course for
vessels making up and down the coast, the island's lee side also represented an excellent harbor of refuge in
which to escape Huron's fury. However surrounded with shoals with depths of less than six feet on all but its
northeast side, the refuge could be hard to find in dark of night or in the thickest weather. In fact, the area
was considered dangerous enough that the Life Saving Service built a station on the island in 1881 to help
service ships in distress in the area.
Plans and recommendations for the lighthouse began in 1896, but appropriations were slow in coming.
Congress finally approved an appropriation in 1902, and construction began on the outbuildings, keeper’s
dwelling and finally the tower. You can find many of the original plan and cost details listed on record (and
with our island history packet located on Middle Island).
Built of unpainted buff brick, the 70-ft. tower stood on a slight rise that provided its fourth order Fresnel lens
with a focal plane of 78 feet. It was officially illuminated on June 1, 1905. By 1928, the lens had been upgraded
to a third order Fresnel and the fog signal upgraded with the installation of a compressed air-powered
When the Coast Guard assumed responsibility in 1939, the tower was painted white with a horizontal black
band in the center. Sometime later, the band was painted red, as seen today.
Following automation in the late 1950s and the removal of keepers, vandals took their toll on the tower and
outbuildings over the years. A group of concerned citizens in the Alpena area formed the Middle Island
Lighthouse Keepers Association in 1992 with the goal of restoring and preserving the structures for future
The fog signal building was its first effort to convert major structures into lodging. It became the Middle Island
Keepers' Lodge, which opened for business in 2003. Operated privately, it ensures a future for this historic
The Friends of Middle Island Lighthouse, a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation, are in the process
of raising funds to restore the tower. The tower is still an active aid to navigation, and is operated by the
United States Coast Guard.
Keepers' Quarters, please use the donation button to the right of this
message. If you would like to give a donation towards any other Middle
Island project, please specify. All donations big or small are greatly
appreciated. Help us keep the history alive and the flame bright for future
generations to enjoy.