As the shipping season drew to a close in the Great Lakes region, Michigan’s early lighthouse keepers and their families settled into winter and began planning for the holiday season. While these lighthouses welcome thousands of visitors today during the peak of summer and into the fall, things are much quieter in the winter months.
Yet, on the first Saturday in December, a handful open their doors and share a unique glimpse at how keeper families celebrated Christmas and the arrival of the new year.
McGulpin Point Lighthouse was constructed on the outskirts of Mackinaw City, along the shores of Lake Michigan, in the late 1860s. Captain James Davenport served as the last keeper, leaving in 1906 when the lighthouse was decommissioned. Climbing to the top of the tower offers 360 views of the Straits of Mackinac and the Mackinac Bridge.
French for “almost an island,” Presque Isle is a peninsula that juts out into Lake Huron between Alpena and Rogers City. The 1870 Presque Isle Light Station complex is part of a 99-acre township park comprised of three historic buildings — including the 109-foot-tall tower and two keeper’s residences. Garrity Hall, named after one of the area’s most noted family of keepers, is the setting for the fourth annual Christmas at the Lighthouse.
Located 2.5 miles southeast of East Tawas, the Tawas Point Lighthouse is a highlight of the Tawas Point State Park. Step back in time as you visit this 1876 lighthouse, decorated with garland, wreaths and a period-themed Christmas tree. Take a hayride through the park, sip on warm cider or hot chocolate and visit the gift shop to find the perfect present for someone special.
With its red, white and green exterior color scheme, Grand Traverse Lighthouse — at the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula in Northport — makes the perfect Christmas lighthouse destination. Drawing inspiration from the book “‘The Way it Was’ Memories of My Childhood at Grand Traverse Lighthouse” by Bette McCormick Olli — daughter of former keeper James McCormick — volunteers dressed in period costumes offer tours of this 1858 lighthouse all decorated for the holidays. See stockings hung from the fireplace mantle, listen to carols played on the antique organ, decorate ornaments and visit with Santa. Reservations are required by calling (231)-386-7196. A small admission is charged ($4 for adults and $2 for children), in addition to the Michigan State Park entrance fee.
Merriness & Light
Christmas at the Lighthouse celebrations are planned on Saturday, Dec. 2 at the following Michigan lighthouses:
Grand Traverse Lighthouse, Northport
McGulpin Point Lighthouse, Mackinaw City
Presque Isle Lighthouse, Presque Isle
Tawas Point Lighthouse, East Tawas