Big Bay Point Light

Big Bay Point Light

Infobox Lighthouse

caption = Undated USCG photo
location = Big Bay, Michigan
coordinates =
yearlit = 1896
automated = 1945
yeardeactivated = 1961 (Now Private Aid to Navigation)
foundation =
construction = Brick
shape = Square
marking = red brick with white lantern
height = Tower - convert|64|ft|m
elevation = Focal plane - convert|108|ft|m [ [ Terry Pepper, List of focal Planes.] ]
lens = Third order Fresnel Lens
currentlens =
intensity =
range = convert|11|mi|km [ [ Volume 7, US Coast Guard Lightlist (PDF).] ]
characteristic =
The Big Bay Point Light is a lighthouse which stands on a tall bluff over rocky point [ [ Wobser, David, Big Bay Point Light at] ] halfway between Marquette and the Keweenaw Portage Entry in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Today it is the only operational lighthouse with a bed and breakfast. It is reputed to be haunted, and the novel and movie "Anatomy of a Murder" were inspired by a murder at the lighthouse.

History of the light

The establishment of a station at Big Bay Point was recommended to the Lighthouse board in 1882 as follows: "The point occupies a position midway between Granite Island and Huron Islands, the distance in each case being 15 to 18 miles. These two lights are invisible from each other and the intervening stretch is unlighted. A light and fog signal would be a protection to steamers passing between these points. Quite a number of vessels have in past years been wrecked on Big Bay Point". [ [ Terry Pepper, Seeing The Light - Big Bay Point Lighthouse ] ]

The lighthouse was deactivated and sold to private owners. Thereafter, the Fresnel lens was recovered and reinstalled in 1990.

Effective November 12, 1988, the site is listed on the National Inventory of Historic Places, Reference #88001837 Name of Listing: BIG BAY POINT LIGHT STATION. It is also listed on the state list. [ [ Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy, Big Bay Point Light.] ]

The light was built in 1896 [ [ Chronology of Michigan lighthouses, Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University.] ] at a cost of $25,000. It was automated in 1944. In 1961 the lighthouse was sold to John Pick for $40,000. Dr. Pick had it restored and furnished with antiques. It has been a bed and breakfast since 1986.cite book
coauthors = Larry Wright, Patricia Wright | title =Bright Lights, Dark Nights | publisher =The Boston Mills Press | date =1999 | location =Erin, Ontario
pages =79 | id = ISBN 1-55046-312-8
] Access to the grounds and tours of the light (and fog horn building) are available. [ [ Hunt's Guide to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Big Bay Point Light tours.] ]

Because of its picturesque location, form and color it is often the subject of photographs, and drawings. [ [ Mulgrew, Marilyn, Drawing of Big Bay Point Light.] ]

Big Bay Point Light is one of 149 lighthouses in Michigan. Michigan has more lighthouses than any other state. See Lighthouses in the United States.

Life at the light

The keeper's house consists of 18 rooms in a 52' x 52' two story brick building. The attached tower is tall enough to make the light 105' above Lake Superior. Originally, this housed the keeper (and his family) and an assistant keeper with family as well. As the country moved to 8 hour shifts, a frame building with outhouse was built at the bottom of the hill for a second assistant keeper.

At the time the light was built the only way to get to and from the light was by water. Those who worked at Big Bay Point were truly isolated. The keepers' wives not only had to do the usual housekeeping and food preparation, but also schooling of any children in residence.

Other structures on the site include two cisterns, an oil house, a garage, 2 brick outhouses, a dock. a well house [ [ Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy, Big Bay Point Light.] ] and a brick fog signal building, which houses the original Fresnel lens for display. [ [ Wobser, David, Big Bay Point Light at] ]

The light tower has intricate fortress style brick work near its apex, supporting an octagonal lantern and iron watch room. The light was automated in 1941. The station was sold in 1961 after a new light was erected on a steel tower on the grounds. [ [ Wobser, David, Big Bay Point Light at] ]

Notable deaths at the light

There have been at least two notable deaths associated with the lighthouse, which have given rise to the belief that the light is haunted, and have inspired the book and movie "Anatomy of a Murder".

Red-haired William Prior, who was the first lighthouse keeper at Big Bay point, was devastated when his son, Edward, died of a leg injury. He vanished in 1901 and his body was found almost a year and a half later hanging from a tree about a mile from the lighthouse. He may have committed suicide, or have been murdered. His red-haired ghost has been seen in mirrors, and doors have a tendency to bang in the middle of the night.

The second incident took place in 1951, when the assistant's house was used to train an anti-aircraft battalion. An army officer murdered the owner of a local tavern, inspiring "Anatomy of a Murder".


External links

* [ Aerial photos,]
* [ Details about the bed-and breakfast at Big Bay Point Light, including a virtual tour.]
* [ Complete list of keepers at Terry Pepper, Seeing the Light.]
* [ Detroit News, Interactive map on Michigan lighthouses.]
* [ Lighthouse Central, Big Bay Point Light "The Ultimate Guide to Upper Michigan Lighthouses" by Jerry Roach] .]
* [ Map of Lake Superior Lights.]
* [ Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy, Big Bay Point Light.]
* [ Michigan Organizations, Big Bay Point Light.]
* National Park Service [ Maritime Heritage Project, Inventory of Historic Lighthouses, Big Bay Point Light.]
* [ Pictures, waypoints and directions to the Lighthouse.]
* United States Coast Guard's [ complete list of Michigan lights, with photographs and descriptions, including Big Bay Point Light.]
* [ Volume 7, US Coast Guard Lightlist (PDF).]
* [ Wobser, David, Big Bay Point Light at]

Bibliography and further reading

* [ Bibliography on Michigan lighthouses.]
* Crompton, Samuel Willard & Michael J. Rhein, "The Ultimate Book of Lighthouses" (2002) ISBN 1592231020; ISBN 978-1592231027.
* Hyde, Charles K., and Ann and John Mahan. "The Northern Lights: Lighthouses of the Upper Great Lakes." Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1995. ISBN 0814325548 ISBN 9780814325544.
* Jones, Ray & Bruce Roberts, "American Lighthouses" (Globe Pequot, September 1, 1998, 1st Ed.) ISBN 0762703245; ISBN 978-0762703241.
* Jones, Ray,"The Lighthouse Encyclopedia, The Definitive Reference" (Globe Pequot, January 1, 2004, 1st ed.) ISBN 0762727357; ISBN 978-0762727353.
* Noble, Dennis, "Lighthouses & Keepers: U. S. Lighthouse Service and Its Legacy" (Annapolis: U. S. Naval Institute Press, 1997). ISBN 1557506388; ISBN 9781557506382.
* Oleszewski, Wes, "Great Lakes Lighthouses, American and Canadian: A Comprehensive Directory/Guide to Great Lakes Lighthouses", (Gwinn, Michigan: Avery Color Studios, Inc., 1998) ISBN 0-932212-98-0.
* Penrod, John, "Lighthouses of Michigan", (Berrien Center, Michigan: Penrod/Hiawatha, 1998) ISBN 9780942618785 ISBN 9781893624238.
* Splake, T. Kilgore. "Superior Land Lights". Battle Creek, MI: Angst Productions, 1984.
* Stonehouse, Frederick. "Marquette Shipwrecks". Marquette, MI: Harboridge Press, 1974.
* Putnam, George R., "Lighthouses and Lightships of the United States", (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1933).
* United States Coast Guard, "Aids to Navigation", (Washington, DC: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1945).
* [ United States Coast Guard, "Aids to Navigation Historical Bibliography".]
* Wagner, John L., "Michigan Lighthouses: An Aerial Photographic Perspective", (East Lansing, Michigan: John L. Wagner, 1998) ISBN 1880311011 ISBN 9781880311011.
* Wargin, Ed, "Legends of Light: A Michigan Lighthouse Portfolio" (Ann Arbor Media Group, 2006). ISBN 9781587262517.
* Wright, Larry and Wright, Patricia, "Great Lakes Lighthouses Encyclopedia" Hardback (Erin: Boston Mills Press, 2006) ISBN 1550463993.

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