ESCANABA, Mich. (WZMQ) – One of Escanaba’s most historic landmarks is open for the season.
Escanaba residents likely drive by the Sand Point Lighthouse often. However, without stopping inside, they could be missing out on a lot of local history.
The lighthouse was built in the mid-1860s, according to Delta County Historical Society President Charles Lindquist.
“It stayed as the lighthouse for Escanaba and our harbor here until the end of the 1930s,” said Lindquist.
In 1868, the light was turned on for the first time by lighthouse keeper Mary Terry. Terry is notable for taking on the role of keeper when her husband died shortly before the lighthouse opened, as well as for being one of the few female lighthouse keepers in the region.
Terry lost her life in a fire in 1886. after tending to the lighthouse for 18 years.
“The fire department couldn’t or didn’t get in until the next morning, where they found her body in the oil room,” Lindquist explained. “She did a good job right until the time that that fire occurred and she died.”
After Terry’s death, a number of families lived in the lighthouse. That ended in 1939, when the Coast Guard put a crib light in the lake.
“By that time, there was a lot of other lights in the Escanaba area, and it was sometimes difficult for boats coming in to distinguish the lighthouse light from other lights in the community,” said Lindquist.
The Coast Guard then used the property to house service members and their families.
“They tore down the tower of the lighthouse, they removed the lantern room, and they turned it into just a regular building,” Lindquist said.
In the 1980s, the Coast Guard no longer needed the property for housing. The Coast Guard planned to tear it down, until the Delta County Historical Society stepped in.
“One guy on the board said, ‘We’ve got to do what we can to save that lighthouse…even bring it back the way it was when it looked like a lighthouse should,'” recalls Lindquist.
The Historical Society could not pay for such a massive project itself, and board members were concerned about where the funding would come from.
“That guy said, ‘People in this community will respond when they see we need help,’ and they did,” said Lindquist.
In addition to the community’s generosity, the Historical Society received assistance from state grants. Finally, the lighthouse was brought back to its original form around 1990.
“The state said, ‘We gave you that money with one condition–you’ve got to be open for people to see it sometimes,'” said Lindquist. “We’ve done that ever since.”
Tourists now come from all over the country to see the historic lighthouse, as well as to enjoy the view of Lake Michigan and Escanaba from the top.
The Sand Point Lighthouse is open to guests daily now through Labor Day from 11 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. A day pass for the lighthouse and Historical Society Museum costs $3.00 for adults, $1.00 for children, and $5.00 for families.
Tune in to WZMQ 19 News on Tuesday, June 6, at 6:00 p.m. to learn about more local history on display at the Delta County Historical Society Museum.