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Plans To Replace Petoskey Pier Lighthouse

Original Style of Beacon Will Be Recreated

Petoskey Pier LighthouseEmmet County, Michigan, is fast becoming number one in lighthouse activism. No sooner have they, along with the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association, finished with the purchase, lantern room rebuild and relighting of McGulpin Point Lighthouse, than they have partnered once again with GLLKA to undertake the replacement of the Petoskey Pier Lighthouse. Why replace, when there’s already a perfectly functional light already there? Well, it’s not the original, which was swept off the pier during a Christmas Eve storm in 1924, probably similar to the one pictured at left. And Emmet County residents Carolyn and Gordon Bourland would like to see the original, historically accurate light instead.

The original lighthouse was a forty two foot tall structure shaped as a pagoda. The Bourlands, who are leading the movement, say replacing the current twenty foot structure fulfills two issues. One is a safety issue, in that having a higher light will be beneficial to marine safety. The second is more prosaic, and that is that it’s an economic issue. As many communities have found, lighthouses draw tourists. And where tourists come, so comes their money.

Petoskey - Waterfront Rainbow

In a story at the Petoskey News Review, Bourland makes it clear about the positive economic impact lighthouses have. “It amazes me how many people want to walk out to the lighthouse now. It’s a fascination that brings attention to the city.” The council agrees, and is throwing its support behind the Bourlands and GLLKA. This does not include monetary support, as the Bourlands made it clear they will be fundraising for the money on their own, through the formation of a “Friends of Petoskey Lighthouse” group.

County commissioner chairman Jim Tamlyn, said the historical commission would like to see a recreation of the lighthouse on the pier. “It’s what used to be there and we’re supportive of their endeavor,” he said. “We see groups like this all over the state taking over remote lighthouses and working on them.” Commissioner Jack Jones also concurs with the assessment of a better light, saying, “It’s near impossible to see that light on the breakwall from the other side of the bay. I’d be happy to see a taller lighthouse there with a more visible light.”

GLLKA Steps Up To Help

Old Postcard of the Petoskey LighthouseDick Moehl, president of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association, has the original drawings of the lighthouse, as well as a scaled down version. He has been in contact with the US Coast Guard headquarters in Cleveland to explain the plans. He said the replica would be a shell that matched the original design, except the structure itself would be far less complicated.

“All I want is for (the Coast Guard) to put up a pole high enough so that the light on the pier will be in the focal plain of the window of a light structure,” he said. “I don’t expect the Coast Guard to take care of the pagoda style light structure, which would be simpler than a normal lighthouse.”

Terry Pepper, Executive Director of GLLKA, confirms they will be meeting with Moran Ironworks next week to get an estimate on the cost. According to Terry, construction of the original was a steel skeleton support covered with corrugated iron. “We would likely go with something like 1/8″ or 1/4″ steel plate for the exterior skin, so that it is strong enough to withstand the waves which roll over the pier.”

Support From Other Groups

Besides the Emmet County Historical Society throwing its approval behind the project, the Little Traverse Historical Society also gives it their stamp of approval, although no financial support. Board member Lynett Johnson said they couldn’t help but be interested, since it’s “right in their front yard.” She pledged to help in other ways.

Again, the money is the issue. It’s unknown at this time how much the project will cost, and it’s estimated it will take anywhere from six to eighteen months before it’s completed. And so for now, the planning and the fundraising begins. With the backing of GLLKA, things will move fast. Anyone wanting to support them in this (and their many other efforts), please consider joining them.

Photo Credits: Winter Storm and Petoskey Waterfront Rainbow by Odalaigh. Some rights reserved.

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  1. 33 Comment(s)

  2. By Gary aka lighthousephoto on Jul 19, 2009 | Reply

    Given the power of the winter storms, which I’ve photographed many times, it’s amazing that most of the Lake Michigan pier lights have survived as long as they have!

  3. By William G. Oatiz on Aug 15, 2009 | Reply

    I spent a few years as a preteen living in Charlevoix and have been in Petosky many times. The last time I went it had been many years since I was there and I was surprised at how much the city has changed.

    It would be nice to see this light replaced with one that is more historically accurate, although I must admit I wasn’t around in 1924 and so the current light is accurate enough for me.

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