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Holland Harbor Lighthouse Vandalized

Thousands of Dollars In Damage

Holland Harbor LighthouseWestern Michigan’s iconic lighthouse, Holland Harbor, also known familiarly as “Big Red,” was vandalized over October 7 and 8. Using a construction ladder to climb in and break out a window, the perpetrators discovered red and white paint and dumped it starting in the basement boiler room, tracking it up the stairs and splattering it everywhere, all the way to the lantern room.

Besides the paint damage, a light at the top was broken, and a $20,000 display on loan to the Holland Harbor Lighthouse Commission from the Holland Museum was demolished. The vandals also tore off flag holders, and left scratch marks. Damage is estimated at thousands of dollars, without even figuring in the man hours needed to take care of the mess.

A video has been posted at the WWMT TV website, which shows the damage. For those viewing in email, here is a direct link to the story with the video, but be warned. For lighthouse lovers, it’s very disheartening.

Just Kids Being Mischievous?

The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department believes the damage was done by juveniles. “Just based upon my experience in law enforcement, it looks to me like it’s kids,” said Lt. Mark Bennett of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department, “it’s just kids being mischievous.”


“It’s quite surprising to us,” said John Gronberg of the Holland Harbor Lighthouse Commission, “this is the first instance, not the first instance of a break-in, but it is the first instance of damage associated with a break-in.”

The Lighthouse Commission has said it doesn’t want to prosecute, it just wants restitution. Well, fortunately, the decision to prosecute is not necessarily in their hands. And there would be no enforcement of restitution if there isn’t a criminal prosecution. And taking it to civil court would be too costly.


These juveniles, need to be found and held accountable. And not with a mere slap on the wrist. Breaking into the lighthouse, which has happened in the past, is one thing, but the amount of malicious destruction of property seen in the video puts it in a whole different light. If they’re allowed to get away with this, then who knows what they’ll do next time?


No Leads, But Lots of Clues

Although the sheriff’s department has no suspects as of this writing, the perpetrators did leave some very obvious clues…their footprints. And of course, the deputies will be following up on this. And if they are kids, as seems to be believed, it will be hard for them to stay silent about it. Hopefully someone will overhear them and report it to the authorities.

The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department is requesting your help in this. If you have any knowledge about what happened, please get in touch with them at the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department tip line 616-738-4687. Or you can contact Silent Observer at 616-392-4443.

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  1. 111 Comment(s)

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

    Prosecution would be appropriate, with the juveniles who did it being required to do public service and their parents paying for the repairs and cleanup of the lighthouse. The “they were just being kids” justification is a crock as far as I’m concerned.

  3. By Finn on Oct 22, 2009 | Reply

    Some kind of action needs to be taken as this is not ok, there does not seem to be any reason for it other than maliceous boredom. if they are not talked to then they will carry on ruining beautiful buildings

  4. By Vege on Oct 23, 2009 | Reply

    I think it would be better if we can improve security to avoid these kind of actions again.

  5. By Jeremy on Oct 23, 2009 | Reply

    This is very, very sad. It’s bad enough that lighthouses are so vulnerable to harsh weather and seas, but when people become the enemy, that makes preservation even more daunting. My heart goes out to the Holland Harbor Historical Lighthouse Commission.

  6. By Sue Clark on Oct 26, 2009 | Reply

    This is becoming more prevalent. And that’s what’s so sad. I cannot stand to see any historic building destroyed, but I truly cannot conceive why lighthouses are being targeted. I wish I knew the answer.

  7. By Lorna Bubble Shooter on Nov 11, 2009 | Reply

    I went to that wonderful place two years ago and it was magic. I love lighthouses, they are places of peace and silence…and watching that video makes me that people are just barbarous and do not understand how precious some places are…

  8. By Medytacyjna on Feb 12, 2010 | Reply

    Why that’s pretty awful. How could they do such thing

  9. By Amega Products on Feb 23, 2010 | Reply

    What’s the point of doing vandalism? Sometimes people don’t even appreciate the beauty of a lighthouse and other structures.

  10. By Ursola on Oct 5, 2011 | Reply

    Thank you for posting ! What the sense of vandalism ? Or they think it’s a work of art ? They must be punished .. Poor people . :sad:

  11. By v.j.w. on Jan 18, 2012 | Reply

    A criminal act performed by inspiring criminals……

  12. By Fotovoltaika on Apr 15, 2012 | Reply

    I agree with you Vege

  13. By Garage Door Replacement Panels on Jun 27, 2012 | Reply

    Who even thought of vandalizing this lighthouse anyway? Mischief!

  14. By Garage Door Replacement Panels on Jun 27, 2012 | Reply

    If only i can arrest the one who vandalized this i will.. they are destroying a work of art

  15. By Andie on Jun 27, 2012 | Reply

    They should persecute whoever did this to the beautiful lighthouse!

  16. By Fifi on Sep 21, 2012 | Reply

    Human Humans. As a human we are rational animal, however we cause more damage than irrational animals. Tanks for sharing.

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    Sad news :( thanks for sharing.

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