5295 E. Grand Lake Rd., Presque Isle, Michigan
About 150 years ago Presque Isle had the finest harbor in the Great Lakes, a cove protected from Lake Huron’s fierce weather by headlands to the north and south. A busy port grew up there, and $5,000 was appropriated in 1838 from federal funds to build a lighthouse. In 1840 the light was lit, and for the next 30 years it served as a beacon to mariners up and down the coast.
In 1870 a taller lighthouse began service just a mile north, and the old light was left to weather the storms of time as best it might. Its four-foot-thick walls of hand-cut stone proved durable, and so did the keeper’s small cottage. In the early 1900s the property passed into private hands and was steadily restored by a series of owners. In 1995 the property passed to the local township, which continues its upkeep.
Today the cottage houses a museum crammed with curios, as a place on a trade route should be: a wine cabinet with hand-blown bottles, a crab-shaped incense burner, and a saucy Native American statuette. Best of all, one is urged to handle things, whether it’s the torpedo-boat binnacle or the elephant trainer’s hooked stick.
At the foot of the lighthouse is a bronze bell from Lansing city hall’s old clock tower. It weighs 3,425 pounds, more than 11/2 times that of the Liberty Bell, and visitors can make it ring out over the bay by pulling the bell hammer.
Open daily mid-May–mid-Oct. Admission charged.
Did you know?
The last keeper of the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse, Patrick Garraty, Sr., was appointed by Abraham Lincoln.