Sand Point Lighthouse celebrates 150th

Courtesy photo Shown is the Sand Point Lighthouse on a cloudy afternoon. To celebrate the 150th birthday, a special event is being held on Monday, July 3 at 1:30 p.m. Admission is free.

ESCANABA — Many good ghosts, of days gone by, still traipse the early morning mist between Little Bay de Noc and the Sand Point Lighthouse.

The foghorn moans and there’s the silhouette of woman in a long dress. Then later, an apparition or a large, lumbering, brown dog trots by the fragrant rose bushes.

Silence, solitude and a lot of history seems to linger at lighthouses.

Escanaba’s Sand Point Lighthouse is no different. It is haunted with a rich, wild and wonderful history.

Constructed in 1867 to guide the cargo ships, ore boats, and fishing vessels in and out of Little Bay de Noc, the Sand Point Lighthouse is celebrating its 150th birthday.

And oh the stories it could tell after being a beacon for over a hundred years!

The landscape of Escanaba has changed so much over the years. Most people do not realize that Sand Point, the finger of land extending east of the lighthouse, was man made.

Aronson Island, where the beach area is, was also A WPA project and manmade. Even today many local people and tourists ask why the lighthouse was built so far inland. It wasn’t, but land was built where there was once water.

Our lighthouse has seen many ore docks come and go the municipal dock, coal dock, church steeples, water filtration plants, paper mill stacks and Harbor Towers high-rise building have been some of the developments on the Escanaba skyline.

From horse and carriage, to street car, to automobile, Escanaba grew. Port Escanaba was a busy place. Once it was known as the Iron Port of the World. The Escanaba River flowed with many board feet of lumber from the I. Stephenson mill.

Fishing boats big and small sailed Little Bay de Noc once called the “walleye capital of the world.” The lighthouse was there to guide then all safely home.

After an automated crib light was installed in Escanaba’s harbor, the lighthouse’s tower light was no longer needed.

But some folks still claim, on a grey cloudy day, Mary Terry the first woman light keeper can be seen even though she died in a blaze at the lighthouse over a hundred years ago!

Up until 1985, the Coast Guard used the former lighthouse building as a residence. Over the decades the lighthouse was remodeled to look like a plain rectangular white house.

The Delta County Historical Society realized what an awesome piece of history was hiding behind the white house on Sand Point. Many people went to work to save the lighthouse and restore the lighthouse. In 1998, the Sand Point Lighthouse was listed on the National Historic Register.

The towering light shines again, the lantern room, and the boat house are open to the public. Time stands still as the waves gently lap at the sandy shore. The Delta County Historical Museum and Archives are great places to connect with our great past.

Join in the fun of our lighthouse’s 150th Birthday.

The Lake View Cemetery will have a self-guided tour marking the graves of lighthouse keepers. The Escanaba Public Library will have a slide show of Sand Point Lighthouse photographs. The Delta County Historical Society is having a special event on Monday, July 3 at the lighthouse at 1:30 p.m. Admission to the lighthouse is free, and refreshments will be served.

The Ludington’s, the Bonifas’s, the Stephenson’s, who knows who might show up? History is a wonderful thing. Happy sesquicentennial Sand Point Lighthouse!


Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.