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Lighthouse, museum to open this summer

Andie Balenger | Daily Press The Sand Point Lighthouse in Escanaba stands tall near Ludington Park. The Delta County Historical Society is ready to open the lighthouse and accompanying Dr. John and Mary Jane Beaumier Museum on Memorial Day, remaining open seven days a week until the later days of August.

ESCANABA — The Dr. John and Mary Jane Beaumier Museum and historic Sand Point Lighthouse are returning to their normal hours of operation this summer. Set to open on Memorial Day, members of the Delta County Historical Society, a local non-profit organization that works to preserve the history of Delta County, are ready to welcome back tourists and residents.

“We are all here because we like what we are doing and the lighthouse is real special,” Dr. Charles Lindquist, President of the Delta County Historical Society, said. “It is fun to have people come through and talk to them about the history of it, but it’s also fun to see how much they enjoy coming into the lighthouse.”

In Delta County two of the main tourist attractions are Fayette Historic State Park and the Sand Point Lighthouse, which attracts over 6,000 people from throughout the Midwest and Great Plains regions every summer. The demographic consists mostly of families with school-aged children who are looking for summer activities.

“A lot of schools are open until the first week of June, so we really don’t see too much traffic until the second week of June,” Lindquist said. “After that, up they come in a steady parade for a couple of months until it slows down around mid-August.”

The lighthouse and museum are operated by a number of paid workers and several volunteers. The lighthouse is run by paid staff, many of whom are young, providing tours up and down the staircase on a daily basis. The museum is mostly managed by volunteers or members of the historical society.

“People come to the lighthouse to learn. They want to learn the history of the lighthouse,” Lindquist said. “And maybe, hopefully, they want to learn why exactly the lighthouse is here in Escanaba.”

The Sand Point Lighthouse, located on the Delta County Historical Society grounds next to Ludington Park, was constructed in 1867. Fully operational a year later, the lighthouse worked as a navigational beacon to the abundance of ships traveling throughout Little Bay de Noc.

“By 1865 the government realized there were going to be a lot of ships coming into the [Escanaba] port to pick up iron ore. Eventually there were five lighthouses in the area,” Lindquist said. “The main lighthouse was here in Escanaba. It coordinated and kept track of all the other lighthouses.”

These ships were transporting iron ore and lumber from Escanaba to large cities like Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland via Lake Michigan.

“Boats would come out of Lake Michigan and there were shoals and sandbars all throughout [Little Bay de Noc],” Lindquist said. “They would get around the Peninsula Point and look for the red light coming out of our lighthouse.”

While the rich history of the Sand Point Lighthouse makes it unique, the fact that tourists are able to enter and tour the space distinguishes it from other lighthouses as well.

“A lot of people are lighthouse aficionados. They just love lighthouses,” Lindquist said. “Many lighthouses do not let you come in. But we let you go in the house part, and you can go up the stairs, see the lens, and get a view of the lake.”

When touring the Sand Point Lighthouse, visitors will also be able to view an exhibit room, which is restored to look and feel as if it were still in operation. The entire history of the lighthouse can be found directly in the lighthouse itself, along with the accompanying museum and archives building.

“The Great Lakes are a real attraction in this country. When people are coming from the southwest this would be one of the first places they would stop,” Lindquist said. “We try to make this place very friendly and informative. When people enjoy what you’re doing, it makes you enjoy it especially too.”

The lighthouse is currently undergoing a bit of construction. By drone footage last year, it was discovered that holes in the roof of the lantern room were the reason water was leaking onto the lighthouse’s stairs. The tower face is going through a bit of maintenance as well.

After opening on May 30, the Delta County Historical Society plans to keep both the lighthouse and museum open until at least late August. The Historical Society hopes to return to its normal closing date of Labor Day, depending on foot traffic during the later part of the summer.

The museum and lighthouse will be open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., including holidays. Admission is $3 per person or $5 for a family, which is two or more people. Kids under 14 can enter for free with their families, while kids over 14 will be charged a dollar. Members of the Delta County Historical Society can enter for free.

“Our local history is important in terms of family and community values,” Lindquist said. “People are proud of their community and its history. It is a sense of pride.”

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