Digest>Archives> October 2001

The Lights of Coast Guard City USA

By Timothy Harrison

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Winters can get pretty tough on Lake Michigan as ...
Photo by: Steve Elve

The City of Grand Haven, Michigan has celebrated a unique relationship with the United States Coast Guard for more years than anyone can remember.

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The old 1855 Bluff Lighthouse in Grand Haven from ...

In fact, the City of Grand Haven bills itself as Coast Guard City USA and every year it hosts the Coast Guard Festival, the largest of its kind in the United States.

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The Grand Haven Pierhead Lights as they appear ...
Photo by: Tom Stinar

However, for a city that holds such a close relationship to the water, it has not done a very good job of saving its lighthouse history, which dates back to its first lighthouse established in 1839.

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This vintage photograph shows a close up view of ...

The recorded memories, stories and photographs of its lighthouse keepers are nearly impossible to locate. What information is available is confusing and conflicting. However, Grand Haven historian, David H. Siebold in his book Coast Guard City, U.S.A., A History of the Port of Grand Haven has done a pretty good job of trying to piece it together, but still much is missing.

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A number of people have lost their lives to the ...
Photo by: Tom Stinar

Grand Haven is located on the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan and was given its name in 1835 because of its location at the mouth of the Grand River.

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The Grand Haven Front Pierhead Light and fog ...

Its first lighthouse was located on the beach, a location not suitable for any lighthouse exposed to the storms of Lake Michigan. Built in 1839, the lighthouse keepers tending the light got out just minutes before the structure was destroyed by a storm in 1852.

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An antique postcard showing the car ferry Grand ...

The builders learned from their mistakes and built the next lighthouse on a bluff directly behind where the original lighthouse had been built.

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The Grand Haven pierhead lighthouses when they ...

After the Grand Haven Pier was built a light was placed on the pier. Over the years there were a number of changes, replacements and moves finally ending up with the two fire engine red lighthouses that stand there today.

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The fourth order Fresnel lens that was first ...

What of the old Bluff Light? It was discontinued in 1905. The tower was torn down but keepers continued to use the house as a residence. In 1956, the Coast Guard sold it at auction and it still stands today as a private home.

This story appeared in the October 2001 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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