The McGulpin Point Light, a true lighthouse with a light tower and attached lighthouse keeper’s living quarters, was completed by the United States Lighthouse Board in 1869 at a cost of $20,000. The living quarters were built as a vernacular 11⁄2-story brick structure. The lighthouse operated during the Great Lakes navigation seasons from 1869 until 1906.
The design was so successful that the Lighthouse Board chose to use this 1868 design in the construction of Eagle Harbor Light in 1871; White River Light in 1875; and Sand Island Light in 1881. It is a “mirror image of the design” used at Chambers Island Light and Eagle Bluff light. The design is sometimes called “Norman Gothic” style
James Davenport was the only lighthouse keeper at this light, and served for 27 years. Correspondence files in the National Archives in Washington show that Davenport made weekly trips through the snow to the lighthouse to report on its condition to the District Inspector in Milwaukee. Perhaps more importantly, these letters also show that he may have played a critical role in the opening of navigation every spring by reporting weekly, and sometimes even more frequently, on ice conditions in the Straits. Because Davenport was the only Straits keeper to submit such frequent reports, it would appear that the Inspector used these reports to gain an understanding as to when navigation would be open throughout the lakes.
In 1906, the McGulpin Point Light was deactivated and privatized due to the Lighthouse Board’s judgment that the nearby Old Mackinac Point Light was performing an adequate job of marking the Straits of Mackinac. At some point after deactivation, the lighthouse tower’s lantern room was removed, and the building passed into private ownership. The building then entered service as a private residence
In 2005 the Lighthouse was put up for sale and Emmet County purchased it, now the light is open for tours. It’s a couple miles west of Mackinaw City, I have been to the top of the tower, and I will say, it has a spectacular view of the straights and the bridge.
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