Under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act the Alpena Lighthouse in Alpena, Michigan has been transferred to the nonprofit Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy (MLC).
The current 1914 Alpena Lighthouse, also known as the Alpena Breakwater Lighthouse, was at one time painted black. During that time, the slogan, “Short on Beauty, Long on Duty” was widely associated with it. But, just like new clothes can brighten up a person’s spirits, when the lighthouse was painted red in the 1950s its popularity soared.
On October 4, 1957, the world changed and entered the space age with the launch by the Soviet Union of Sputnik I, the world’s first artificial satellite. Then, because of its so-called resemblance to the satellite with its iron legs, many people started calling the Alpena Lighthouse “Sputnik,” a nickname that stuck with it for many years and is still used by some. In recent years it has been more affectionately called “Little Red,” and is a symbol of local pride.
In 2004, Harbour Lights, the former manufacturer of lighthouse collectibles, released a replica of the lighthouse at the annual Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival that is held every October in Alpena. A couple of years later, in 2006, an exact replica of the Alpena Lighthouse was built on Lake Havasu in Arizona.
Because of its location, public access for tours is limited. However there are great views of the lighthouse from the local breakwall or from the glass bottom boat tours given by Alpena Shipwreck Tours.
The NOAA Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center will be allowing use of their facilities for educational and exhibit space for the lighthouse, which will need to depend on a variety of local support in order to preserve it into the future.
The current light tower is not the first structure to bear the Alpena name. The first one was a light on a pole in 1875, which was replaced by a wooden tower, which burned in 1888 and was replaced with a structure of the same design. In 1914, the old wooden tower was deemed to be beyond repair and was replaced by the structure that stands there today.
To learn more about the Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy, or get involved with the Alpena Lighthouse, you can e-mail Jeff Shook at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 810-750-9236.
This story appeared in the
Sep/Oct 2013 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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