The new owner of the Manistique East Breakwater Lighthouse in Manistique, Michigan is doing for the community what the City of Manistique refused to do – take care of its lighthouse.
Although this city, located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, that depends heavily on tourism and uses the lighthouse as its symbol, could have received the lighthouse for free under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, they declined. They also backed out of a previous deal they had made to partner with the Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy for the long term care of the lighthouse.
During the meeting when the city voted not to accept the lighthouse, they were probably swayed in part by a statement made by Kerry Ott, who had done some research on her own time and reported to the city council that only 85 of the 200 lighthouses that had been offered by the federal government had new owners, a statement that could be misleading without considering all the facts. She said to the council, “My gut reaction to all of this is . . . the federal government is trying to cut their expenses and they’re trying to put those expenses on local governments and nonprofit organizations because of the emotion attachment [sic] people have to lights.”
Ignoring that emotional attachment that people have to lighthouses, apparently the city council also ignored the economic benefit of tourism that lighthouses are playing to many communities, including their own city where they have a giant billboard that features the lighthouse with the words, “Come Play With Us – Come Stay With Us.”
So the government put the lighthouse up for auction to the highest bidder. The auction was won for $15,000 by Bill Collins, a man from Newbury, Ohio who, at the time, had never even been to Manistique, Michigan. However, Collins wasted no time in arriving in Manistique to look over his lighthouse and immediately set about to spruce up the tower with a fresh coat of paint.
Collins, who grew up on Lake Erie, has always liked lighthouses and this is not the first time he has stepped forward to make sure a lighthouse has been saved. Earlier this year he was the high bidder for the 127-foot tall Liston Rear Range Lighthouse in Delaware. He won that lighthouse with a high bid of $22,003. Considering that the Graves Lighthouse in Boston Harbor, Massachusetts just sold for nearly $1 million at auction, Collins got himself good deals on both lighthouses.
The 35-foot tall square pyramidal cast iron Manistique East Breakwater Lighthouse was built in the early 1900s and originally had a diaphone fog horn. With no living quarters at the lighthouse, which is located at the end of a long breakwater, the lightkeepers lived at a duplex on the mainland that is still standing today, but was sold by the government many years ago. After automation, the Fresnel lens was removed from the tower and is now on display at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc.
Now, thanks to one man who is making a difference, the Manistique East Breakwater Lighthouse is looking sharp and doing its job, not only for the mariner, but as a tourist icon for the City of Manistique. The City of Manistique should give Bill Collins a medal.
More photos on page 30
This story appeared in the
Nov/Dec 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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