Lake Michigan Beach


Charlevoix Lighthouse

Turn right at the stop sign, and you will see majestic Lake Michigan, and Charlevoix’s beautiful Michigan Beach.  To the right, you can see the South Pier, and Charlevoix’s lighthouse. 

The first lighthouse in Charlevoix was built in 1885 on the North Pier.  Made of wood, it was 30 feet tall, and painted white.  It had a 5th order Fresnel lens, made in Paris in 1882 for $1500, and a red signal beacon.  The lighthouse and access trestle cost $4000. 

The Old South Pier LighthouseA fog signal bell was added in 1909, suspended on a wood framework and connected to a clock mechanism through a hole in the lighthouse’s west wall.  The signal bell was struck twice, then once again after 20 seconds of silence.  After 20 seconds the pattern was repeated.   

The lighthouse was moved to the South Pier in 1911 and painted red.  In its place on the north pier a white open metal structure was erected.  It was 60 feet tall and had a white light.  This structure was removed in the mid-1980s and replaced by a shorter light.

The photo on the left was taken by noted local photographer Bob Miles in February of 1935.  In the aftermath of a large storm, with temperatures of -2 Farenheit and winds so strong Mr. Miles could barely open his car door, he placed his camera on top of his car and shot the photo.  At the moment of exposure the sun burst through the clouds and covered the scene in a brilliant light just as a wave broke over the end of the south pier.   The result became Mile’s signature photo.  He made 1500 copies and hand-tinted about 500.

The lighthouse on the south pier was replaced by a steel structure in 1948.  When the wood structure was dismantled it was discovered that the original cast iron lantern that housed the beacon and Fresnel lens was in such good condition it could be used in the new structure.  So when the new lighthouse was constructed, the octagonal lantern was cut away from the old light, connected to a cable, and swung over to the new one by helicopter, reinstalled and connected, and put into service the same day.  It has been keeping vigil over Lake Michigan now for more than 120 years. 

In 1968 the lighthouse was painted white under a directive from Washington, D.C. to the Coast Guard.  In 1989 the current steel and concrete structure was built.  The Charlevoix Historical Society plans to return this lighthouse to its “Lighthouse Red” color in the summer of 2008 as part of a restoration process. 

Battle of Pine River

Lake Michigan Beach is also the site of the 1853 “Battle of Pine River,” between fishermen from Charlevoix and Mormons from Beaver Island.  This battle, the only one ever fought both on land and sea in the Great Lakes, capped years of gradually increasing tensions between Mormons.  The Mormon deputies attempted to enforce anti-liquor laws against fishermen, who in defiance of those laws paid their Native American employees with liquor.  The fishermen were armed, but for the most part the Mormons were not.  They were chased in a boat riddled with bullets, serveral of their number wounded, until they were taken aboard the vessel Morgan.  It was after their leader James Jesse Strang was assassinated and the Mormons had abandoned their settlement at Beaver Island, that Amos Fox and other early settlers, many from the Northport area, moved to Pine Lake.

Lake Michigan Beach

The property that is today Lake Michigan Beach, a popular recreation spot, was once owned by Amos Fox and his descendants, who bequeathed the land to the City of Charlevoix.  A scene from the 1930s is shown at the left. 

The stone concession stand house and the shuffleboard courts at the beach in the 1940s.   

Lake Michigan Beach is the site of the Life Saving Station, later the U.S. Coast Guard Station, founded in 1899.  The facility was razed in 1965, and the functions relocated to the old Lighthouse Supply Station.

In 1917 a fish hatchery was built at the beach.  It still exists, and is used primarily as a State of Michigan fieries research facility.


2 Comments on “Lake Michigan Beach”

  1. Beth says:

    I am looking for a photo of the ‘North’ pier from the 60’s and 70’s, when it was made of large boulders.

    Me and my family used to play on these and
    “run the pier” from light pole to light pole.

    • trouble says:

      Beth, I’ve seen pictures of the pier when it looked like that. Your best bet is the Charlevoix Historical Society’s Harsha House Museum on State St., just south of Park Avenue. David Miles, co-director, has photos, and can print you a copy for a small fee.

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