Thunder Bay Island Lighthouse Preservation Society



1679   Thunder Bay Island described by Louis Hennepin during journey with LaSalle on the Griffin.

1830   Appropriation for the first lighthouse on Thunder Bay Island.

1831   Construction begins.  First tower collapses during a storm.

1832   Construction completed.  Jesse Muncy appointed as first lighthouse keeper.

1835   William Cullings first fisherman.

1842   Thunder Bay Island designated “government reservation.”

1847   New lighthouse keeper dwelling constructed.

1850   Wreck of the side-wheel steamer, New Orleans, near Sugar Island.

1857   Lighthouse rebuilt and equipped with Fresnel lens.

1858   Fog signal bell installed.

1859   John Paxton purchases Sugar Island and moves fishery operation there.

1860   First assistant lighthouse keeper position established.

1865   Pewabic sinks with valuable copper cargo after being rammed by steamer Meteor.  One hundred twenty-five killed.  Wreck located in 1917.

1868   Attached lighthouse keeper’s quarters constructed.

1871-72   Steam fog whistle and building constructed.

1874   Life Saving Station appropriation approved for Thunder Bay Island.

1875   Lighthouse constructed at mouth of Thunder Bay River

1876   Life Saving Station opens under Captain Isaac Matthews.

1877   John Persons appointed captain of Life Saving Station.

1884   Storm house added to keeper’s quarters.  Tramway constructed for delivery of coal to fog signal building.

1889   Storm damages station and destroys tramway.

1891   Tramway rebuilt.

1892   New landing dock built for lighthouse.

1894   Second fog signal purchased and installed.

1895   Telephone service installed between Alpena, Thunder Bay Island, Middle Island, and North Point.

1901   Assistant lighthouse keeper’s quarters remodeled.

1903   Brick oil-house constructed.

1907   Brick fog signal building constructed.  Cement walks installed at lighthouse, wooden cistern replaced with brick cistern.  Second Assistant Lighthouse Keeper position established.

1909   Life Saving Station begins using 34-foot powerboat.

1913   Lamp converted from kerosene to oil vapor fuel.

1914   Life Saving Service merged into US Coast Guard.

1916   Old fog signal building remodeled into residence for Second Assistant Lighthouse Keeper and family.

1919   Permission granted to US Navy to occupy areas at Life Saving Station.

1920   Permission granted to US Navy to occupy areas at lighthouse complex.  Radio compass station installed near lighthouse.

1921   Type C diaphone fog signal installed.

1926   Radio beacon antenna installed between two 80-foot towers near fog signal building.

1927   Radio station building erected near fog signal building.  Navy occupation of Life Saving Station cancelled.

1930   New Coast Guard station built.

1932   Type F diaphone fog signal installed.  Addition to Second Assistant Lighthouse Keeper’s dwelling.  Addition to fog signal building for fuel storage.

1938    Cement coating applied over brick of lighthouse.

1939    Lighthouse Service merged into US Coast Guard.

1944    Feasibility study for relocation of US Coast Guard station to North Point.

1955    Lighthouse dwelling remodeled.

1962    Coast Guard burns down the old Life-Saving and barracks buildings.

1980    Lighthouse automated and station closed.

1984    Lighthouse designated a historic site in the National Register of Historic Places.

1990    Environmental study of Thunder Bay Island by Batelle Corporation.

1996    Archaeological study by Michigan State University students.

1997    Portions of island transferred to Thunder Bay Island Preservation Society under a ten-year lease.

2000    Thunder Bay designated National Marine Sanctuary.

2001    Awarded Clean Water Initiative grant via Alpena Township for repairs to light tower and chimney.

2003    Coast Guards lease extended until 2027.  Grant extended until July 2004.

2004    Began engineering phase of the Clean Water Initiative grant.  Partnered with Alpena Township to gain ownership of the southern portion of the island.

2004    Publication of historian Steve Tongue’s book, “Lanterns & Lifeboats: A History of Thunder Bay Island”.

2005    Applied and received a grant from the Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program for standing seam metal roof on the Keeper's Quarters.

2006    Roof project is completed by Meridian Contracting out of Alpena.

2007    Added new steel door to the north side of Fog Signal Building.

2009    Began a room restoration in the Keeper's Quarters.

2010    Completed the "Rehkopf Room" in the Keeper's.

2011     Began the process of partnering with Alpena Township to gain ownership of the southern portion   of the island.

2012    Included Thunder Bay Island Light Station in the updated Alpena Township Recreation Plan.  

2013    Installed a portion of the historic tramway and received a CFNEM grant for an interpretative sign for visitors to understand the importance of the tramway to island personnel.

2014    The Bureau Of Land Management presents a land Patent to Alpena Township for 43.08 acres to be used as a day-use park.

2015    Applied and received a grant from CFNEM for historic sign posts for the transfer sign presented by the BLM at the transfer ceremony.

2016    Received permission from SHPO to remove a portion of the bricked over passage to the tower to help create ventilation.

2017    Installed the transfer sign out on the island, also installed a cedar kiosk over the tramway interpretative sign.  Hosted many government visitors out to the island to begin the future planning for public access.



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Last modified: September 2017