With the 1825 completion of the Erie Canal, which linked the Great Lakes to the Hudson River and the Atlantic Ocean, maritime traffic in the Great Lakes increased dramatically. As the canal was being completed, Congress appropriated funds for a light station near Fort Gratiot, in the southern portion of Michigan’s thumb. When the light station was established at Fort Gratiot in 1825, it was the first light station in the state of Michigan. The original 32-foot-tall tower fell after being damaged in an 1828 storm and it was soon rebuilt, with the new tower first lighted in the spring of 1830.
The Coast Guard vacated the light station with the construction of the new Coast Guard Station Port Huron, built in 2004. In 2010 ownership was transferred to St. Clair County Parks and Recreation. With funds from the City of Port Huron and other sources, some restoration work was completed and the light station was opened to the public in 2012. Port Huron Museums operates the site, and the Friends of Fort Gratiot Light also work for the preservation of the lighthouse and other buildings. A recent grant from the Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program will enable St. Clair County Parks and Recreation to hire a consultant to rehabilitate the lighthouse tower’s watch room and lantern room.
Lauren Nelson is the site manager of Fort Gratiot Light Station for Port Huron Museums.
Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. He is the president and historian for the American Lighthouse Foundation and founder of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, and he has lectured and narrated cruises throughout the Northeast and in other regions. He is also the producer and host of the U.S. Lighthouse Society podcast, “Light Hearted.” He can be emailed at Jeremy@uslhs.org