Round Island Lighthouse
The Round Island Lighthouse celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1995.
Although it has been out of service for many decades, it is
a familiar sight to visitors to
Mackinac Island, Michigan.
This lighthouse was placed into service on May 15, 1896. It marked
the channel between Round Island and Mackinac Island, the shortest
distance from northern Lake Huron to the Straits of Mackinac.
It was equipped with a fourth order Fresnel (pronounced freh-nell) lens
and a fog horn. Three keepers were stationed at the lighthouse, but
their families lived at nearby Mackinac Island. Because shipping
ceased during the winter, this lighthouse was dark part of the year.
In 1947, the Round Island Lighthouse was abandoned, replaced by
a functional but unattractive light closer to Mackinac Island.
The U.S. Forest Service took possession in 1958, and it is now
part of the
Hiawatha National Forest.
Severe storms in 1972 caused substantial damage to the lighthouse,
undermining part of the foundation and endangering the entire
building. The Friends of the Round Island Lighthouse,
Hiawatha National Forest, and the Mackinac Island Historical
Society worked together and repaired the lighthouse.
Additional buffering "rip-rap" was placed around the foundation
to prevent further damage. High water in 1986 undermined the
foundations of the two outbuildings, and the privy remains askew.
In 1995, work on the lighthouse began again. Boy
Scout Troop 323 and the
Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association
(GLLKA) are working to clean the interior and right the privy.
Last year, they removed 6000 pounds of trash and debris from
inside the lighthouse.
Round Island has no dock, electricity, or other facilities.
The lighthouse is closed to the public.
The lighthouse with Mackinac Island in background.
The lantern room.
View of Round Island from the tower.
The privy (leaning) and oil house.
On May 25 and 26, Round Island Lighthouse was open to the public
as part of its Centennial celebration. Thanks to GLLKA and
Scout Troop 323, I was able to get to Round Island and tour the
interior. I have included a number of interior pictures from
The lighthouse has 3 main levels, plus the tower landings. The
bottom floor originally held the mechanicals for the fog horn.
One air compressor remains in place, and another used to
sit beside it. The keepers sometimes had to run the fog
signal around the clock. A pipe, no longer in place, would have
connected the compressor with the horn outside the building. The
horn was mounted on the second floor of the lighthouse. A platform
at that level is visible in the external shots.
The mechanical room on first floor.
Fog horn platform.
In addition to the mechanical room, the base of the tower is
accessible on the bottom floor. In one corner of the tower
base are the remains of the
cabinet, or chase, through which the weights that turned the light
descended. The rotation of the lens was controlled by the descent of
weights, as in a grandfather clock. This chase is also visible
on the floors above.
The second floor contained the kitchen, living room, dining room,
and a small room. The walls were originally covered with plaster
and lathe, but little of that remains.
Note the lath ceiling, wainscotting, and brick detail in the kitchen.
The windows have been replaced by metal grates to allow air movement
and prevent vandalism.
In the corner of the
dining room, the pipes that went to the fog horn (from the compressor
on the floor below) are visible.
The corner of dining room where the fog horn was mounted.
The weight chase, second floor.
The third floor has bedrooms and a small watch room from which
the lantern was accessible. The watch room contained the weight
chase and some built-in cabinets. Above that room was another
landing, on which the base of a metal ladder rested. Hooks at
the top of the weight chase were used in supporting the weights.
The lantern room is quite small, with extremely clouded windows.
A temporary optic had been installed for the Centennial. An
access panel in the lantern opened to allow access onto the
This page is still under construction.
Other sights in the area: