Windmill Point Light
By Jerry Wise

The promontory projection of Presqu’Isle was early recognized by the War Department as being a hindrance to navigation. In 1837, the government purchased three-quarters acres in addition to a roadway. On this land, a lighthouse was constructed which was fifty feet above the water line. On the lake side of the lighthouse a sea wall was built to protect the foundations. On the land side, a wooden fence was erected.

Because of the increase in navigation, the lighthouse was re-built in 1875 about eighteen feet west of the original site. 

According to the online sources checked, the current lighthouse dates to 1933. It's the 5th constructed/modified lighthouse on the point since the first built in 1838 (1838, 1866, 1875, 1908, 1933).

South Haven, MI Maritime Museum has plans of the 1866 re-build and the 1875 re-build in their collection the plans are available for viewing in the current display they have on Michigan lighthouses.

The range lights were constructed in 1891, re-built in 1907 the range was used to mark channel between Belle Isle and Isle aux Peches, Detroit River.

In 1908 the lighthouse was enlarged and quarters for the Assistant keeper were added.

 The Lighthouse Inn, located just to the west of the lighthouse, opened with a picnic pavilion in 1909. Between 1913 and 1916, the Detroit Motor Boat Club, a private club for yachtsman such as William Scripps, Lewis Newberry and Horace Dodge, occupied the Inn site. Amid these changes, the lighthouse keeper remained at his post, climbing the tower to polish and maintain the light....

...(in 1914) a request was made to cut away the trees from the Windmill Point range lights as they had grown too tall and were blocking the view...

...On August 9, 1917, the intensity of the Windmill Point lights was increased. The front range was raised to 57 feet and 18,000 candlepower, and the rear range to 77 feet and 18,000 candlepower. The Windmill Point lighthouse increased to 6,500 candlepower for its fixed white signal and 5,000 for its red flash...

...By 1929 the Windmill Point light was increased to 12,000 candlepower and the flash sequence changed to three one-second flashes every ten seconds. These changes resulted from the building of the William Livingstone Memorial light on Belle Isle, April 8, 1930. The Georgia marble light, 58 feet above lake level, had 11,500 candlepower and was visible for 15 miles. It was dedicated to the memory of William Livingstone, President of the Lake Carrier's Association from 1902-1925. In 1930 the range lights at Windmill Point were shut off.

The Marine Hospital in Detroit donated a parcel of land to the lighthouse service so they could build a lighthouse depot, this depot was the first for the great lakes area.

In 1927 the 69th Congress authorized the transfer of the five acres of lighthouse property at Windmill Point to the U.S. Treasury Department for the site of a new Marine Hospital. The City of Detroit Engineering Department filled in submerged portions of the property at no cost. The 125-bed facility was built to serve the needs of the U.S. Veterans' Bureau of Detroit.

A couple of years later the large tower and keepers quarters were torn down and re-placed by the current tower.

Today the hospital is gone, a trailer park that was in the area west of the light is gone.

Hopes are that the city will turn area into a park.

(Excerpted from "Northern Light" by Charles K. Hyde; A History book of Grosse Pointe "Tonnacour vol. 1" and "Detroit Yes!' web-site where members discussed and posted memories of Windmill Point area.)

 

Click on images to enlarge

Freighter view - Herm Klein


2009 View - Violet Bostwick


Photograph by Dave Wobser

Location: Grosse Pointe, Michigan - Located at the entrance to the Detroit River from Lake St. Clair, in Detroit Mariners Park at the end of Alter Road, off Jefferson Avenue.
Date Built: 1933
Active: Yes - This light marks the north side of the river entrance. Peche Island is on the south side.

Open to
public:

Grounds only.
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