PORT HURON, MI (CBS Detroit) – Named after General Charles Gratiot in 1814, military Fort Gratiot was established to guard the juncture of Lake Huron and the St. Clair River. With a surge of vessel traffic on Lake Huron in the early 1800s, the need for a Light Station to guide vessels through the waterway became very important.
The history of the Fort Gratiot Light Station goes back almost 190 years, and it’s the oldest lighthouse in the State of Michigan. Fort Gratiot Light Station was very critical as a gateway to the Western Great Lakes. It is an active lighthouse and has continued to be active more for small craft nowadays since the big ships use satellites and other technology.
“It’s still a welcoming beacon for the big ships when the Mariners are out on the lake and see those lights they know they’re close to port or close to home,” explains Dennis Delor, Site Historian for St. Clair County Parks and Recreation. “In 1862, they raised the tower from 65 feet to 82 feet so it could be seen at a greater distance. And then they changed the lamp from the Lewis lamp to the Fresnel lens, which can be seen up to 15 miles out on the lake.”
There are just under 100 stairs in the tower, the tower being at 82 feet. But it’s not just a beacon for mariners on the lake, it’s really a beacon for the community of Port Huron.
“Today it is a historic site, as well as a county park and we actually got a lot of community support from Port Huron residents for the preservation of the lighthouse,” adds Lauren Nelson, General Manager, Ft. Gratiot Light Station. “Our next project is going to be the living room and the formal parlor. So we’re working on tearing that out and restoring it back to the 1838 time period. It is a really neat part of the community.”
Watch for “Eye on Detroit” segments weekdays during “CBS This Morning” at 7 a.m. featuring unique and positive stories from the Motor City.
© 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.