This weekend, the South Manitou Island Lighthouse will shine for the first time in 50 years. Thanks to a partnership with Manitou Islands Memorial Society, Manitou Island Transit, and Electro-Optics Technology, Incorporated, the National Park Service at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was able to install a replica third-order Fresnel lens in the completely refurbished lantern room of the lighthouse. Everyone is invited to go to their favorite South Manitou Island vantage point along the mainland of the Lakeshore at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 4 to see the light illuminated for the first time in 50 years. A formal dedication ceremony is planned for next spring.
Lighting the South Manitou Island Lighthouse is a National Park Service Centennial Initiative project. The Centennial Initiative is a 10-year program to reinvigorate America’s national parks and prepare them for a second century. The initiative includes up to $100 million a year in federal funds for these projects, but requires matching funds from philanthropic donations to the National Park Service.
Superintendent Dusty Shultz lauded the efforts of project partners, saying “The South Manitou Island Light project was made possible through a partnership with Manitou Islands Memorial Society, Manitou Island Transit, and Electro-Optics Technology, Incorporated. Thanks to our partners, people will be able to once again see the distant light on the horizon, and visitors to the lighthouse will be able to view the replica lens and lantern room the way it once looked.”
The replica third-order Fresnel lens was fabricated by Artworks Florida, and the lens is illuminated by a lighting source with a low-wattage bulb designed by Electro-Optics Technology of Traverse City. A crew of National Park Service maintenance personnel restored the lantern room and spiral stairway of the tower earlier this year, and only recently installed the lens and light. The total dollar cost is $93,000 split equally between the National Park Service and private donations from the partners along with donated time and materials furnished by Electro-Optics Technology.
Manitou Island Memorial Society president Rhonda Kruch is pleased by the progress, but notes “The Manitou Island Memorial Society is still seeking $13,000 in donations to fulfill their obligations under the agreement. Anyone who appreciates the new light should look us up at https://www.leelanau.com/lighthouse, and help us make history with this and other projects.” The mailing address for the society is: Manitou Islands Memorial Society, PO Box 177, Empire, MI 49630-0177.
The iconic 104 foot South Manitou Island Lighthouse is strategically located on the heavily trafficked Manitou Passage on the 300 mile eastern route from Chicago to Mackinaw. It identified both the passage and the most frequently used refuge on the Great Lakes. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the 1858 Keepers Quarters and the 50th anniversary of the year the light was extinguished. “The anniversary dates make the completion of this project especially meaningful,” said Shultz.