Keweenaw County Historical Society

Caretakers of the past, stewards of the future


The Eagle Harbor Lighthouse

Fresnel LensThe copper mining industry began on the Keweenaw Peninsula in the 1840s. Lake Superior’s unreliable disposition meant that passing ships needed navigational assistance, and in 1851 the original lighthouse was built. The wooden tower which supported a fourth-order Fresnel lens illuminated by an oil lamp soon deteriorated, and in 1871 it was replaced by the present red brick structure. In 1895 a fog signal was added.

In the 1960s, the Fresnel lens was replaced by aviation beacon-type white and red lights, which beam their warning to ships more than 20 miles offshore. After being tended by 22 keepers since 1851, the lighthouse became automated in 1980 and the last personnel left in 1982.

(Photo: A Fourth Order Fresnel Lens, similar to the one originally installed in the tower, is on display in the lighthouse.)

Current Eagle Harbor lightSince 1982 the Keweenaw County Historical Society has maintained four museums at the light station. Besides the lighthouse, they include a Maritime Museum in the old fog signal building, a Keweenaw History Museum located in the old U. S. Coast Guard Station garage, and Commercial Fishing Museum located in one of the assistant keepers' buildings.

(Photo: The current Marine Rotating Beacons equipped with a 12 volt/75 watt lamp/bulb at the top of the tower lacks the romance of the Fresnel lens but is much more efficient.)

Inside the lighthouse parlorIn 1999, Congress transferred ownership of the Eagle Harbor Light Station to the Keweenaw County Historical Society. The U.S. Coast Guard continues to operate the light at the top of the tower as an active navigational aid, and as such, the top of the tower is not open to visitors.

(Photo: Care has been taken to decorate the inside of the lighthouse, including the parlor shown here, in a 1930’s style, when electricity first arrived at the lighthouse.)

Visiting The Eagle Harbor Lighthouse Museum

Hours & Admission-  The Eagle Harbor Lighthouse and museum complex is open from mid-June to early October. Admission $5.00. Children free. See the Site and Museum Schedule page for specific hours of operation.

Location- The Eagle Harbor Lighthouse Complex is located on Lighthouse Drive, not far from the swimming beach along M26 in Eagle Harbor. GPS: N 47 27.582 W 88 09.558, Decimal Degrees: 47.459705, -88.159300

Related Links-

ALL KCHS buildings will NOT open in 2020 AND all public events are CANCELED for 2020

Based upon the recommendations of various well-documented public health, government and organizational sources, at the May 21, 2020 Keweenaw County Historical Society Board Meeting it was decided that the Keweenaw County Historical Society not staff any facilities or open any buildings in the summer of 2020 in light of the risk of the spread of the Covid-19 virus. It is further the stance of KCHS that the organization does not want to be in a position where we, as an organization, inadvertently spread this virus to visitors or to our volunteers at KCHS facilities/activities in the U.P.

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