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.   The 2021 opening date is expected to be June 20th.  Hours for June, September and October are 12-5 PM.  July and August hours are 10 AM-5 PM,  Monday - Saturday and 12-5 PM on Sunday.  Admission $5.00. Children free. 

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-

KCHS museum sites and the cottage rentals will be opening for the Summer of 2021, except the Bammert Blacksmith Shop which is closed for repairs.  Sites expect to open buildings during the week of June 20th.  See the museum sites’ webpages for opening dates and hours.

Public events have NOT been scheduled, except for the Woodward Concert in Copper Harbor on September 22nd and Cider Making at Central on September 25th; both events will be held outside.  See the Events/Adventures in History webpage for more information.

The Keweenaw County Historical Society’s Board of Directors will follow the COVID-19 Epidemic Orders issued by the State of Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services.  These public health orders are updated as needed, so KCHS may need to change access to buildings and events.  This spring, group events held inside community buildings were not allowed.  Therefore, KCHS cancelled the Adventures in History programs for the summer.  

Please check back for updates.
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