Grand Traverse Lighthouse
The Grand Traverse Lighthouse, also known as Cat's Head, was built before the Civil War in 1851 at Cat Head Point on the Leelanau Peninsula. The lighthouse guided several generation of sailors in and out of the Grand Traverse Bay before being decommissioned in 1972. A square tower with a lantern room which rises through the pitched roof of the two-story building contains a fourth-order Fresnel lens.
While the lighthouse was still under construction in 1852, it was raided by Mormon followers of Strang, a self-proclaimed king. These religious raiders stole everything they could lay their hands on, including some of the first lighthouse keeper's lighthouse equipment. Fortunately Philo Beer, the keeper a U.S. Deputy Marshal, was able to drive away the raiders and saved the Fresnel lens.
The original buildings have been preserved and wonderfully maintained. The lighthouse is a furnished museum offering visitors a glimpse of life of a turn-of-the century lighthouse. Some of the furnishings consist of early photographs of the premises, antique furniture, toys and kitchenware as well as the original Fresnel lens. A narrow sidewalk leads to a red brick building that originally contained the kerosene and other paraphernalia necessary to operate the lights. Today this building serves as a store where you can purchase hard to find lighthouse souvenirs and books.
David McCormick, who retired after a 30-year career in the U.S. Coast Guard, is the current caretaker. His father, James McCormick was the keeper of the lighthouse from 1922 to 1939. The manicured lawn is dotted with flowering shrubs and stone planters that were hand-crafted by James McCormick. These planters contain flowering plants in the summer. Grasses peek out in thick bundles around the stones toward the rocky lakeshore with seating areas to admire the view.
Directions: From the junction of M-22 and M-201 in Northport, take M-201 through the town as follows: go north 0.2 miles to the blinker light; turn right, onto Main, and go one block; turn left, onto Wakazoo, and go one long block; turn right onto Nagonaba, and go one block; turn left onto Mill Road, and go 1.1 miles. When you reach the city limits, the road changes to County Road 640, then 1.3 miles farther it changes to County Road 629. Follow CR-629 5.3 miles to Leelanau State Park. An annual or daily permit is required to enter. The lighthouse and gift shop parking area are just inside the park entrance.
Northport, a quaint village on the way to the lighthouse, is worth a stop. This ship was docked in Northport by a park which runs along Grand Traverse Bay.