Point Betsie Lighthouse
Point Betsie Lighthouse was built in 1858, where ships enter or exit the narrow shoal-lined Manitou Passage on a place called "Point Aux Becs Scies," meaning "Sawed Beak Point." Between 1853-54, during the presidency of Franklin Pierce, land for the lighthouse was reserved for the lighthouse. A ten-acre site was chosen by the Lighthouse Service and in 1886, the unneeded land was returned to the public.
The cylindrical 37-foot tower was built on a foundation of concrete with white steel sides. The parapet has a red roof that matches the keepers dwelling. The cast iron lantern room was equipped in 1858 with a Fourth Order Fresnel lens which was removed in 1996 with plans to have it displayed at the Sleeping Bear Dunes. The light sat 52 feet above the lake on a bluff and had a range of 27.5 miles. Because of the importance of this lighthouse to navigation, the Lighthouse Board suggested in 1880 that the short tower be replaced with a new one hundred foot structure, however the new tower was never built. The light was automated in 1983, making it the last manned lighthouse on mainland Michigan.
A two-story white bricked keepers dwelling is attached to the three-story tower through a passageway. The barn-style (gambrel) roof has red-shingles. With the addition of assistants, the quarters were enlarged in 1894. It measures 28 by 48 feet and can accommodate two families. The second-story windows peek out from covered porches.
In 1875, a life saving station that was built. In 1891, a fog-signal building was built of corrugated steel. That same year the circular iron oil house was built and a concrete foundation was laid in the dwelling's cellar. Platform walks were installed around the property. Other structures on the site include an oil house and two storage buildings. Today, south of the lighthouse are two abandoned structures: the life-saving station and another old Coast Guard building. Still standing is the life-saving station's tower, where for the first third of this century, men stood during exhausting watches, searching the horizon for ships in distress.
Beach erosion was so sever that in 1890, extensive repairs were made to the tower's foundation. The foundation was strengthened with a ring of concrete 4 feet deep and 16 feet in diameter at the base. Shoreline protections were built. Today, the steel breakwaters are still visible as well as the concrete apron that pushes out from the base of the tower to the edge of Lake Michigan.
The first lighthouse keeper was Dr. Alonzo Slyfield, with his two sons the Slyfield family were keepers of the light for a total of twenty-six years.
The lighthouse was automated in 1984, which made it the last manned lighthouse on mainland Michigan. Today it is the home of Coast Guard members and their families.
Directions: From the junction of M-115 and M-22, go west then north on M-22 approximately 5.6 miles to Point Betsie Road. Turn left (west) onto Point Betsie Road and go about 0.7 miles to its end. The lighthouse is on the right, the abandoned Coast Guard buildings on the left.