Giclee print on fine art paper
Signed open Edition print
In 1835, Isaac C. Elston, the founder of Michigan City, deeded a tract of land on Lake Michigan’s shore to the U.S. Government, with the intention that it be used to site a new lighthouse.
The city’s first light, a rudimentary lantern, hung from a tall pole, located 100 feet from the present Lighthouse.
In 1837 work started on a permanent lighthouse. The building was by accounts a charming whitewashed house with a tower and lantern located on the roof.
With a significant increase of shipping over the years it became apparent that a much brighter light was needed, so in 1858 construction started on the lighthouse that stands today. Lighting the tower was a whale oil lantern located inside a 5th Order Fresnel Lens. The light from the new tower, on a fine night, could be seen for 15 miles.
In 1861, Harriet Colfax became the keeper of the light and held the post for 43 years, when she was with great reluctance convinced to retire at the age of 80. Harriet’s duties changed considerably during her tenure. A new beacon was located at the end of the nearby 1,500 foot long pier head. No matter what the weather conditions, the trek out to the light had to be made at dusk to light the lantern, then at midnight to refuel and trim the wick, then again at daybreak to extinguish the light and carry out cleaning and maintenance. Harriet and her assistants were so diligent in their duties that mariners knew that no matter how bad the weather, the light from, “Old Faithful”, would always be there to guide them to safety.
The last keeper of the Old Michigan City light retired in 1940 and the building was closed. For 25 years the lighthouse stood vacant and suffered from neglect and vandalism. The Michigan City Historical Society undertook the daunting task of restoration and the lighthouse was reopened to the public in 1973.
The upkeep and maintenance of the lighthouse is a constant work in progress. Groups regularly meet at the lighthouse to put in the much needed sweat equity so that we and future generations can continue to enjoy this magnificent lighthouse.
For more information on the Old Michigan Lighthouse and how you can get involved with the upkeep of the light please go to: www.oldlighthousemuseum.org