Friends of the Fort Gratiot Light

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U.S. Coast Guard Archives

U.S. Coast Guard Archives

Port Huron Museum Collection



The original Fort Gratiot Lighthouse was completed on August 8, 1825, approximately where the abutments for the second Blue Water Bridge are now located. The tower was little help for the growing number of mariners as its location was too far south and its light was too weak that it could not be seen until nearly at the mouth of the river.

In the summer of 1828, George McDougall, the first official lighthouse keeper, reported that the tower was cracking and beginning to lean to the east. Severely damaged by a storm in September 1828, the structure collapsed in November 1828.

The importance of a navigational aid at the confluence of Lake Huron and the St. Clair River was emphasized by a petition presented to the U.S. Congress, "praying that provision may be made for rebuilding the lighthouse at Fort Gratiot," on December 29, 1828. By December 1829, the second Fort Gratiot Lighthouse was completed.

As a critical juncture for the water traffic between the East Coast and Chicago, the importance of the Fort Gratiot Light cannot be underestimated. To give some point of reference, during the navigation season of 1882, the number of steamships and sailing vessels that passed up and down the St. Clair River averaged out to be one passing Port Huron every four minutes, night and day.

For additional historical information, please visit:

"Seeing the Light - The Fort Gratiot Lighthouse"
                                    - Researched & Written by Terry Pepper

The Green Light Above Port Huron

The original light was an oil-burning Lewis Patent Lamp. This lamp used a green glass bottle to magnify the light’s intensity. Unfortunately, the glass was quickly covered with soot, which dimmed the light. However, as these lamps burned 52% less oil than the more intense Argand Lamp used in European lighthouses, the Lewis Patent Lamp was used throughout the United States until 1852.

In January 1857, the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse received its first Fresnel lens. Similar in shape to a bee hive, the Fourth Order Fresnel lens measured 2’ 4” in height, with an inside diameter of 1’ 8”. By 1865, a larger Third Order Fresnel lens was installed. To reduce confusion with the headlamps from the increased railway traffic near the base of the lighthouse, in 1867, Fort Gratiot’s fixed white lens was traded for the varied-by-flashes lens of Pointe Aux Barques. In 1933, the light was changed to a green DCB-24 Aerobeacon and became completely automated.

Block I Car Shops After Devastating Fire

This photograph clearly shows the many railroad tracks that brought trains heading directly towards the Fort Gratiot Light and Lake Huron, that necessitated changing the tower's light to green.

Friends of the Fort Gratiot Light
c/o Port Huron Museum
1115 Sixth Street
Port Huron, Michigan 48060

Questions? Contact Susan Bennett
(810) 982-0891, ext. 122