With $455K restoration complete, this historic lighthouse is ready for visitors once again

What’s happening: Following a year’s worth of extensive restoration work, the historic Tawas Point Lighthouse is set to open its doors to visitors for the first time since the 147-year-old landmark first closed for renovations in February 2023. Tours of the lighthouse will begin on Wednesday, May 8, and run through Sunday, Oct. 20; a grand reopening event offers visitors a sneak peek from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 2.
Previous restoration had covered the brick tower in a cement coating called parge. By 2020, the parge had failed along the tower, damaging original brick. (Credit: Ana Eastlick, 2020 Michigan State Parks photo ambassador)
Backstory: Built on the shores of Lake Huron in 1877, the Tawas Point Lighthouse is located in what today is Tawas Point State Park in Iosco County. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources acquired the lighthouse and property from the federal government in 2001, and has since made the lighthouse a popular destination for visitors to Tawas Point with tours, programming, and more.

Stay the night: An especially popular program created in 2008 by the Michigan History Center, the Lighthouse Keeper Program offers the public the rare opportunity to stay overnight in the top floor of the keeper’s dwelling. On hold for several years, the program resumes in 2024 and application information can be obtained via email from DNR-TawasKeepers@Michigan.gov. It’s a highly competitive application process, per the DNR, with hundreds of applications received each year.

What’s being celebrated: A $455,000 grant obtained through the American Rescue Plan Act has funded restoration of the lighthouse tower. Historical architects at WTA Architects in Saginaw and the contractors at Mihm Enterprises, Inc. in Hamilton performed the historic restoration, which included identifying and addressing ventilation and moisture issues that were leading to the rapid deterioration of the lantern room, gallery, and the brick tower itself. A new paint job will protect the historic site from the elements for years to come.
Once the brick exterior was patched, a historic whitewash was applied from top to bottom. The lighthouse is now better preserved and more historically accurate. (Credit: Mihm Enterprises, Inc.)
Why it’s important: “After many years we are so excited to see the tower of Tawas Point Lighthouse return to the gleaming white beacon it was meant to be,” says Laurie Perkins, a Michigan History Center site historian for Tawas Point Lighthouse. “The crowning glory of the restoration project is the lantern room where the 1891 fourth order Frensel Lens still resides. As work progressed on the tower, an exciting color palette dating to the turn of the 20th century reappeared, adding even more to the historical authenticity of the lighthouse.”

Tawas Point Lighthouse is located in Tawas Point State Park in East Tawas.

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