The Harbor Beach Lighthouse Preservation Society continued to make great strides in 2017. We saw an increase in guests visiting the lighthouse. In 2014 we hosted 292 guests, 2015 saw 611 guests with the birthday celebration, in 2016 there were 460 people, and in 2017 we hosted 499 guests. This year the most visible change is the construction of the fog signal building next to the lighthouse tower. The construction spurred a lot of interest and many questions as well. Below are some of the questions that were asked.
Why are you building a new structure?
Actually we are re-building the structure that stood there for over 80 years before it was removed by the Coast Guard in the 1960’s. The original building was constructed in 1885 when the lighthouse tower was built.
What was building used for?
The fog signal building contained the mechanical equipment to sound a signal during periods of low visibility. Originally there were two fire boxes which were fueled by coal. They would heat water in boilers creating steam to power a steam whistle mounted on the roof. Later the system was changed to a gasoline engine attached to a compressor that filled air storage tanks to produce the signal.
Are you allowed to build something at a site that is registered as a State Historic building?
Yes. The Society went through an approval process that included the State of Michigan, the National Parks Service and the City of Harbor Beach.
How do you know what it looked like?
The Lighthouse Society has a collection of lighthouse photographs showing the building and a Society member originally from Harbor Beach, Tony Lang, obtained blueprints of the building from the National Archives in Washington D.C.
Is it built like the original fog signal building?
Yes. Since it is built on the site of a historic landmark, state and national restoration and preservation agencies require that it be built as faithfully as possible to the original structure. The Society had lumber cut at a mill to the same size used in 1885 and the building was constructed using methods of the period. Some modern methods and materials were used in the interest of safety and durability of the structure, but will not be visible when completed.
Will the fog horn be replaced?
No. However, the Society is researching the installation of a functional compressed air whistle similar to the original steam whistle. We also hope to have a recording of the old “Be…Oh” fog signal playing in the building.
What will the building be used for?
The fog signal building will house displays depicting the nautical history of the Harbor Beach area and the Great Lakes. It will also have a room to house maintenance equipment and a restroom.
When will it be open for visitors?
The current timeline projects the building will be open by early-summer 2018 for tours.
The construction of the fog signal building is the product of the efforts of very dedicated Harbor Beach Lighthouse Preservation Society volunteers. A big “Thank You!” goes out to the maintenance and restoration crew under the direction Ron Klebba and Ron Kociba.
The popularity of the lighthouse is a result of the efforts of many great people. There are the gift shop volunteers who are the first to meet our guests, the boat captains who transport them across the harbor, the docents who convey historical knowledge of the lighthouse, the restoration crew who have worked countless hours to bring the lighthouse back to a condition that is historically accurate, and the maintenance crew who make sure we have the materials and equipment to accomplish our goals. Behind the scenes we have more volunteers who keep track of funds, write articles, and make presentations to area civic groups. There are people who put together this newsletter, those who maintain our online presence and people who administer the overall operation. The dedication of these volunteers who provide their time, efforts, knowledge and skills has resulted in making our lighthouse a popular destination for lighthouse lovers.
The Harbor Beach Lighthouse Preservation Society is a group that is respected statewide and the lighthouse is a desired stop for lighthouse enthusiasts, we have gained this level of adoration through our volunteers and for this we are thankful. But, as in any volunteer organization we are in need of more people to come forward and assist. If you, or anyone you know, would like to volunteer in any capacity, please contact us.
Thanks to all who have made and continue to make the Harbor Beach Lighthouse Preservation Society.
Skip Kadar, President