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Maritime Museums

Marquette Maritime Museum

Beginning in 1980 as the Marquette Maritime Museum Association, the museum was opened in the old City Waterworks building in 1982. The building is a one story, stone, hipped-roof Richardsonian Romanesque style structure with a parapeted front gable and rounded arch windows. It was designed by architect Demetrius Frederick Charlton.

Light House Lens

The Museum is proud to display the Stannard's Rock Lighthouse lens. It is a second order classical 12 bulls eye Fresnel lens built in Paris in 1880. There were only five second order Fresnels used on the Great Lakes. Grosse Point on Lake Michigan, Spectacle Reef on Lake Huron and Stannard's on Lake Superior all had the classic "beehive" style lens while White Shoal on Lake Michigan and Rock of Ages on Lake Superior had "clam shell" style Fresnel lenses.

The Stannard's Rock lens proper weighs about two tons and the iron pedestal another two tons. The lens stands roughly ten feet high and has a diameter of five feet. The 12 bulls eyes are intended to provide a flash as the lens rotated at a speed of one revolution every three minutes. Visibility of the light was a nominal 25 miles although it could be much greater or less depending on weather and atmospheric conditions. The longest reported sighting was 45 miles.

When Museum volunteers first assembled it in 1999 it took over 5,000 hours to clean, repair and finally erect. Funding for the project was provided by the Keweenaw Band Indian Community.

In the spring of 2003 the lens was disassembled and work started on the ultimate display plan which envisions the lens mounted in a recreated lantern room constructed in the Museum's Wilson Hall. The lantern room will be built in cut a way, so the visitor will see both the exterior of the tower and interior of the room.

Once the lens was disassembled a hole was cut into the floor and a thick concrete pad was formed and poured to provide a stable base for the lens. The massive pedestal was disassembled and moved in sections to the pad and erected. The lower area surrounding it was built to resemble the actual tower watch room in every detail. Once the lens "spider" mount was erected above to guide and steady the lens the Fresnel was carefully reassembled.

Once the project is completed, to include the remounting of pedestal doors and clockworks, the lens will rotate again, in faithful tribute to the men who manned the "loneliest place in America."

Having the Big Bay Lighthouse lens onn display is a real plus to the Museum and we are deeply indebted to the Big Bay Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast for it's loan. The lens is one of the rare Fresnels privately owned.
The Big Bay Lighthouse is located approximately 25 miles northwest of Marquette and was a critical link in the chain of lights guiding vessels along Lake Superior's south shore.

The lens is a third order fixed Fresnel. It is called fixed because it does not rotate in contrast to the Stannard's Rock lens. Note that the middle belt lens panels are smooth while the Stannard's Rock ones have the bulls eyes.
The lens stands about 12 feet tall on the pedestal and weighs about a ton. It's nominal range is 18 miles.

To provide the flash characteristic necessary to differentiate Big Bay Lighthouse from others along the coast, the pedestal was fitted with a mechanism to rotate a series of opaque panels around the lens. In other words where the Stannard's Rock lens rotated, the Big Bay lens was stationary and the panels rotated. The Museum plans to recreate the panel rotation mechanism in the future as part of the exhibit.

Marquette Lighthouse

The original lighthouse was built in Marquette in 1853, four years after the cityís 1849 incorporation. No plans or drawing of this lighthouse exist, but it likely resembled very closely the old lighthouse at Copper Harbor, a story and a half building made of local rock with an unattached 35-foot tall rubble tower. The building was specified to be 34 by 20 feet, but since there are no ìas builtî drawings we do not know if the specifications were actually met. The lantern room was to contain seven 14-inch Lewis lamps which were used until the introduction of the Fresnel lens in the 1850s. The quarters and tower were poorly constructed and were replaced in 1866 with the present lighthouse.

The 1866 lighthouse is not the structure we ìseeî today. It has been extensively modified. The 1860s were an intense period of lighthouse construction on the Great Lakes. On Lake Superior alone new lights were built at Whitefish Point, Marquette, Granite Island, Huron Island, Stannardís Rock (day beacon) and Ontonagon. It is important to realize that lighthouses are not built as unique structures, rather from common plans reflecting the period and purpose, modified only to best fit the local conditions and terrain. The Marquette, Granite Island and Huron Island lights were virtually identical.

The 1866 Marquette Lighthouse was a story and a half brick structure with attached 40-foot square brick tower housing a fourth order Fresnel lens. An identical lens is on display in the Marquette Maritime Museum. The original lens showed an arc of 180 degrees. In 1870 it was increased to 270 degrees.

The keeper and his family lived in the lighthouse. As long as the keeperís job was only to maintain the light, a single man was able to do the work. However when the light at the end of the breakwater was later added and a two whistle signal system installed at the end of the point, the work was more than one person could do and an assistant keeper was hired. The new man needed housing, a problem solved in 1898 when a barn behind he lighthouse was converted into quarters for the assistant.

In 1909 a more permanent solution was reached by adding a second story to the lighthouse. Later additions to the rear of the building were completed in the 1950s.These additions made the lighthouse unique on the Great Lakes. No other similar lighthouse was so altered. The lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

There has been a persistent myth that the lighthouse was designed after a Spanish monastery. How this crazy idea started is unknown, but it is completely false. As previously stated, the light was built to a design common to many Great Lakes lighthouses, although heavily modified over time.

Silent Service Memorial

The "Silent Service Memorial" and the McClintock Annex to the Marquette Maritime Museum were begun to recognize the accomplishments of a Marquette native son in the largest naval battle in history - the Battle for Leyte Gulf, Phillipines, October 1944. Captain David McClintock commanded a wolfpack; the submarines Darter and Dace. He reported the critical first sightings of the main Japanese battle fleet headed for the US landings on the island of Leyte.

This contact enabled the US Forces to respond and inflict a decisive defeat on the Japanese navy. The two submarines attacked the Japanese fleet, sinking two heavy cruisers and crippling a third.

Captain McClintock insisted the recognition be expanded to include his fellow skipper, Captain B.D. Claggett, USN (retired), the crews of the two submarines and all US submariners who served in World War II.

Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum
“a must see”

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is the only one of its kind dedicated to the perils of maritime transport on the Great Lakes. It is fittingly located at Whitefish Point, Michigan, site of the oldest active lighthouse on Lake Superior.

Lake Superior. Deceivingly beautiful, yet the big lake's unrelenting fury has earned her the reputation of being the most treacherous of the Great Lakes. Throughout the museum gallery visitors see dramatic shipwreck legends come to life. Artifacts and exhibits tell stories of sailors and ships who braved the waters of Superior and those who were lost to her menacing waves. The bell of the famous Edmund Fitzgerald is displayed in the museum as a memorial to her lost crew. Whitefish Point marks the critical turning point for all ships entering or leaving the lake. The waters that extend west from Whitefish Point along the 80-mile stretch of rugged shoreline have earned the ominous title, "Lake Superior's Shipwreck Coast."

Take a trip back in time on a guided tour of the fully restored 1861 Lightkeepers Quarters. You'll hear first-hand accounts of keepers and their families who manned this side-by-side duplex building while tending the light. The Lightkeepers Quarters features period furnishings, descriptive panels, and artifacts from the days of the U.S. Lighthouse Service and the U.S. Life Saving Service.

We highly recommend a visit to the Great lakes Shipwreck Museum. It’s a one of a kind and very informative. Check out their website at:
Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

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