Little Sable Point Light
Little Sable Point Light in Silver Lake State Park is truly a hidden gem. Standing alone on an unspoiled shoreline away from any major towns or highways, Little Sable Point Light towers above every other lighthouse on Lake Michigan at a height of 112’. Its natural brick exterior makes it a unique and beautiful structure. It is impeccably maintained by the Sable Point Lighthouse Keepers Association, which opens the lighthouse to the public daily. It is far enough off the beaten path that crowds are kept to a minimum.
First time visitors will feel as if they have happened upon something magical as they walk out of the parking lot, over a small hill, and upon the towering structure that emerges before their eyes. It is not just a masterpiece among lighthouses, but among all buildings in Michigan.
Mariners had long demanded construction of a lighthouse in the area because of the shallow sandbar jutting into the lake off of Little Sable Point. Following the grounding of the Schooner Pride in 1866, the public outcry grew even more intense, leading the federal government to approve funding in 1871. Colonel Orlando Poe designed the lighthouse. Colonel Poe may be better known as the Union colonel who burned Atlanta during the Civil War, but was he was also one of history’s most accomplished lighthouse architects. By 1866, Colonel Poe was the Lighthouse Board’s Chief Engineer, and in 1870 was appointed to be the Chief Engineer of the Upper Great Lakes Lighthouse District. There are eight “Poe-Style” lighthouses in Michigan. They are marked by brick construction, gently tapering conical towers, and arched windows at the top just below the lantern room. The Poe lighthouses were not only some of the most beautiful, but they were also some of the most structurally sound. All remain standing today.
The Little Sable Lighthouse presented a tremendous engineering challenge for Colonel Poe, being built into the sides of shifting sand dunes. Poe drove 109 pilings of one foot diameter posts deep into the sand, and topped them with twelve feet of concrete to form Little Sable Point Light’s foundation. The fact that the lighthouse has stood the test of time in an environment of constantly shifting sand dunes and soil erosion is a testament to Poe’s skill. The lighthouse stands today in as good of shape as the day it was first lit.
Poe initially built a one and a half story keeper’s house that connected to the tower. When the lighthouse was automated in 1954, the keeper’s quarters were demolished. The lighthouse continued under the Coast Guard’s care until it was leased to the Sable Point Lighthouse Keeper’s Association in 2006.