Historic Structures

Lower Nicolet West Front Lighthouse, Barbeau Michigan

Date added: November 3, 2016 Categories: Michigan Lighthouse

In 1931, in order to accommodate the increasing number of larger ore ships plying the shallow waters of Lake Nicolet and the St. Nary's River en route to and from the Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie, the U. S. Corps of Engineers undertook a large-scale dredging project to revise the channel system around the St. Mary's River islands. The channels served by lights at the Lower Nicolet Cut in the St. Mary's River were among those selected to be widened and deepened, and corresponding changes and additions to aids to navigation in the area were planned. Among those to be undertaken on Neebish Island, a double syst of front and rear range lights for the east and west channels were needed, in addition to many changes in the buoy system.

As financial constraints had been further tightened by the Depression it was decided to alter and reuse two cylindrical, steel-plate towers (originally constructed in 1907) that were no longer needed at the discontinued Windmill Point site in Detroit, rather than to build new skeleton towers from more recent designs. The towers were to be erected on approximately 12.65 acres of land, some of which, as it turned out, could be acquired only through condemnation, a process that delayed the proposed construction by several months. The towers were well underway by the end of Fiscal Year 1931, according to the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Lighthouses, which noted that, "Lower Nicolet West Range Lights have been started and the concrete bases finished, temporary structures having been erected to serve in the meantime. 4Erection of the steel superstructure is now in progress. . ."

The annual report for 1932 announced that, "Harwood Point West Range, Dark Hole West Range, Lower Nicolet West Range, and Middle Neebish Cut South Range have been constructed. Harwood Point, Lower Nicolet, and Dark Hole East have been rebuilt."

Although all four lights remained in operation throughout the next 60 years, the cylindrical steel tower at Lower Nicolet West Rear Range Light (No.11W) had been moved to a site 2,000 feet further back and replaced by a steel skeleton tower by 1958. The West Front Range Light No. 10 was thus the sole remaining example of the 1907 cylindrical steel construction on the site. In 1993, it was scheduled for demolition and replacement.