Fundraiser aims to restore Muskegon lighthouses

Muskegon County

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — Two lighthouses have greeted sailors entering the Muskegon Channel for over a hundred years, but that could change if enough money isn’t raised to save them. 

During Muskegon’s Lighthouse Festival, guests were greeted and taught by lighthouse instructor Kim Lange, who says preserving them is up to the community. 

“It’s all about awareness,” Lange said. “We want people to become aware of what our lighthouses are. To us they are castles. They’re our treasures. If we don’t do something, we’ll lose them.”

The South Pierhead Lighthouse was built in 1908. It’s significantly older and but is in better shape than the South Breakwater light, which was built in 1931 and is positioned farther out into Lake Michigan. 

muskegon south breakwater lighthouse
The South Breakwater Lighthouse in Muskegon on Aug. 18, 2019.

“What we have is a light that has been battered, bruised and neglected for a number of years,” Lange said. “Since it is out there further, it really takes the brunt of the waves and in the winter, the ice.”

But the pair of lighthouses does suffer in tandem. Chipping lead paint, crumbling steel and splintering wood come with a hefty price tag. 

“It’s going to take in excess of $500,000, probably closer to $1 million, to repair and restore them,” Lange said. “The cost doubles, triples, quadruples with age, so that’s what we’re looking at to do what we need to do here.”

For nonprofit Muskegon Lights, which has been offering guided tours of the pierhead lighthouse since 2015, charging $4 per climb, that’s a lot of climbers. 

The Attallah family, vacationing in West Michigan from West Bloomfield, climbed the lighthouse Saturday. They had never climbed one before. 

“This is the first time we’ve gone all the way to the top. It was very exciting,” Teddy Attallah said. “The views are phenomenal up there. You know, you can’t get nothing like that from down state.

“We’re born and raised in Michigan, all of us,” he continued. “This is our place, our town and we would love to see communities come together and keep these places going.”

He said he hopes the lighthouses stand for years to come, long enough that his kids can one day bring their children.

“We love coming here, it would be a shame to see them lost,” Attallah said.

Starting next summer, Muskegon Lights will launch a capital fundraising campaign to help raise money to finance the lighthouses’ restoration. You can already donate online.

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