GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — You can step inside the iconic Grand Haven lighthouse Thursday afternoon to see how renovations are going.

The Grand Haven Lighthouse Conservancy is holding a free open house from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“Could you imagine Grand Haven without lighthouses?” Jim Karoo, the chair of the conservancy, said. “The lighthouses draw a lot of people for sunsets. I’ve had people ask me if they could pop the question to their fiancée out here.”

The Grand Haven lighthouse. (Sept. 1, 2021)

The lighthouse makes for a pretty picture, but its original purpose was essential for sailors. Keepers manned the guidepost, ensuraing safe passage for vessels, until the early 1980s.

“To think of all the people who actually served in here and helped keep a safe port is what I find interesting,” Mike Dora from the conservancy said. “Just to keep their memories alive, the lifesaving efforts, the safety that they all provided.”

“The courage and determination those folks must have had to actually stay out here for that period of time to keep it operational,” he marveled.

The restoration effort is also taking plenty of determination, but it is making progress. The latest accomplishment is the restored latern deck, now free of rotted wood and covered in a fresh coat of paint.

“We’ve done so much. It’s been amazing,” Karoo said. “A porthole’s been restored. We’ve got a porthole. It’s wonderful.”

Still, there’s much to be done.

“As you can see, the walls in here need to be finished. There’s electrical work that needs to be done. The cement on the outside is failing; that needs to be reinforced,” Karoo listed.

So far, the conservancy has raised about $500,00 through grants and individual donations. It says it needs about double that for a total of $1 million. You can donate online at the organization’s website.

“It’s going to take a little bit of money and a lot of effort from the public to raise that money and get this job done so we can all come out and enjoy this on a routine basis,” Karoo said.  

The goal is to reopen the lighthouse to the public permanently in the spring of 2023. Once fully restored, visitors can view artifacts and shop at a gift shop.

“You think of all the people and all the generations that this is a lifeline to them; this is their happy place,” Cindy Crane from the conservancy said.

The Grand Haven lighthouse. (Sept. 1, 2021)