SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s a South Haven icon that’s been standing for more than 100 years. But after time and weather took their toll on South Haven’s lighthouse, the community rallied to protect it.
The newly restored lighthouse was dedicated Wednesday evening.
“These structures are getting much older, harder to maintain,” Amanda Creeden, the president of the Historical Association of South Haven, told 24 Hour News 8 before the dedication ceremony. “And at some point, unless you’re willing to have someone come in and do a complete renovation, the structure is eventually going to fall apart.”
The historical association bought the lighthouse from the federal government in 2012 for $1 with one condition: The association agreed to preserve and maintain it. That meant the association had to raise $300,000 to restore the structure, so it started the “Save the Light” capital campaign.
“We started our brick paver program,” Creeden said. “We asked for pledges for continuing years of support, we asked for donations and kind of crossed our fingers. And it worked.”
“The structure is actually made out of steel, and here she sits on the end of a pier exposed to all kinds of elements year-around,” Creeden said. “Honestly, when we began, we walked around the lighthouse and said, ‘Oh my goodness, how are we going to pull this off?’ It really felt insurmountable.”
Workers sandblasted the lighthouse, applied a zinc coat to prevent rust and then painted the lighthouse its familiar red.
Today, the lighthouse is mostly used for pictures in brochures and post cards. It’s a Lake Michigan landmark.
But it didn’t always look like it does now. The first lighthouse in South Haven was made of wood. Built in the early 1870s, it was torn down in 1903.
“And it was white, and just very simple. As time went by, they needed to extend the pier and protect the harbor more, so the red light you see now was constructed in 1903,” Creeden explained.
Creeden says people are surprised to learn the lighthouse wasn’t always red.
“We did a historical study as part of our renovation process,” she said. “We had to go down layer, after layer after layer of paint. There was a time when we believe it was yellow.”