Lighthouse plan being finalized

Above; Attendees walk down the elevated walkway that stretches east from the Marquette Lighthouse to a former fuel tank bunker during the Marquette Maritime Museum’s final evening tour of the season Thursday. In the middle is Museum Director Hilary Billman (blue sweatshirt). Below: Gregory Sandell, first grade teacher and museum volunteer, did a surprise historical re-enactment as a lighthouse keeper for tour attendees, playing a banjo, reading keeper log entries from the 1880s, and recalling when he himself grew up in the neighborhood. He said he shared Coke and stories with the men who lived in the Lifesaving Service Building when he was a little boy. (Journal photos by Mary Wardell)

MARQUETTE — The future of the historic Marquette Lighthouse will be decided soon, though financial constraints mean the plans will likely take time to carry out.

The iconic red lighthouse by McCarty’s Cove was deeded to the city by the U.S. Coast Guard last July. The Marquette-based architecture firm Sanders and Czapski Associates was awarded a contract to conduct a land use plan for the lighthouse parcel last September.

The property has been thoroughly assessed, public input has been gathered, and a draft plan is being finalized that’s expected to go before the Marquette City Commission in October.

The commission recently held a work session on the plan.

Director of Community Services Jon Swenson said final costs are being assessed for the capital plans before the final draft is submitted to the commission for consideration.

“Overall what the draft included was pretty well received (by commissioners),” Swenson said. “The biggest contentions were whether we should remove all the fences on the property” or just portions of the fencing.

Another conversation piece was the future use of the captain’s residence and Lifesaving Service Building, which is a barracks that housed U.S. Coast Guard officers until the 2000s, according to museum staff.

There is discussion of using the facilities for short-term rentals and/or an artist in residency program, Swenson said, for which there was both support and apprehension among commissioners.

Swenson said whatever happens to the property, it will require a revenue-generating aspect in order to maintain the historic site, which is extremely expensive.

The lighthouse is one of the oldest historic structures in Marquette, according to Maritime Historian Fred Stonehouse.

The original lighthouse was constructed in 1866 with subsequent additions and improvements, including a second floor added in 1910.

Architect Ken Czapski, who is writing the lighthouse plan, said at an event earlier this summer that the lighthouse was painted “heart throb red” in the 1960s.

The 10-acre parcel has four major structures, the lighthouse and keeper’s dwelling, captain’s residence, USCG station building and a small brick pump house on the western side.

An elevated walkway stretches east from the lighthouse to a former fuel tank bunker, a stone rubble barrier wall, the foundation of a former fog signal building and a former boat landing crib.

Stonehouse, president of the museum’s board of directors, said the museum first obtained a lease for lighthouse tours from the U.S. Coast Guard in 2002 after they had “effectively abandoned it” in 1991.

Stonehouse said the museum has spent about $200,000 maintaining the property.

Mary Wardell can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is