|Sand Hills, MI|
Description: In 1892, the Lighthouse Board noted: “Vessels bound east from the head of Lake Superior first make the land and commence to turn in rounding Keweenaw Point at the Sand Hills, 12 miles west of Eagle River.” As maritime traffic at Eagle River had ceased, the Board recommended that Eagle River Lighthouse be discontinued and replaced with a more powerful coastal light at Sand Hills. Congress authorized the construction of the new station in 1893 but never provided the necessary funds. The Lighthouse Board repeated its annual plea for funding up until 1908, when Eagle River Lighthouse was decommissioned.
An article in the Detroit Free Press in October 1908 announcing the planned closure of Eagle River Lighthouse noted:
It is generally presumed the decision to permanently abandon the station, which is one of the most important on Lake Superior, is reached in the hope that the attention of congress to the absolute necessity of a light at this point, will be closely drawn with the suspension of this warning beacon….The decision of the lighthouse board to discontinue the light at the close of the season, before any provision is made for a new light, is likely to raise a storm of protest from mariners who navigate Lake Superior.
In 1911, the Lake Carriers’ Association addressed the need for a light at Sand Hills with these words:
The great necessity for this aid to navigation is most eloquently pleaded by the large number of disastrous wrecks which have occurred in this vicinity and all of which might have been avoided if a lighthouse and a fog signal station had been in existence at this point. The wreck of the splendid new steamer W. C. Moreland, lost on this shore on one of her very first trips, is attributed to the absence of a warning light or signal to notify the master of his approach to the dangerous reefs lying along this shore, and is the latest argument in favor of this aid.
The Bureau of Lighthouses requested $75,000 for a light and fog signal at Sand Hills, four miles west of Eagle River, in 1912, and Congress finally provided $70,000 for the much needed station on June 12, 1917. In the meantime, a gas and bell buoy that exhibited an occulting white light at a height of ten feet above water was placed on the reef on June 10, 1916. On September 14, 1917, a temporary light and an electric siren were established at Sand Hills, and the buoy was removed. This fixed white light was mounted atop a black steel mast at a height of thirty feet above the lake.
By July 1918, detailed plans for the new station were ready and workmen’s quarters had been built on the purchased reservation. It was thought that the station would be placed in operation during the 1918 season, but stormy weather and nondelivery of the lantern room delayed its completion until early in the 1919 season.
The following description of the newly completed station at Sand Hills was published by the Commissioner of Lighthouses in 1919:
Purpose.—The shore line of Lake Superior off Keweenaw Point and abreast of Eagle River, Mich., is fringed with rocky shoals on which a number of vessels have been wrecked. The purpose of this project is to provide an adequate light and fog signal station to mark these reefs.
William R. Bennetts, a younger brother of Thomas Bennetts, the last keeper of Eagle River Lighthouse, was appointed the first head keeper of Sand Hills Lighthouse. William Bennetts would serve as the light’s only head keeper, as in 1939, an automatic light was established, the fog signal was discontinued, and the station personnel was reduced.
On March 28, 1921, the characteristic of Sand Hills Light was changed to a group of two flashes every thirty seconds in this manner: 1.2-second flash, 6.3-second eclipse, 1.2-second flash, 21.3-second eclipse. When the station was automated in 1939, an acetylene light, which produced a flash every fifteen seconds, was established atop the fog signal building at a focal plane of thirty-two feet. In 1942, the light was moved to a tower with a focal plane of sixty feet, and then in 1943 it was returned to the lighthouse.
Frabotta refurbished the fog signal building and used it as a cottage, where for many years his family enjoyed summer stays and weekend getaways. After thirty years of ownership, Frabotta decided to convert the lighthouse into a Victorian bed and breakfast, and between 1992 and 1995, he completely remodeled the building. Sand Hills Lighthouse Inn opened in 1995, offering eight rooms, each with a private bath and either a king or queen-size bed. Bill Frabotta serves as the consummate innkeeper, while his wife Mary delights guests with her delicious pastries and nightly performances on the grand piano. Bill and Mary Frabotta just happen to have the same first names as the first couple to live in the lighthouse, Bill and Mary Bennetts.
A fifth-order Fresnel lens, never used at Sand Hills Lighthouse, is on display on the second floor of the tower.
Located eight miles north of Ahmeek on the northern shore of the Keweenaw Peninsula. The lighthouse operates as
Sand Hills Lighthouse Inn. The lighthouse is privately owned. Grounds open, dwelling/tower open for overnight guests.
The lighthouse operates as Sand Hills Lighthouse Inn.
The lighthouse is privately owned. Grounds open, dwelling/tower open for overnight guests.
Notes from a friend:Kraig writes:
The rooms in this bed and breakfast are done in a colorful, Victorian style, and Bill and Mary, who run the place are quite colorful too. Bill provides tours of the place, giving the detailed history of how he purchased the dilapidated structure and caringly restored it to its current glory, while Mary provides a wonderful dessert each evening to be consumed while she plays the grand piano. Her favorite piece during our stay was Cristofori's Dream. Mary became quite moved when she described how guests come to the B&B and in that intimate setting share food, music, and conversation, but then slip out of her life again after just a few days. She obviously puts a lot of heart into her job.Marilyn writes:
This is a great lighthouse B&B to stay at even if some people think it looks like a dormitory. It's right on the lake, the hostess plays the piano for the guests each night even taking requests, and the desserts are scrumptious.
See our List of Lighthouses in Michigan
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.