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Mission Point Lighthouse

September 20, 2014

  • Old Mission Lighthouse20500 Center Road
  • Traverse City, MI 49686
  • (231) 223-7324
  • Website

There was so much I wanted to do on our quick getaway to Traverse City, but L was going to be content just playing in the water park at Great Wolf Lodge.  We took the trip for her, so I wasn’t going to push her too much.

On our second day of vacation, I suggested we go for a drive.  I thought it might be nice to get out of the hotel and drive out to the Old Mission State Park.  We didn’t have to spend a lot of time out there, but I wanted to go check out the old lighthouse.

The Mission Point House right on the end of the Old Mission Peninsula on the Grand Traverse Bay.  It’s about a half hour drive from downtown Traverse City and the whole twenty miles is gorgeous.  There are a number of places where you get a great look over the rolling hills of the peninsula looking out on both the West Arm and East Arm of Grand Traverse Bay.

The lighthouse is at the end of M-37 inside the Old Mission State Park.  Once the highway ends, there is a road leading in to the park and to a parking lot near the lighthouse.

The Mission Point Lighthouse was built in 1870 as an exact replica of another lighthouse on the Detroit River. The location is just to the south of the 45th parallel which is the halfway point between the North Pole and the Equator.  The lighthouse was only used up until the 1930’s, but the building was purchased by the State of Michigan.  Up until 2008, the lighthouse was used as the park manager’s residence.  Now, the building and the tower are open the public and that’s the reason we made the trip out.  

The lighthouse uses a somewhat interesting program to staff the building.  You can actually “volunteer” to live in the lighthouse for a week and open it up to visitors.  By “volunteer” I mean pay to do this.  It still sounds kind of cool, but the whole paying someone to work thing isn’t something I’d be really interested in.  You have to open the lighthouse between 10 and 5, so you can’t really enjoy the area until evening rolls around…but I bet the sunsets are amazing from the light tower…which might make the fee worth it.

The front half of the building now serves as a museum and gift shop.  There are three floors to check out with the main floor being free while there is a small fee for the other two floors.

We squeezed in to the gift shop to pay for J and I.  L was free as are kids under the age of 5.  We didn’t really look around yet as we wanted to make it up to the tower, so we started up the narrow stairs to the second floor.

The second floor has a small history of Sarah Lane who became the first female keeper in Mission Point’s history after her husband died.  There are artifacts that actually belonged to her and it’s set up to look like her bedroom as it would have looked at the turn of the twentieth century.

After a quick peak in the bedroom, we started to ascent to the tower.  It’s a pretty steep ladder so I had to help L up then I followed.  The light has been removed from the tower, but it’s still only big enough for three people to be in the tower at one time.  L didn’t really count as one so we were joined by another man to look out over the beautiful views of the Grand Traverse Bay.

Once we took a few pictures, we headed back down to the main floor.  On the way, we passed the 5th Order Fresnel that was in the tower while it was used as a lighthouse and Capt. John Lane’s study which had some pieces of the shipwreck that got Congress to set aside money for the lighthouse.

We had only spent about fifteen minutes or so inside as it’s pretty cramped and the hallways and stairwells are pretty tight.  We headed back out after we got our look and actually headed down to the beach for an impromptu photo shoot with L.  It’s not the kind of beach that I would go swimming in, but it was nice just to play in the sand and help L “clean up the beach” (ie. pick up rocks and put them in her pocket) before getting back in the car and heading back to town.

We had a lot of fun at this small piece of Michigan history.  The drive out to Mission Point is beautiful and the lighthouse itself is a glimpse in to a piece of history that could easily be lost.  We all see the lighthouses at the end of the piers everytime we go swimming at Lake Michigan, but this is different.  This is something that was much more unlikely to survive and we’re lucky because it did.

Old Mission Lighthouse

Old Mission Lighthouse

Old Mission Lighthouse

Old Mission Lighthouse

Old Mission Lighthouse

View of Grand Traverse Bay from the tower

Old Mission Lighthouse

The ladder leading up to the tower

Mission Point Lighthouse

Stairwell to the second floor

Mission Point Lighthouse

Sarah Lane’s Bedroom

Mission Point Lighthouse

Capt. Lane’s Office

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