Algoma Pierhead Lighthouse
Photos courtesy of Kurt E Coburn
After a fire swept through the area nearby in 1871, and townspeople prepared to flee the flames with their belongings in shipping vessels, the village of Ahnapee requested that the Army Corps of Engineers enlarge their harbor. Fortunately, the hamlet was saved by a torrential downpour which doused the flames.
Back to back appropriations in 1870 and 1871, allowed for the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the harbor and erect protective piers. This led to the town becoming the home to one of the largest commerical fishing fleets in Lake Michigan. However, the need for a light became apparent to the town, but fell on deaf ears in Congress.
The town took matters into their own hands and established and maintained a couple of post lights at the end of the piers. Ninth District Engineer Major William Ludlow realized the need for a light and requested a small sum to establish a couple of range lights. The money was approved in 1891, but the Engineers were rebuilding the piers, so work could not begin until late 1892.
The lighthouse was finished on 23 Dec 1892, but the decision was made not to begin using the lighthouse until the next shipping season began. The lights began operation 1 Mar 1893.
When the first lighthouse keeper arrived from Chicago, he was not pleased to find that his lighthouse service did not include living quarters.
In 1894, a small oil shed was constructed and the lens upgraded on the rear light in 1895. This increased the range to 11 miles.
In 1908, the wooden beacons were demolished and a new steel cylindrical tower, 26 feet tall, was created in its stead. In 1907, the wooden lights were found to be in significantly deteriorating condition.
A keeper's house was constructed in 1910 on a hill on the north side of the river overlooking the pier .
Gus Umberham, a well-loved keeper, went boating with friends. When the weather worsened, it is believed that he was thrown against a door, springing it open and fell into the icy water. His body was not found.
In 1932, it was modified by placing the old steel tower on a new base, raising the tower to 42 feet tall. In 1973, the light was automated.
The lighthouse is operated between 1 Apr and 1 Dec each year and additional times when conditions warrant.
|Keeper||Hansen, Ole||14 Feb 1893||13 Nov 1895|
|Keeper||Young, Charles E||13 Nov 1895||15 Nov 1899|
|Keeper||Knudsen, Nelson||15 Nov 1899||30 Jun 1901|
|Keeper||Umberham, Gustavus||1 Jul 1901||3 Feb 1913|
|1st Asst||Braemer, Louis R||21 Apr 1910||1940|
|Keeper||Kimball, Eugene V||4 Feb 1910||6 Nov 1923|
|Keeper||Graan, Carl J||1930||1940|
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