Archaeology to “find” the North Point Lighthouse
The presently visible North Point Lighthouse Tower and Keeper’s quarters date from construction in 1887, with operations commenced in 1888. From the beginning of restoration efforts and research, Friends knew from published history that an earlier Cream City brick lighthouse with built-in tower had been constructed and placed in service at North Point in 1855. They understood that Lake storms in the 1870’s had caused sections of the bluff to wash away and threatened that lighthouse and, as a result, the “new” lighthouse was constructed and “relocated” to its present location “about 100ft away from the bluff”.
Friends researched and “guestimated” and tape measured from conceivable points to find where on the restored grounds the “old” lighthouse had been located.
Friends and volunteers and Boy Scout Discovery World campers yielded more artifacts to further confirm the bluff top site of the old Light.
Finally, through the concerted efforts of a “dig squad” of Friends, a land surveyor and an archaeologist from the Discovery World Museum, the metes and bounds legal description from the deed recorded in 1855 allowed the squad to “flag” the north and east corners of the that parcel on the present day Lighthouse and Lake Park. Using 19th century maps showing the bluff top location of the old lighthouse in relation to those boundaries, finally enabled the squad to approximate its location on a nearby point on the bluff not presently thought of as part of the North Point Light Station.
The squad’s initial passes with Discovery World’s ground penetrating radar confirmed the location of below-the-surface objects in that vicinity. More definitively, initial exploration of the bluff side from that location yielded Cream City brick demolition debris and artifacts. Subsequent phased archaeological surveys conducted by Friends and volunteers and Boy Scout Discovery World campers yielded more artifacts to further confirm the bluff top site of the old Light. Old photos and a display of the dig process are on display at the North Point Lighthouse Museum.
The squad’s goal–locating the footings and foundation of the old Lighthouse for present day Lighthouse and Lake Park visitors—remains to be met. New “diggers” can help monument the old site, to show that where what is now a peaceful park scene was once the site of a “lost lighthouse” very uncomfortably close to Lake Michigan’s fury.