Huron Lightship

Also known as: Relief (lightship), Grays Reef, North Manitou Shoal
Pine Grove Park on St. Clair River, Port Huron, Michigan

Preserved lightship functioning as a museum. A National Historic Landmark.

Photos 

Looking east.

Showing port side.

Photo taken by Nathan Holth in July 2010

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Map 

Street View 

Description 

The 1920 Lightship No. 103, also known by her last official designation, Huron, is the only surviving example of a lightship type specifically built for service on the Great Lakes. Lightships were vital partners of Great Lakes shipping, particularly where shoals and reefs far from land could not be safely marked by lighthouses. The Lake Huron station was at the south end of the lake at the entrance to the St. Clair River, on the primary trade route of the Great Lakes. The last lightship to serve on the Great Lakes, No. 103 is now an outdoor exhibit. -- National Historic Landmark statement of significance, December 20, 1989

A two sided Michigan Historical Marker here reads:

Commissioned in 1921, the Huron began service as a relief vessel for other Great Lakes lightships. She is ninety-seven feet long, twenty-four feet in beam, and carried a crew of eleven. On clear nights her beacon could be seen for fourteen miles. After serving in northern Lake Michigan, the Huron was assigned to the Corsica Shoals in 1935. These shallow waters, six miles north of Port Huron, were the scene of frequent groundings by lake freighters in the late nineteenth century. A lightship station had been established there in 1893, since the manned ships were more reliable than lighted buoys. After 1940 the Huron was the only lightship on the Great Lakes. Retired from Coast Guard Service in 1970, she was presented to the City of Port Huron in 1971.

Side 2:

Historical photo from 1942 or 43. Courtesy of Tom Dembeck.

Information From National Park Service 

Written by National Park Service in 1989.

Statement of Significance
(as of designation - December 20, 1989):
The 1920 Lightship No. 103, also known by her last official designation, Huron, is the only surviving example of a lightship type specifically built for service on the Great Lakes. Lightships were vital partners of Great Lakes shipping, particularly where shoals and reefs far from land could not be safely marked by lighthouses. The Lake Huron station was at the south end of the lake at the entrance to the St. Clair River, on the primary trade route of the Great Lakes. The last lightship to serve on the Great Lakes, No. 103 is now an outdoor exhibit.

Condition:
The landmark is in very good condition.

Volunteers are restoring engines in the engine room, which have not ran since 1970. The Fog Horn engine was rebuilt by volunteers an the fog horn is now operational. Parts, oil and equipment for the restoration were donated by local businesses.

Information About This Historic Site

From Michigan Historic Sites Online

Architect/Builder: Consolidated Shipbuilding Corporation

Narrative Description
Lightship No. 103, formerly RELIEF, GRAYS REEF, NORTH MANITOU and LAKE HURON, now known by her last U.S. Coast Guard designation of HURON (WLV 526), is a dry-berthed museum vessel displayed on the shoreline of the St. Clair River at Pine Grove Park at Port Huron, Michigan, since August 1972. Owned by the city of Port Huron and managed by the Port Huron Housing Commission, No. 103 is an outdoor exhibit without public access to the interior. Future plans call for opening the lightship to the public.

Statement of Significance
Lightship No. 103, also known by her last official designation of HURON, is one of a small number of preserved historic American lightships. Essential partners with lighthouses as aids to navigation along the coast of the United States, lightships date to 1820 when the first vessel to serve as an aid to navigation was commissioned. Lightships left in the United States date from 1904 to 1952, when the last was built and launched. The period between 1918-1920 saw the construction of several of these vessels, of which No. 103 is the only example. The smallest surviving lightship and sole representative of the 96-foot class, No. 103 was designed and built specifically for Great Lakes service. No. 103 is the only surviving Great Lakes lightship. As the sole survivor of the type and the only representative of all the lightships built for the treacherous fresh waters of the lakes, HURON, built originally as RELIEF for Lake Michigan stations, also served stations on Lake Superior and Lake Huron before retirement, and was the last lightship on the Great Lakes.

Marker Name: Huron Lightship
Marker Text:
Commissioned in 1921, the HURON began service as relief vessel for other Great Lakes lightships. She is ninety-seven feet long, twenty-four feet in beam and carried a crew of eleven. On clear nights her beacon could be seen for fourteen miles. After serving in northern Lake Michigan the HURON was assigned to the Corsica Shoals in 1935. These shallow waters, six miles north of Port Huron, were the scene of frequent groundings by lake freighters in the late nineteenth century. A lightship station had been established there in 1893, since the manned ships were more reliable than lighted buoys. After 1940 the HURON was the only lightship on the Great Lakes. Retired from Coast Guard service in 1970, she was presented to the city of Port Huron in 1971.

Recognition Timeline:
1973 Marker erected
05/17/1973 State Register listed
07/12/1976 National Register listed
12/20/1989 National Historic Landmark listed

National Register information 

Status
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on July 12, 1976
Reference number
76001974
NR name
HURON (lightship)
Areas of significance
Military; Transportation; Politics/Government; Architecture
Levels of significance
National; State
Evaluation criteria
A - Event; C - Design/Construction
Property type
Structure
Historic function
Water-related
Current function
Museum
Periods of significance
1950-1974; 1900-1924; 1925-1949
Significant years
1918; 1920; 1949

Update Log 

  • October 7, 2012: New photo from Rattrak
  • August 2, 2010: Essay added by Nathan Holth
  • August 2, 2010: Essay added by Nathan Holth
  • August 2, 2010: New photos from Nathan Holth
  • July 28, 2010: New Street View added by Nathan Holth

Sources