South Haven Lighthouse Restoration Project Receives Significant Grant

SOUTH HAVEN — The thousands of Michigan motorists who proudly display a lighthouse on the license plate of their vehicle are helping the initiative to restore the Lake Michigan lighthouse at South Haven.

The State of Michigan, through its Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program (MLAP), has granted the Historical Association of South Haven (HASH) a matching $60,000 grant for the project’s exterior work.

Last year a local “Save the Light” fund raising initiative spearheaded by HASH brought in over $300,000 in donations for the project to restore the 113-year-old lighthouse.

The MLAP program was established in 2001 to assist in the preservation, rehabilitation and protection of historic lighthouses in Michigan. Funding for the program comes solely from the sale of lighthouse license plates which number approximately 160,000. With its striking red-and-white stripes, the White Shoal Lighthouse is set against the blue waters of Lake Michigan to symbolize the need to preserve all 124 of Michigan’s lighthouses.

Your organization’s dedication to preserving Michigan’s historic resources is to be commended.Brian Conway, state historic preservation officer for the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, which oversees the Lighthouse Assistance Program (MLAP).

Work on the beacon’s interior started last fall and is in the final stages. Bids will be sought for the exterior phase. Once work begins, public access to the end of pier where the lighthouse stands will be limited for an estimated 9-12 weeks. A timetable for that work needs to be established.

The original South Haven lighthouse, a wooden structure, was constructed in 1872. It was replaced by the current steel lighthouse in 1903. The lantern portion is believed to be from the original lighthouse. The catwalk leading to the lighthouse is one of only four that survive in Michigan. In 2012 ownership of the lighthouse was transferred from the U.S. Coast Guard to the Historical Association of South Haven with the stipulation that it be maintained. The new owners quickly realized that a major restoration of the deteriorating structure was going to be necessary.

There is still an opportunity to support the project. HASH is selling personalized bricks that will form a walkway leading to the south pier. The purchase is considered a tax deductible gift to the lighthouse project. Information on the brick program can found at the website

The committee that spearheaded the fund raising effort included Ed Appleyard, Dick Brunvand, Becky Burkert Kark, Joe Foster, Roger Horton, Linda LaRocque, James Ollgaard and Tom Renner.

Dave Varney of Century Builders MI is the project manager. The primary contractor for work completed to date has been Mihm Enterprises, Inc. of Hamilton. The City of South Haven and South Haven Board of Public Works has provided project expertise.

Read the article on the MSHDA website about the grant >>>


2016 Lighthouse Construction Update

Neither rain, nor ice, nor the cold weather can stop the gallant restoration crew from working on our lighthouse.

Well maybe I am exaggerating about the weather because it has been rather nice these past couple of days at pier’s end.

Yesterday I believe the sandblasting of the top and middle levels was completed. The bottom level is next and then primer paint applications.

Let’s hope Mother Nature cooperates just a couple of more days.

It’s been fun spending time at the lighthouse. I even watched a fisherman reel in a giant steelhead!

Happy New Year everyone!!
Tom Renner, Retired but happily busy



New Construction Photos

Tom Renner’s pictures (below) of the lighthouse construction to keep us up to date on the progress. Here’s what Ed Appleyard had to say:
View a video of the inside the lighthouse from Ed and more at the Lighthouse Facebook Page >>>

Here is what the well dressed sandblaster wears when working on the South Haven Lighthouse. Precautions against possible lead paint and asbestos. All material that is removed has to be captured and properly disposed of. Photo by Tom Renner, busy as usual even though he is retired.







Help us “Save the Light” by purchasing a Personalized Commemorative Brick >>>



Save the Light Video Update

Watch this video by Dick Brunvand, photos by Tom Renner, and an interview with Ed Appleyard on the progress of the Save the Light Campaign.



An up close look at decaying South Haven Lighthouse building – NEWSCHANNEL 3

WWMT Website header

WWMT Website header

Newschannel 3 story, 9/2/2015, about the South Haven Lighthouse.

Watch the video interview with HASH President, James Ollgaard, on ->
SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – It’s a building that’s closely linked to the scenic beauty of West Michigan.

But we’re finding out that the South Haven Lighthouse has fallen on hard times.

Newschannel 3 got an exclusive inside look at the lighthouse, and found out what’s being done to save it.

“There are thousands of people out there every day during the summer and they’re having family pictures taken there, selfies taken there,” said Jim Ollgaard, President of the Historical Association of South Haven.

But while people are out adoring the historic lighthouse, they might be surprised by what’s inside.

“It’s rusting, literally from the inside out. The floors inside the lighthouse are rusted through, the light room has rust all around the windows, and the walls are rusted,” Ollgaard said.

Because of safety concerns, the interior of the lighthouse building is not open to the public.

You have to climb up two different ladders and step carefully around rusty floors to get to the top.

After squeezing through a little door, you can gain access to the balcony around the light, taking in beautiful views of the lake and pier.

The lighthouse was decommissioned by the federal government and handed over to the historical association in 2012.

“Part the agreement with the federal government is that we’d mount a campaign to restore the lighthouse,” Ollgaard said.

Right now they’re $40,000 short on their $300,000 goal.

“It’s a little bit of struggle toward the end, of course, because a lot of people have already donated. But we’re reaching out to others, and we’re optimistic we’re going to get the funds we need,” Ollgaard said.

The caretakers need to battle decay before it gets too late.

They want to reinforce the structure, along with getting rid of the rust, lead paint and asbestos.

The lighthouse is more than a tourist attraction. It still has a functioning beacon that boaters depend on.

There is also a weather station and fog horn at the top of the building.

Guarding the shores of South Haven for 112 years, it would be hard to imagine the town without it.

“It’s a landmark. We’re a tourist destination, so it was imperative that we do something,” Ollgaard said.

If you’d like to help save the lighthouse, visit this website:

Here’s a link to the Article on Newschannel 3, –>