Man purchases Manistique lighthouse

MANISTIQUE – The picturesque lighthouse that stands as a symbol of the Manistique community received a new coat of red paint recently thanks to the lighthouse’s new owner.

“My goal is – and this is just a goal – is to have the concrete taken care of by next Memorial Day weekend,” said Bill Collins, the Ohio native who purchased the lighthouse in July. Constructed in 1916, the lighthouse sits on one of the three breakwalls enclosing 31 acres of water at the mouth of the Manistique River. Originally the beacon was operated by lighthouse keepers, but when the railroad and car ferry ceased operation in Manistique in the late 1960s the lighthouse became fully automated.

In May of 2012 the Manistique East Breakwater Lighthouse was made available under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000, which allowed qualifying government agencies, non-profit corporations, educational agencies, and community organizations to acquire the lighthouse for educational, recreational, cultural, or historic preservation purposes. The city began looking at purchasing and restoring the property, however, the acquisition was never completed.

In June of this year the General Services Administration opened an online auction on the property. When the auction closed on July 15 the lighthouse had only received one bid – a $15,000 bid from Collins.

“I was surprised when it came up. I honestly didn’t think I was going to get it,” said Collins, who had never been to Manistique before purchasing the lighthouse.

Collins, who has had a fascination with lighthouses most of his life, had been trying to acquire one on Lake Erie for some time. When he didn’t find one to acquire, Collins purchased a lighthouse in Delaware in May of last year. The lighthouse in Delaware is not located directly on the water, and the location of the Manistique lighthouse on the breakwater was part of the attraction that led Collins to bid on Manistique’s lighthouse.

“I’ve been to Michigan a couple times as a vacation spot, and it’s a beautiful state and to have one on Lake Michigan was just perfect,” he said.

Despite originally intending to purchase a lighthouse on Lake Erie, he is happy with his lighthouse on Lake Michigan.

“I live on Lake Erie, and don’t get me wrong I love it, but Michigan seems to be more respectful of their natural resources,” he said.

While Collins has only been able to visit Manistique once since he purchased the lighthouse, he has been actively following the community response to the lighthouse renovations and has established a Facebook page,, to interact with local residents and other people interested in the lighthouse.

“(Manistique seems) like a really close knit community and I’m glad to be a part of it,” he said.

Many residents were concerned over the future of the iconic lighthouse following its purchase, but Collins has no intention of removing the structure from its location on the breakwater.

“A lot of people were concerned that it was going to be moved – which apparently has happened with other lighthouses that have been purchased – but I’m glad we could keep it there because it’s part of the community,” he said.