Fox Island Lighthouse Association Records

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Fox Island Lighthouse Association Records

The materials in this Deep Blue collection form part of a larger record group for the Fox Island Lighthouse Association held by the Bentley Historical Library. Please consult the online finding aid for a more complete index to the records.

Contact the library's division of Reference and Access Services for more information.

The Fox Island Lighthouse Association is a non-profit organization founded to preserve the South Fox Island light station in northern Lake Michigan. Materials include association records and newsletters, photographs, oral history transcripts and recordings, scanned historical documents, and other items created or collected by the association as part of their efforts to preserve the light station.

The Fox Island Lighthouse Association (FILA) is a Traverse City, Michigan, non-profit organization (501(c)(3)) founded in 2004 by Sandy Bradshaw, John McKinney and Hans Joerg Rothenberger. Their goal was to rekindle the efforts of former groups for rescuing the South Fox Island light station, which had been abandoned in 1959 and has been threatened by gradual decay ever since. South Fox Island is in northern Lake Michigan, about 25 miles north of Leland, Michigan.

The South Fox Island Light Station was active for 101 years, from 1867 to 1968. The first lighthouse was a square light tower attached with an attached keeper’s dwelling. In the 1890s, a separate dwelling space for assistant lighthouse keepers was built as well as a fog signal building and other structures. A new, brick assistant keepers’ dwelling was built in 1910. In 1934, a new light tower, a skeletal tower taken from Sapelo Island, Georgia, was installed. The light station became automated in 1958 and the last light keeper left the island. The light station was decommissioned in 1968 due to improvements in ships’ onboard navigation equipment.

In 1971 the U.S. Department of the Interior transferred 115 acres of land on the southern tip of South Fox Island (excepting the light station buildings and grounds) to the State of Michigan Department of Natural Resources for public use. In 1980, the light station buildings and grounds were also deeded to the State of Michigan.

Until the establishment of the Fox Island Lighthouse Association, few efforts had been made toward the upkeep of the property. One exception was work done in summer 1984 by Michigan Youth Corps members under direction from the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District Youth Employment Services. In 2002, the Fox Island Education Association (FIEA) was founded but later disbanded. Two years later, the South Fox Island Lighthouse Restoration Project (SFILRP) was founded by two former FIEA members, Sandy Bradshaw and John McKinney, along with H. Joerg Rothenberger. SFILRP was renamed Fox Island Lighthouse Association (FILA) in 2005. It gained non-profit status in 2006 and work began on the island later that year. Since then, FILA volunteers have made significant progress in improving the condition of the light station grounds and buildings. A Historic Structure Report, completed in 2011 by U.P. Engineers & Architects and submitted to the State Historical Preservation Office, now guides the restoration and construction work.

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Copyright is held by the Regents of the University of Michigan

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