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Harsen's Island Rear Range Light, or maybe not?

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Postby NoahG » Tue Feb 19, 2008 6:49 pm


In 2003, Lighthouse Digest ran this article on Jeff Shook's purchase of the Harsens Island Range Light Station. As this has become publicized, The Lighthouse Directory, LighthouseFriends, GLLKA and even Terry Pepper have referred to this Station as the Harsens Island Range Lights. However, from my research through old Light Lists and old Nautical Charts, and first hand field observation, this is NOT the Harsen's Island Range Light Station, but rather the St. Clair Flats Canal Range Lights.

First, the history of the area:

In 1855, the South Channel Range Lights were constructed. Know today as the Old South Channel Lights, these are the lights that have recently been winning a hard fought battle for preservation.

In 1871, a more direct channel was dredge and named the St. Clair Flats Ship Canal. To protect this canal from silting, a long wooden pier was built. At each end of this pier was established an identical brick lighthouse with an integral octagonal tower. This channel was later widened in 1934, and the brick lighthouses torn down. At this point a new set of range lights were constructed. The set of ranges that were constructed to replace the St. Clair Flats Ship Canal Lights became known as the St. Clair Flats Canal Lights. These are the lights that Jeff Shook purchased in 2003.

Many claim that this light is the rear range light, and that the front range of this station is a cylindrical D9 tower. Actually, the skeletal tower pictured is the FRONT range light. The rear range of this station is a 108 foot tall black acetylene-style skeletal tower.

Again, to sum up, the Station Jeff Shook owns, and the one that is repeatedly called the Harsen's Island Range Lights, is in fact the St. Clair Flats Canal Range Lights. I believe this to be fact from my research using both historical and modern Light Lists, Nautical Charts, and Google Earth.

The real Harsen's Island Range Lights guide ships after coming out of the St. Clair Flats Canal. Both of these range towers are cylindrical white structures. The rear range is a D9 tower, but the front range, interestingly, is made in the same style as the Windmill Point, MI, light, being constructed of riveted plating and metal bands, only without the lantern that Windmill Point has.

The St. Clair Cut Off Channel was not dredged until the late 50's/early 60's.

My point: names matter.

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Last edited by NoahG on Fri Feb 22, 2008 3:07 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Hersh » Wed Feb 20, 2008 4:36 am


Looks like you did your research Noah. I agree that proper identifications do indeed matter.

Terry, Tom, any thoughts on this?
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Postby Terry_Pepper » Wed Feb 20, 2008 5:20 pm


I just checked some of my post 1935 Light Lists, and Noah is 100% correct.

I suspect they may have become commonly (and incorrectly) referred to as the Harsens Island range in order to distinguish them from the old South Channel lights.
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Postby NoahG » Wed Feb 20, 2008 9:21 pm


Thanks for the confirmation Terry, I thought for sure that I wasn't crazy.

So, not exactly sure what to do with this information, but hey, I'm glad to get it out there. The reason I care so much is that things like this can easily lead to greater confusion down the line, especially years from now.

I wonder what Mr. Shook will say.
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Postby ericlighthouse » Thu Feb 21, 2008 10:03 am


Noah drop an email to Lighthouse Digest, they may publish it.
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Postby Hersh » Thu Feb 21, 2008 3:50 pm


Terry, how much of a problem will this be for you and GLLKA as far as changing information in your publications & references? I know it's in the program for the Blue Water cruises...

As was mentioned, Mr. Shook will probably be upset to find that that he doesn't have the light he thought he had... But hey, he still has his own light station, I'm sure it won't be too bad. (If he gets all mad about it and sells, let me know.) :)
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Postby NoahG » Fri Feb 22, 2008 3:00 am


I have a feeling Mr. Shook isn't going to be giving up his station anytime soon. I was there on a GLLKA cruise in 2006, and I must say, he is doing a glorious job with the restoration. He also has a rather nice collection of USLHS artifacts.
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Postby Terry_Pepper » Fri Feb 22, 2008 9:57 am


To further compound the issue, it is my understanding that the dwellings and boathouse which constituted the St. Clair Flats Canal Lights served as a Coast Guard station, which was called the Harsens Island Coast Guard station. That also likely contributes to the mix-up.

Any mentions of the station in any future GLLKA media will be correct. The past is impossible to change. Just look at how many erroneous name references there are out there in publication and on the Web to the Grand Island Range there are out there.

If I had a buck for every time I have seen them referred to as "The End of the Road," "Christmas" or "Bay Furnace" ranges I could be comfortably retired by now :D
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Postby NoahG » Fri Feb 22, 2008 10:11 am


The name of the CC station would help explain the mix up. Yet another sticking point.

Oh Grand Island Range. It's all because of the Penrose book that they get called the End of the Road Ranges. The 2007 Light List refers to the front D9 as the Bay Furnace light, and the rear light is actually unlisted. That's odd. I swear it's been listed in the past. I thought it had been re-lit and re-named the Christmas Light. So, in modern terms, the Bay Furnace Light and the Christmas Light act as a range. Of course, we know this should be named the Grand Island Range, at least that's how I refer to them.
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Postby CHUCKX53 » Fri Jul 03, 2009 11:53 am


Noah, I am dredging up this topic to ask you, in your research, did you run across the name RANT Lightstation associated with these range lights ? I ask, because the same article to which you refer to in the March 2003 LHD also gives that name, but no further explanation of that.

I was unable to copy the picture, but here's the text.........


The Saint Clair Flats Rant Light Station.

Michigan resident Jeff Shook is the proud new owner of the Saint Clair Flats Harsen’s Island Range Light Station located near Algonac, Michigan. Approximately thirty sealed bids were received in a government auction to dispose of abandoned lighthouses in Michigan from the U.S. Coast Guard and Shook was the successful bidder. The station includes three houses, a paint storage shed, a garage and two light towers.
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Postby NoahG » Fri Jul 03, 2009 12:08 pm


I can't say I've ever heard of the "RANT Lighstation" before, however I have a theory. Perhaps RANT was an acronym related to the Lightship St. Clair that was remotely operated by radio from the St. Clair Flats Canal Range Lights.
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Postby CHUCKX53 » Fri Jul 03, 2009 12:24 pm


Another thing you refer to is --------

NoahG wrote:The real Harsen's Island Range Lights guide ships after coming out of the St. Clair Flats Canal. Both of these range towers are cylindrical white structures. The rear range is a D9 tower, but the front range, interestingly, is made in the same style as the Windmill Point, MI, light, being constructed of riveted plating and metal bands, only without the lantern that Windmill Point has.


I Know where the cylindrical D-9 Range is (have been there), but I did not see the Front Range of which you speak on my trip up the channel back in 2005....Is it in U.S. waters ?

Or do you know of it's appx. location, or can direct me to a photo of this ? Or, can I see this on Google Earth ?

Reason I ask, Is that I will be in the area in about 2 weeks to get close-ups of the Old Flats Range Lights, and would like to track this down if I could......
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Postby NoahG » Fri Jul 03, 2009 12:33 pm


Give me a moment to look it up on Google Earth. I was out there in 2006 on a GLLKA cruise, unfortunately my camera by that time was dead.

The Detroit, St. Clair and St. Mary's river Lights are something of an enigma to me and something I have always had the most interest in. As some of the least-appreciated lights, with some of the oldest sites on a vital waterway, I've slowly been trying to see as much as I can, which is difficult with limited funds and no boat. I greatly appreciated the series Wayne Sapulski did in The Beacon a few years ago on the St. Mary's River.

While not true lighthouses persay, their are certainly dozens of photographically and historically interesting AtoN structures in the St. Clair Flats and River areas.
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Postby CHUCKX53 » Fri Jul 03, 2009 12:48 pm


NoahG wrote:While not true lighthouses persay, their are certainly dozens of photographically and historically interesting AtoN structures in the St. Clair Flats and River areas.


Man, I'll say there is -- That's why I named our catalog "Lights & Lighthouses of the U.S. Great Lakes", otherwise purists jump on me for Including ones that they don't think are "Real" lighthouses...........
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Postby NoahG » Fri Jul 03, 2009 1:08 pm


Ok here we go, using the GPS points from the 2009 Light List I think I have located the structure.

Per Google Maps and my memory, the front light sits in the water on or near a dock.
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