Wednesday, October 8, 2008

WHAT'S NEW: October 2008

I have been researching Michigan lighthouses for several years, gathering information about their history and stories about their keepers. One of Michigan's most secluded beacons is the Little Traverse Lighthouse in Harbor Springs. I saw it from the water once, many years ago...but I recently had the opportunity to tour it thanks to the Harbor Springs Historical Society. I had the pleasure of speaking to this group about "Ladies of the Lights" during their annual lighthouse tour weekend.

The first keeper at the Little Traverse Lighthouse was Elizabeth Whitney VanRiper Williams. Prior to that, she was keeper at St. James Harbor Light at Whiskey Point and is one of the pioneer female keepers in the Midwest -- and perhaps the entire United States.

Taking the trolley through the gated community of Harbor Point was a step back in history. These amazing "cottages" have ties to some of the most noted millionaire families such as Wrigley Offield, scion of the chewing gum clan; Elton MacDonald, creator of Plaid Stamps, and Frederick S. Ford, a director of Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass.

Located on a point that juts out into Little Traverse Bay, near Harbor Springs, not even automobiles are allowed here. Residents park in a lot at the entrance, and make their way to their cottages via horse and buggy, that makes a circle of the area every 15 minutes. There are some 70 homes on the point, all with beautifully manicured lawns and a wealth of history. While traveling to the lighthouse, tourers are prohibited from taking photographs of the homes -- a strict rule enforced by the Harbor Point Association. It's the stuff movies are made of!!

If I were to live in a lighthouse, I think Little Traverse would be among my choices. I love the brickwork and the detail around the roofline. The layout of the house is ideal...with lots of space (more than it appears by looking at it from the outside). I think I would be very comfortable there...watching the ships coming in and out of the harbor and soaking up the breathtaking sunsets. I'd cherish the opportunity to walk down the tree-covered streets back to Harbor Springs, for dinner at one of the finest restuarants in the state. I'd make regular visits to the library and museums -- taking in their great programs. Yes...I think I would be very comfortable my dream world!

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