Port Austin Reef Light Station Timeline

1848 The Pointe aux Barques Lighthouse was established in Huron County to mark peninsula


1873 The U.S. Congress provided $10,000 for the Eleventh Lighthouse District to build a light closer to the shore to properly indicate the reef’s location.


1877 July of 1877 construction begins on Port Austin Reef Light Station. 1878 September 15, 1878 the Port Austin Reef Light Station began operating and was officially established.


1882 Two wood frame buildings were added to the crib to support the two steam powered sirens.


1888 A more powerful pump replaced the old one, and wood tanks were installed inside the light tower as water reservoirs for the fog signal’s steam engines.


1895 The fog signals were replaced with two 10” steam whistles as part of a general upgrade for navigation stations.


1899 The pier was resurfaced, the landing dock on the south end was rebuilt and stairs and a boat crane were installed on the pier. The wooden light station was replaced with a more durable brick masonry building, which is what still exists today. It consists of a one story fog signal building and a four story light tower with a cast iron watch room and lantern.


1914 A new heating plant was added to the fog signal building.


1915 The oil lamp was replaced with an incandescent oil vapor lamp, which brightened the light by increasing the output to 4000 candlepower.


1933 A work crew returned to make additional changes due to new improvements in technology. The steam whistle fog signals were replaced with compressed air operated “Type F” diaphones.


1937 A concrete casing of three feet was added to all sides of the pier, and a band of steel plates were installed to protect the concrete from the destructive action of ice.


1939 The U.S. Coast Guard took responsibility of all navigational aids across the nation. During this time an underwater electrical cable that ran from shore to the light station was installed, bringing power to the light station. This provided enough electricity for electric lights, especially a new 25,000 candlepower incandescent lamp for the main tower light.


1942 The Fourth Order Fresnel lens was replaced with a 300 mm glass lens.


1953 The light was automated reducing the need for resident light keepers.


1985 Lou Schillinger and a group of interested citizens of Port Austin learn that U.S. Coast Guard is considering the possibility of demolishing the Port Austin landmark.


1988 Lou Schillinger secures lease with U.S. Coast Guard.


1990   Volunteers complete removal of 3 ft (all) pigeon and seagull dung throughout the building

1990   West Crane disassembled and reinstalled by member Clarence Sageman, local jeweler

1991-1992   New roof with original manufacture shingles replaced by volunteers

1993-1995   All windows and doors, chain railing, replaced by members

1999   US Coast Guard decides to begin disposing of all its US lighthouse assets

2011  PARLA receives its first grant from the Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program to complete its Historic Structures Report


2011 U.S. Coast Guard prepares a Port Austin Reef Light Station nomination in the National Register of Historic Places.


2011 General Services Administration makes available the no-cost transfer of the Port Austin Reef Light Station to eligible entities through the NHLPA


2011 PARLA applies for ownership of the light via NHLPA


2011 September 15, 2011, Port Austin Reef Light Station is placed in the National Register of Historic Places


2013 Transfer of ownership from U.S. Coast Guard to the Port Austin Reef Light Association completed


2013  Original and reconstructed Corbel’s replaced and installed  by deceased member Rudy Herman’s son and grandson RJ Herman and Rudy III


2016  Built the new dock enabling safe and secure access to the reef light


2018  Started offering licensed public tours via our pontoon boat Lighthouse 2