Holland Harbor Light

The Holland Harbor Light, known as Big Red, is located in Ottawa County, Michigan at the entrance of a channel connecting Lake Michigan with Lake Macatawa, and which gives access to the city of Holland, Michigan.

Holland Harbor Light a/k/a "Big Red"
Holland Harbor Lighthouse.jpg
Holland Harbor Light
LocationOttawa County, Michigan
Coordinates42°46′21.7″N 86°12′44.7″W / 42.772694°N 86.212417°W / 42.772694; -86.212417Coordinates: 42°46′21.7″N 86°12′44.7″W / 42.772694°N 86.212417°W / 42.772694; -86.212417
Tower height42 feet (13 m)
Tower shapeSquare
Markingsred Edit this on Wikidata
HeritageNational Register of Historic Places listed place, Michigan state historic site Edit this on Wikidata
First lit1872
Focal height15 m (49 ft) Edit this on Wikidata
LensSixth order Fresnel lens (removed)
Range16 nmi (30 km; 18 mi) (white), 14 nmi (26 km; 16 mi) (red) Edit this on Wikidata
CharacteristicAlt WR 10s Edit this on Wikidata
ARLHS no.USA-375
USCG no.7-19295
Holland Harbor Lighthouse
Nearest cityHolland, Michigan
Arealess than one acre
NRHP reference No.78001509[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPJuly 20, 1978
Designated MSHSJanuary 16, 1976

The lighthouse is on the south side of the channel. There are two modern lights marking the ends of the breakwaters that extend out into the Lake Michigan beyond the lighthouse.


U.S. Coast Guard Archive Photo of Holland Harbor Pierhead Light

After decades of local requests that went unanswered, in 1870 the United States Lighthouse Board finally recommended construction of the first light at Holland Harbor. It was thereupon approved by the U.S. Congress.[2]

Text of the Michigan Historic Site marker:

When seeking a location for himself and his Dutch emigrant followers in 1847, the Reverend A. C. Van Raalte was attracted by the potential of using Black Lake (Lake Macatawa) as a harbor. However, the lake's outlet to Lake Michigan was blocked by sandbars and silt. Van Raalte appealed to Congress for help. The channel was surveyed in 1849, but was not successfully opened due to inadequate appropriations. Frustrated, the Dutch settlers dug the channel themselves. On July 1, 1859, the small steamboat Huron put into port. Here, in 1886, the government established the harbor's first lifesaving station. By 1899 the channel had been relocated and harbor work completed. This spurred business and resort expansion. In 1900 over 1,095 schooners, steamers and barges used the harbor.
U.S. Coast Guard Archive Photo of original Lighthouse
The first lighthouse built at this location was a small, square wooden structure erected in 1872. In 1880 the lighthouse service installed a new light atop a metal pole in a protective cage. The oil lantern was lowered by pulleys for service. At the turn of the century, a steel tower was built for the light and in 1907 the present structure was erected. Named the Holland Harbor South Pierhead Lighthouse, it has a gabled roof that reflects the Dutch influence in the area. The lighthouse, popularly referred to as "Big Red," was automated in 1932. When the U. S. Coast Guard recommended that it be abandoned in 1970, citizens circulated petitions to rescue it. The Holland Harbor Lighthouse Historical Commission was then organized to preserve and restore this landmark.

Except for its color, it is a virtual twin of the Kewaunee Pierhead Light on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan.[3]

In 2007, the United States Department of the Interior announced that the Holland Harbor Light would be protected, making it the 12th Michigan lighthouse to have such status.[4]


Public access to Big Red is somewhat limited due to the fact one must cross private property to see the lighthouse up close. However, there are no barriers for walking into the lighthouse area. The best vantage points that are easily accessible to the general public are from across the channel at Holland State Park. As of May 27, 2013 access by foot to the lighthouse is restricted to Tuesdays and Thursdays, from mid-morning to sunset.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  2. ^ Terry Pepper, Seeing the Light, Holland Harbor Light.
  3. ^ Wobser, David, boatnerd.com, Holland Harbor Light.
  4. ^ Department of the Interior announces protected status.
  5. ^ Martinez, Shandra (May 13, 2013). "Summer access to Holland's Big Red lighthouse to be restricted". MLive.com.

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