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The Detroit Lighthouse Depot


Detroit's Lighthouse Depot.  Author's Collection.

Due to Detroit's prominent location between Lakes Erie and Ontario in the south and Lakes St. Clair, Huron, Michigan, and Superior to the north, this city has served as a base for the various branches of our nation's life saving services.  Today combined into the United States Coast Guard, originally  there were three separate services:  The Lifesaving Service; the Revenue Service; and the Lighthouse Service.  The last branch to join (in 1939), the Lighthouse Service,  maintained facilities here through to the Coast Guard's creation

The Depot from the river in 2008.  Author's Collection.

In Detroit, the Lighthouse Service set up its main facility at the foot of Mt. Elliot Street, across from Belle Isle.  It was here that in 1874 they established a supply depot for the various items needed to keep the lighthouse on the Great Lakes running: buoys, the oils then used to create the light that shone from the lighthouses, the lenses needed to focus that light into the lifesaving beams that shone out onto the lake, as well as all the other sundry equipment that kept such operations running smoothly.  It served as a Lighthouse Service facility until 1939, when this operation was added to the Coast Guard, which had been formed proper to this out of the Lifesaving and Revenue services.  It was then operated by the Coast Guard for many years.

The Depot is behind the current USCG base; cutter Bristol Bay is in the foreground. Author's Collection.

Recently this building was given to the City of Detroit.  It is hoped that they will hold onto this facility for eventual use as a museum dedicated to its service in saving the lives of countless mariners, showcasing its part in the maritime history of the Great Lakes.



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