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The Windmill Point Lighthouse

The Windmill Point Lighthouse from the river in 2008.
The Windmill Point Lighthouse from the river in 2008.
Author's Collection.

Recreational boating is a popular pastime in Detroit, with ample boat ramps on both the river and Lake St. Clair.  Many times these craft will be out until dusk, even after dark, and for these evening boaters it may be difficult for them to find their way back home.  However, one beacon guiding them is the Windmill Point Light, located where Lake St. Clair ends and the Detroit River begins.  This light serves to show them the way home.

The Windmill Point Light is actually located in Grosse Pointe Park, just five hundred feet over the border from Detroit.  Like most lighthouses, it was built to warn ships of land that could otherwise cause them to go aground, in this instance, the point where the river meets the lake.  A lighthouse was first built here in 1838, with subsequent rebuilds to further increase the lighthouses efficiency, especially as vessel traffic increased during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  In the late part of the 19th, two other tall lights were added to allow commercial vessels entering the river to successfully find the channel leading down the river to Lake Erie.  These were removed in 1930, the same year the William Livingstone Lighthouse on Belle Isle was activated. 

The older structures were traditional lighthouses, with tall brick towers and quarters for the keeper.  These were done away with in 1933, when the current tower was built.  It is 42 feet tall, made of steel, and flashes a white light at night.  It is located off Jefferson Avenue on Alter Road, where Alter meets the river; their you will find this light, located in a small park.  There you will see it serving the purpose it and its predecessors always have: guiding commercial and recreational vessels into and out of the river safely, in all conditions.