Copper Harbor Lighthouse was the second lighthouse ever built along the shore of Lake Superior. In 1847, Congress appropriated $5,000 for the Copper Harbor Lighthouse to be built. Charles Rude was hired as the contractor for the construction of both the lighthouse and the detached Keeper’s dwelling. The first Light Keeper was Henry Clow, who arrived with his wife and two children in February of 1849, who began his services when the lighthouse began operation in the spring of 1849.
In 1866, construction began on the new lighthouse. Work started for the crew with the tearing down of the old stone lighthouse, the rubble from which was then converted into the new foundation. The completion date of the new lighthouse is unknown, but in 1868 the inspector reported that everything was working and in “good condition.”
Later, due to the diminishing mines on the eastern side of the Keweenaw Peninsula and the Portage Lake Ship Canal opening, maritime traffic through Copper Harbor decreased. Wanting to reduce expenditures, the Lighthouse Board decided to shut down the main light and put the range lights on double duty. In 1884, the Lighthouse was officially turned off and the Range Lights’ Keeper was put in charge of the grounds.
Ship Captains protested against this because the range lights were difficult to see until you were right on top of the harbor. Mariners became blind to the dangerous Keweenaw shoreline as they coasted along its side until they reached the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse. After receiving several complaints, the Lighthouse Board realized their mistake and reactivated the Copper Harbor Lighthouse on June 1, 1888.
In 1927, the Copper Harbor Lighthouse was leased to Roger T. Vaughan, a Chicago physician used the lighthouse as a summer home for approximately 20 years. Later, in 1957, the Coast Guard sold the lighthouse to the State of Michigan. The Light was then incorporated into the Fort Wilkins State Park.
Directions to Copper Harbor Lighthouse