A History of Range Light Park
After 30 years of service, the Old (1840) Lighthouse at Presque Isle was decommissioned and the New (1870) Light was illuminated at the start of the 1871 shipping season. However, boats still required safe access to the Harbor. The Range Light met this need.
Range lights are paired beacons, one higher than the other, with the two separated by a distance. When aligned vertically, these lights provide a bearing to guide mariners safely through a channel. In other countries these beacons are called “leading lights” because they form a “leading line” (course) for safe passage through shallow or dangerous waters.
In daylight the beacons are supplemented by daymarks — painted panels visible at a distance. Like the lights at night, these panels must be aligned vertically to assure a proper course. The U.S. Coast Guard uses twelve patterns for daymarks. Presque Isleʼs daymark pattern, designated KRW, has three vertical stripes, two red-orange with a white stripe between.
In June 1869, for a sum of $100, Fredrick Burnham sold 8.5 acres on Presque Isle Harbor to the United States Government to serve as the site for a range light. The original structures were constructed the following year. This installation consisted of a short wooden tower housing the Front Light, and in the Keeperʼs Dwelling a third floor room with a large window for display of the Rear Light.
On September 8, 1870, Isaac Codington was named first Keeper of the Range Light with an annual salary of $540. He supervised construction and served until his death five years later. William Sims, his assistant, took over and, in 1887, was followed by Thomas Garrity. Thomas was son of Patrick Garrity Sr., Keeper at the New Light. In 1891 Patrick Sr. became Range Light Keeper and Thomas transferred to the New Light. Patrick was followed in 1903 by his daughter, Anna Garrity. Anna, who served for 23 years, is one of just 27 female lighthouse keepers to serve on the Great Lakes. In turn she was followed by Vincent Newagon, Clement Richardson, and Gustav Hansen during the period 1923-39. Records are unclear, but it seems likely that USCG personnel tended the Range Light after 1939.
In 1967 the Front Range Light was replaced with a new tower. The original wooden structure was moved to the entrance to the Old Lighthouse Park. Several years later it was moved back to Range Light Park, placed near the road, and renovated. A tall steel tower replaced the Rear Range Light, and the former Keeperʼs Dwelling became a private home. Both the Front and Rear Lights remain under supervision of the Coast Guard.
The second Keeper (1875-87) was Capt. William Sims. His wife Adeline died during his tenure and was buried on the Range Light property. Her marker includes a Masonic emblem. Relatives of William and Adeline Sims live in the Presque Isle area and continue to tend the grave.