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Read A History of the Holland Harbor and Its Lighthouse

A History of the Holland Harbor and Its Lighthouse

Source and for more information: Big Red Lighthouse

The Holland Harbor Lighthouse is an integral part of the history of the Holland Harbor. A stormy history it is, indeed, filled with disappointment countered by determination.

Soon after the Dutch settlers came to the area in 1847, their leader, Dr. Albertus C. Van Raalte, wrote to the governor and the U.S. Congress to request funds for the building of a harbor. Van Raalte knew from the beginning that if this new community were to flourish, access to Lake Michigan, to and from Black Lake, (now Lake Macatawa) was essential. However, the entrance to the lake from Lake Michigan was blocked with sandbars and silt.

Repeated requests for government help were made in the years that followed but to no avail. All the while, the Holland settlers made various attempts to establish a harbor. A permanent pier was built into Lake Michigan that was battered year after year by winter storms. Dredging was done both by hand and machine.

In 1860, citizens managed to cut a new channel-present location from Black Lake to Lake Michigan. It was deep enough for barges to float from Lake Michigan into Black Lake.

In 1866, harbor officials received word from Congress that they would receive an appropriation for work on the harbor. In 1867, the Federal Government took over improvement of the harbor. Additional monies came in 1870, 1871 and 1872 but it was not until the turn of the century, fifty years after the effort was begun, that the harbor was substantially completed.

It was too late for Holland to become an important commercial port, but not too late to help foster a thriving resort business. The Graham and Morton shipping lines made two trips daily from Chicago bringing eager vacationers to the lakeshore.