Isle Royale (Menagerie) Light


Red Sandstone
61 ft.
Fourth Order Fresnel
12" Tideland Signal (ML-300) Acrylic Optic
47°56'52.44"N 88°45'40.32"W


he second copper mining boom on Isle Royale began in 1873, once again brining ships into Isle Royale's rocky harbors. This wave of mining ventures incited the creation of the island's second lighthouse, the Isle Royale Lighthouse. The Isle Royale Lighthouse was sited on Menagerie Island at the entrance to Siskiwit Bay, where the profitable Island Mine Company was located. Authorization was given for the new lighthouse in order to light the passage into the bay, which had a dangerous access. It was completed by 1875. In addition to guiding ships into the harbor, the Isle Royale Lighthouse also warned Lake Superior traffic of the existence of the island's south shore.

Physical Description

Lighthouse Keeper John Henry Malone

Can you imagine raising a large family on Isle Royale? That's what John Henry Malone, the second keeper of the Isle Royale Light, did. In more than three decades (1878-1910) of living on the island during the navigation season, he and his wife brought up to 11 children on rocky, wave-tossed Menagerie Island.

To supplement the infrequent deliveries of supplies, the family kept cows, hunted for seagull eggs, fished and trapped showshoe hares, and eked out a shallow garden on the rocky island. It must have been a challenge to entertain a family in an outdoors space only a few hundred feet wide which was exposed to the worst weather Lake Superior could offer. During their tours of duty, to help pass the time, several of the family members learned to play musical instruments. The Malones also kept track of bird species for the Audubon Society.

Caring for the lighthouse was truly a family affair. When John Henry left the lighthouse in 1910, his son, John "Al" Malone, became the keeper and served until 1912.

The structure consists of a hip-roofed lightkeeper's house attached to a 61-ft octagonal tower by covered walkway. All of sandstone possibly quarried near Jacobsville on the Keweenau Peninsula. Light automated in 1939.

The light tower is an octagonal red sandstone structure that is sixteen feet in diameter at the base and ten feet nine inches in diameter at the parapet. It is surmounted by a cast iron lantern of ten sides, with an inscribed diameter of seven feet. The tower is constructed using a cavity wall system which allows for thorough ventilation of the tower wall cavity. It ties in with the lantern ventilation system in the lantern parapet walls. The inner wall is constructed of brick with an interior layer of plaster while the outer is of stone that has been whitewashed. The outer wall of the tower, bearing the load of the watch tower and lantern, is forty inches thick at the base and ten inches thick at the parapet, separated by a two inch air space from the inner wall, which supports the stairs and is eight inches thick at the base and two inches thick at the parapet. Overall, the light tower is sixty-one feet high and produces a focal plane seventyfive feet above the mean low water level of Lake Superior.

The top of the tower is reached by a segmental cast iron and steel spiral staircase. Three wood frame windows that are deeply recessed in the tower provide natural day lighting to the stair. The lowest window has a cast iron and steel storm shutter to provide protection from exterior elements. At the top of the landing is a cupboard used to store cleaning rags and other necessaries. The lantern is constructed of cast iron. The interior of the lower part is lined with vertical wood strips. The cast iron, pyramidal dome is lined on the interior with sheet zinc. A small tin cone lens protector is attached to the roof. The lantern is of the fourth order. The exterior balustrade is constructed of two rails and vertical stanchions with ball tops.

The Keeper's Dwelling is rectangular, twenty-eight feet by forty-five feet, with a hipped gable or jerkinhead gable roof sheathed in wooden shingles, and is constructed of rough coursed red sandstone. The National Park Service installed a new roof on the dwelling in 1986. A brick chimney with a decorative cast iron chimney cap punctuates the roof which has galvanized metal coping on the hips and ridge. The dwelling has eight rooms. In addition, there are four closets on the first floor and one closet on the second. Windows include six-over-six and three-over-six double hung. Foundation windows are three light wood frame in a top hinged hopper sash. Iron shutters were installed to protect window areas from crashing waves in severe storms. The basement was used as a store room. A one story shed roofed kitchen wing exists on the northeast end of the dwelling. The kitchen floor has collapsed, but the integrity of other interior finishes is very high. The dwelling is connected to the light tower by a covered passageway eight feet long.

Media Gallery

Video courtesy of Terry Pepper, Executive Director, Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association.

Historic American Building Survey

Isle Royale Light Building Proposal


Isle Royale Light Building Proposal, ISRO Archives, ACC#ISRO-00999, Cat#ISRO 20175.


  1. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. Isle Royale National Park Lighthouses. N.p.: National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, n.d. Print.

  2. Tour of Isle Royale Light Station on Menagerie Island. Prod. Terry Pepper and Dick Moehl. Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association, 2013. Digital Video. Appears with permission.