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Big Red

Historical Foundation of Big Red

Soon after the Dutch settlers came to the Holland area in 1847, their leader, Dr. Albertus C. Van Raalte, wrote to the governor and the U.S. Congress requesting 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 numerous attempts to 0establish 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 Lake Macatawa to Lake Michigan. It was deep enough for barges to float from Lake Michigan into Lake Macatawa.

Repeated requests for government help were made in the years that followed but to no avail. All the while, the Holland settlers made numerous 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 Lake Macatawa to Lake Michigan. It was deep enough for barges to float from Lake Michigan into Lake Macatawa.

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.

The Light House

In 1872, the first lighthouse was erected with $4,000 of federal funds, twenty years before the harbor was complete. It was a small, square, wooden structure that stood on an open platform on legs above the deck of the pier. On top was a lantern deck with a ten-window lantern room. When the harbor was finally finished, a breakwater was built and the wooden tower was replaced by a taller, steel structure that housed the lamp. The steel tower was an obvious improvement from the wooden structure as it could withstand severe weather effectively. Also, by raising the height of the light, it could be spotted by incoming vessels as far away as thirteen miles.

The lake was often covered with fog, hence, a light signal was useless. It was obvious that a fog signal, stronger than a fish horn, must accompany the higher light. In 1907, a steam powered fog signal was installed. Two coal fed Marine boilers produced steam to sound the locomotive whistle used as a fog signal.

Establishment of Big Red

This final phase of lighthouse development brings us to the structure as we know it today. In 1934, the light was electrified. In 1936, plans were made to abandon the steam driven fog signal, now nearly 30 years old, and install air powered horns using electricity as a power source for air compressors. In 1956, however, the Coast Guard sandblasted the tower and painted it bright red to satisfy a requirement for the aids to navigation that a structure or light on the right side of any harbor entrance must be red.

Era of Lighthouse Keepers

Electrification also marked the end of the era of lighthouse keepers that had spanned 68 years. The first lighthouse keeper was Melgert van Regenmorter, appointed to service in 1870 at an annual salary of $540. He served until April, 1908, just prior to the steam fog signal going into operation. It is said that he wanted no part of the new technology. Between the years of 1908 and 1912, three different keepers shared time tending the light, Charles Bavry, George J. Cornell and Edward Mallette. Their relatively short terms of duty indicate that it took a special type of individual to withstand the constant pressure of maintaining the signal.

The last active lighthouse keeper was Joseph M. Boshka who came to Holland in 1912, after serving 15 years in the Lighthouse Service. Joseph Boshka, known as "Cap", served until 1940. He retired to reside in Macatawa one year after the federal Lighthouse Bureau was abolished and the Coast Guard took over responsibility for aids to navigation. In addition to tending the light and signal, the keeper and his assistants also stood watch. This was especially important during the use of the steam powered foghorn since it took about 45 minutes of firing up the furnace to build up enough pressure for operation. Watch was generally broken down into six-hour shifts. All work activities and times of operation were recorded in the watch log. In 1934, when the lighthouse was wired for electricity, electric air compressors for the horn were installed. The light turned on automatically at the right time and the fog horn was activated by remote control leaving the lighthouse keeper basically without a job.

The Red Sentinel - Big Red

In 1978, the Coast Guard transferred ownership to the Holland Harbor Lighthouse Historical Commission and, with it, the responsibility for the preservation of the lighthouse. Repairs and maintenance of the lighthouse are paid for out of endowment funds raised by the commission.

Over the years, "Big Red" has taken on a life of its own, popular with painters, photographers, beach-goers, and boaters. There's nothing more relaxing than sitting in the shade of a tree, and watch the river empty into Lake Michigan, while the red sentinel stands guard on the opposite shore.

Video Gallery

Macatawa is a small lakeside 1

Macatawa is a small lakeside 1

Macatawa is a small lakeside 1


Macatawa is a small lakeside community in soithwestern MI, current under developement assault by a reckless billionaire. The community is over 125-year-old, with a long tradition of summer cottaging, porch gathering, beach and lake.

View Full Video
Macatawa is a small lakeside 2

Macatawa is a small lakeside 2

Macatawa is a small lakeside 2


Macatawa is a small lakeside community in soithwestern MI, current under developement assault by a reckless billionaire. The community is over 125-year-old, with a long tradition of summer cottaging, porch gathering, beach and lake.

View Full Video
Macatawa is a small lakeside 3

Macatawa is a small lakeside 3

Macatawa is a small lakeside 3


Macatawa is a small lakeside community in soithwestern MI, current under developement assault by a reckless billionaire. The community is over 125-year-old, with a long tradition of summer cottaging, porch gathering, beach and lake.

View Full Video
Macatawa is a small lakeside 4

Macatawa is a small lakeside 4

Macatawa is a small lakeside 4


Macatawa is a small lakeside community in soithwestern MI, current under developement assault by a reckless billionaire. The community is over 125-year-old, with a long tradition of summer cottaging, porch gathering, beach and lake.

View Full Video

Historical Foundation of Big Red

Soon after the Dutch settlers came to the Holland area in 1847, their leader, Dr. Albertus C. Van Raalte, wrote to the governor and the U.S. Congress requesting 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 numerous attempts to 0establish 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 Lake Macatawa to Lake Michigan. It was deep enough for barges to float from Lake Michigan into Lake Macatawa.

Repeated requests for government help were made in the years that followed but to no avail. All the while, the Holland settlers made numerous 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 Lake Macatawa to Lake Michigan. It was deep enough for barges to float from Lake Michigan into Lake Macatawa.

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.

The Light House

In 1872, the first lighthouse was erected with $4,000 of federal funds, twenty years before the harbor was complete. It was a small, square, wooden structure that stood on an open platform on legs above the deck of the pier. On top was a lantern deck with a ten-window lantern room. When the harbor was finally finished, a breakwater was built and the wooden tower was replaced by a taller, steel structure that housed the lamp. The steel tower was an obvious improvement from the wooden structure as it could withstand severe weather effectively. Also, by raising the height of the light, it could be spotted by incoming vessels as far away as thirteen miles.

The lake was often covered with fog, hence, a light signal was useless. It was obvious that a fog signal, stronger than a fish horn, must accompany the higher light. In 1907, a steam powered fog signal was installed. Two coal fed Marine boilers produced steam to sound the locomotive whistle used as a fog signal.

Establishment of Big Red

This final phase of lighthouse development brings us to the structure as we know it today. In 1934, the light was electrified. In 1936, plans were made to abandon the steam driven fog signal, now nearly 30 years old, and install air powered horns using electricity as a power source for air compressors. In 1956, however, the Coast Guard sandblasted the tower and painted it bright red to satisfy a requirement for the aids to navigation that a structure or light on the right side of any harbor entrance must be red.

Era of Lighthouse Keepers

Electrification also marked the end of the era of lighthouse keepers that had spanned 68 years. The first lighthouse keeper was Melgert van Regenmorter, appointed to service in 1870 at an annual salary of $540. He served until April, 1908, just prior to the steam fog signal going into operation. It is said that he wanted no part of the new technology. Between the years of 1908 and 1912, three different keepers shared time tending the light, Charles Bavry, George J. Cornell and Edward Mallette. Their relatively short terms of duty indicate that it took a special type of individual to withstand the constant pressure of maintaining the signal.

The last active lighthouse keeper was Joseph M. Boshka who came to Holland in 1912, after serving 15 years in the Lighthouse Service. Joseph Boshka, known as "Cap", served until 1940. He retired to reside in Macatawa one year after the federal Lighthouse Bureau was abolished and the Coast Guard took over responsibility for aids to navigation. In addition to tending the light and signal, the keeper and his assistants also stood watch. This was especially important during the use of the steam powered foghorn since it took about 45 minutes of firing up the furnace to build up enough pressure for operation. Watch was generally broken down into six-hour shifts. All work activities and times of operation were recorded in the watch log. In 1934, when the lighthouse was wired for electricity, electric air compressors for the horn were installed. The light turned on automatically at the right time and the fog horn was activated by remote control leaving the lighthouse keeper basically without a job.

The Red Sentinel - Big Red

In 1978, the Coast Guard transferred ownership to the Holland Harbor Lighthouse Historical Commission and, with it, the responsibility for the preservation of the lighthouse. Repairs and maintenance of the lighthouse are paid for out of endowment funds raised by the commission.

Over the years, "Big Red" has taken on a life of its own, popular with painters, photographers, beach-goers, and boaters. There's nothing more relaxing than sitting in the shade of a tree, and watch the river empty into Lake Michigan, while the red sentinel stands guard on the opposite shore.

Video Gallery

Macatawa is a small lakeside 1

Macatawa is a small lakeside 1

Macatawa is a small lakeside 1


Macatawa is a small lakeside community in soithwestern MI, current under developement assault by a reckless billionaire. The community is over 125-year-old, with a long tradition of summer cottaging, porch gathering, beach and lake.

View Full Video
Macatawa is a small lakeside 2

Macatawa is a small lakeside 2

Macatawa is a small lakeside 2


Macatawa is a small lakeside community in soithwestern MI, current under developement assault by a reckless billionaire. The community is over 125-year-old, with a long tradition of summer cottaging, porch gathering, beach and lake.

View Full Video
Macatawa is a small lakeside 3

Macatawa is a small lakeside 3

Macatawa is a small lakeside 3


Macatawa is a small lakeside community in soithwestern MI, current under developement assault by a reckless billionaire. The community is over 125-year-old, with a long tradition of summer cottaging, porch gathering, beach and lake.

View Full Video
Macatawa is a small lakeside 4

Macatawa is a small lakeside 4

Macatawa is a small lakeside 4


Macatawa is a small lakeside community in soithwestern MI, current under developement assault by a reckless billionaire. The community is over 125-year-old, with a long tradition of summer cottaging, porch gathering, beach and lake.

View Full Video
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