I have successfully completed my first week of work at Tawas Point Lighthouse. During this week, I learned how to give tours of the lighthouse and how to run the cash register in the gift shop. Because of the start date of the internship and because my days off are Wednesday and Thursday, I only worked for two day before the Memorial Weekend Rush. On Saturday and Sunday, I assisted the guest keepers in giving tours. We had over two hundred visitors each day and the repetition helped me memorize the history of the lighthouse.
Construction of Tawas Point Lighthouse was started in 1876. It was actually the second lighthouse built on the point, the first lighthouse was built in 1852, but the wind and water currents caused Tawas Point (then called Ottawa Point) to change shape. Ultimately, the lighthouse was located three quarters of a mile from the end of the point and a schooner captain, ran aground on the point and publicly blamed the inadequacy of the lighthouse. The new lighthouse was built and the light lit in 1877 and was a fifth order fresnel lens powered by whale oil and lard. In the late 1880’s the fuel source was switched to kerosene and a fuel house was built (until this time fuel was stored in the basement). In 1981, the lens was upgraded to a fourth order fresnel lens that is still used today. The light was switched to electricity in the 1930’s and in 1953 it was fully automated. The Michigan DNR acquired the lighthouse from the Coast Guard in 2001 and has been restoring the lighthouse. The first floor is an exhibit area, set up to look like the lighthouse keeper quarters may have looked. Each room is representative of a different time period (for example the kitchen is 1890’s and the living room is 1930’s). Guests are able to walk through these areas and also climb the lighthouse tower.
In addition to giving tours, I also worked in the lighthouse gift shop this past week. We had a lot of guests coming in to the store asking questions about birds in the area. The weekend before I started work, the Tawas Point Birding Festival was held at the park. Tawas Point is a migration trap where birds rest for an longer period of time during their migration pattern. This attracts many birders to the area. Unfortunately, I know very little about birds, so I had to direct people to books that we sell in the gift shop rather than being able to answer their questions myself.
My week ended on a very slow note. By Tuesday, the Memorial Weekend visitors had returned home. Also, it rained most of the day, so only four couples came to the gift shop. It appears that the weather will definitely determine how busy we are. I’m excited to see what this next week at work will bring.