Bordering two lakes, Holland State Park is divided into two separate units-one has a gorgeous white sand beaches along the Lake Michigan Shoreline and the other sits along the beautiful Lake Macatawa, for sail boating and water sports.
Sitting at the end of the Holland Pier is the "Big Red" Lighthouse. Built in 1847 this lighthouse has a rich history behind it.
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 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 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 first lighthouse was erected with $4,000 of federal funds in 1870, 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.
The lighthouse keeper had to carry his lighted oil lamp along a catwalk, which stretched from the shore where he lived to the lamp under a lens or magnifying device. When fog obscured the light, he signaled incoming boats by blowing an 18 inch fish horn often used on sailboats.
Both the pier and the wooden lighthouse had taken a beating from the weather over the years. So after the turn of the century, when the harbor was finally finished, a breakwater was built.
The steel tower was an obvious improvement from the wooden structure. Not only could it better withstand severe weather, it could be spotted by incoming vessels as far away as thirteen miles.
When fog lay on the lake, as it so often did, a light signal was useless. It was obvious that a fog signal, stronger than a fish horn, must be incorporated. In 1907, a steam operated fog signal was installed. Two coal fed Marine boilers produced steam to sound the locomotive whistle used as a fog signal. The 1907 building was built as a fog signal building only. It had no light (the light stood adjacent to it as a separate structure until 1936 when the Coast Guard consolidated the two structures by putting a light tower on top of the fog signal).
To house the signal, the 12th Lighthouse District, which had federal jurisdiction over the lighthouse, designed and constructed a separate building, the basis of today's lighthouse. This structure, unlike its two predecessors, was not placed on legs, thereby affording greater stability. The wood upper level is Queen Anne Victorian in style. The steeply sloped roof gables and Palladian window motif that are still still intact evidence this. The original roofing material was probably cedar shakes.
Originally, both the steel tower and the fog signal building were painted pale yellow with a deep maroon base. 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.
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. Electrification also marked the end of the era of lighthouse keepers that had spanned 68 years.
Nestled on top of a hill with the view of the "Big Red' Lighthouse and the lake sits a 21,885 square foot(~2033 square meters) cottage-look structure belonging to Betsy DeVos, current Secretary of Education. Naturally, curiosity took over after hearing who it belonged to, considering my background, therefor did a little research on the house as well.
The estate encompasses an enormous property on Lake Macatawa which includes the 22,000 square foot main house. There is also a 6,200 square foot guest house, and large infinity pool with 700 square foot pool house. Scott Christopher Homes was involved in the construction and said, “This exquisite waterfront home combines cedar shake siding and roofing, stone accents, grand pillars and abundant windows to create the perfect place to unwind and relax. This home features two kitchens, multiple living spaces and both indoor and outdoor entertaining areas designed to accommodate intimate gatherings or large parties.
The home includes just 3 bedrooms and 10 bathrooms, 3 kitchens, 8 dishwashers, 13 porches, and an elevator.
For a look inside the house go here
The water was too cold for a dip, on that day, but it sure was a beautiful place to sit and watch its movement.