On July 28, 1866, Congress appropriated $35,000 for a new lighthouse at Big Sable Point. Approximately 933 acres (378 ha) was deeded from the State of Michigan to the U.S. at no cost and in early 1867 construction began, making it the first light station in the area.
Built in 1867, the 112-foot (34 m) tower was originally made of yellow cream brick. It has a focal plane of 106 feet (32 m). The building was made of so-called Cream City Brick. The brick deteriorated and was thereafter covered with boiler plate in 1900.
Construction materials were brought up by ships. The first road to the site was not completed until 1933.
Because the brick deteriorated from exposure to the elements, a steel plate encasement was installed in 1900 at a cost of $3,225. The yellow brick now encased in steel plate was difficult to see and a daymark was needed. Several changes to the daymark over the years were made. Currently, the tower is painted white with a black watch tower and a black band around the middle of the tower. As shown in a historic post card, it was painted red and white at one time; later to become black and white.
It was the last Great Lakes Lighthouse to get electricity and plumbing, which came in the late 1940s.
The original lens was a third order Fresnel lens, inscribed "Sautter & Co., Constructeurs." It was removed in 1985, and is now on display at the Rose Hawley Museum at White Pine Village. The lighthouse follows a design first used at New Presque Isle Light, which was also used on several other lights on the Great Lakes.