If you have spent any time along the shores of Lake Michigan near Saugatuck, you have probably looked up and noticed the big, white ball in the sky. That structure was once home to the Mount Baldhead radar that helped keep our country safe.

The radar was constructed in 1957. It was used to fill the gap in the nation's radar system to prevent any potential air attacks -- from Soviet planes flying from the north over the North Pole in the 50s and 60's -- during the Cold War. There were 130 similar radars installed throughout the United States operated by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

Mount Baldhead Radar
Photo: Michigan State Historic Preservation Office via Facebook

The Mount Baldhead radar became operational in 1958 with the mission to scan the skies over Lake Michigan for any potential enemy plans that might be targeting Chicago or the Indiana steel mills.

By the late 60s, the threat of an aircraft attack was replaced by the possible use of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Those devices few too high and too fast for the radars to detect them, so in 1968 the Saugatuck radar installation was deactivated. The Air Force sold the radar installation to the city Saugatuck for a price of just $250!

Mount Baldhead Radar Equipment
Photo: WOOD TV8 via YouTube

The Air Force removed some of the equipment from the radar site, but the rest of it remains intact. Throughout the next 60 years, graffiti and overgrown weeds overtook the site. In the winter of 2021, Saugatuck City Councilman Russ Gardner decided it was time for the city to rehab the radar.

Mount Baldhead Radar
Photo: Google Maps

Since that time a group of historians have cleaned up the area and installed informational signs at the top and base of the stairs.

Last September, the Michigan Historic Preservation Office review board approved the radar site's nomination for the National Register of Historic Places. This registry is a list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that the federal government feels worth of preserving for historical significance.

To be considered for addition to the registry, a place must be over 50 years old and have played a significant role in our country's history. There are about 96,000 entries listed in the National Register -- about 2,000 of those are in Michigan. More information on the National Register of Historic Places can be found here.

Here is a story on Mount Baldhead from WOOD TV8...

To learn more about the restoration of the Mount Baldhead radar, check out the Mt. Baldhead Radar Station Preservation Workgroup on Facebook.


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