The first lighthouse built at this location was a small, square wooden structure built in 1872. In 1880 the Lighthouse Service installed a new light atop a metal pole in a protective cage. The old lantern was lowered by pulleys for service.
At the turn of the century a steel tower was built for the light and in 1907 the present structure was built. Named the Holland Harbor South Pierhead Lighthouse, it marks the entrance to the Black River and Lake Macatawa from Lake Michigan. The light has a twin-gabled roof that reflects the Dutch influence of the area. The station is a virtual twin to the Kewaunee Pierhead Light on the other side of Lake Michigan.
The lighthouse, popularly referred to as "Big Red" was automated in 1932. The original Sixth Order Fresnel Lens was taken to the Netherlands Museum in Holland, Michigan. A 250-mm plastic lens was exhibited in its place. When the U.S. Coast Guard recommended that it be abandoned in 1970 citizens circulated petitions to rescue it.
The Holland Harbor Lighthouse Historical Commission was then organized to preserve and restore the landmark.
Reverend A. C. Van Raalte emigrated here with his Netherlands followers in 1847. The Lake Macatawa (Black Lake) outlet was blocked by silt and sand. Frustrated by a lack of action from Congress, the Dutch settlers dug the channel themselves. On July 1, 1859 the small steamboat "Huron" put into port.
In 1886, the government established the harbor's first life savings station. In 1900, over one thousand ships used the port