Southeastern Wisconsin's Lighthouses and Beacons
Along the Wisconsin shores of Lake Michigan, there is no shortage of lighthouses to admire. Many of these are pier beacons, recognized by their cylinder shape and usually painted white or bright red.
Stretching two and a half miles in length and a scant half-mile off the harbor entrance, Racine Reef lurked less than ten feet below the surface at its shallowest point, and had claimed many a vessel making its way in and out of Racine harbor over the years. While the Root River Light had been guiding mariners into the mouth of the Root River for almost thirty years, it was not until 1868 that the Lighthouse Board undertook an evaluation of marking the hazard of the reef itself. The reef itself is widely known as a prime fishing spot.
The first lighthouse to mark Port Washington was built in 1849 atop a hill overlooking the harbor. The light served to identify Port Washington, but when the piers, which protected the harbor, were extended in the 1870s, it was decided a new light was needed to guide mariners through the narrow opening between the piers. Accordingly, a wooden tower was placed at the end of the north pier in 1889. The light commenced operation in 1935. A modern tower also marks the end of the south pier.The North Point Lighthouse is an architectural and historical treasure, located in one of Milwaukee's oldest public parks. Since 1855, the North Point Lighthouse stood tall overlooking the water, beaming out its light to protect and guide ships and watercraft. Keepers and their families lived and worked at the station, ensuring that the powerful light would continue to guide mariners through weather fair and foul. This 74-foot tower played an important role in maritime trade and economic growth for more than 120 years, remaining in use until being decommissioned in 1994. Visitors can access the Lighthouse by a short walk on a well-lit path through historic Lake Park.
Located inside the breakwater at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on a pier at the entrance to the Milwaukee River, is an example of the "Lake Michigan red" conical tower, with a black walkway surrounding a black lantern room. The tower is built of eight circular steel rings that appear to telescope up. Each successive ring is slightly smaller than the one below it. Re-Built in 1906 to replace an 1872 light, the 42-foot steel tower exhibits a lens made by Henri Le Paute of Paris, which bears the date 1877. Visitors may walk out on the pier.