Posted/Updated by Bryan Penberthy on 2007-12-02.
With the increased shipping traffic on Green Bay, the Lighthouse Board requested $12,000 for the establishment of a lighthouse at Eagle Bluff. The request for construction of the lighthouse was submitted in 1866 but it would be 1868 before it was built. This was primarily due to the number of lighthouse projects along the Great Lakes, construction crews could not keep up with the work.
Eagle Bluff Lighthouse
The lighthouse is a 26'x30' two-story dwelling constructed of Milwaukee cream brick. The tower stands an additional 9'4" out of the roof. The lantern room, constructed in Detroit out of cast iron, was assembled on-site. It housed a three and one-half order Fresnel lens whose light was visible for up to sixteen miles. In 1898, a summer kitchen was added to the station, but I am not too sure when it was removed.
The original fuel used for lighting the lamp was lard oil. By 1881, the station would use kerosene. Kerosene was a great power source for the light, but was very volatile. Therefore, in 1900 the Lighthouse Board built an oil house for Eagle Bluff. For safety reasons it was constructed away from the primary residence / tower.
Over the years, many types of fuel would power the light. In 1917, the lighthouse was using an incandescent oil vapor lighting system. Due to the increase in efficiency of this type of lighting system, the tower received a weaker fifth order lens. Less than ten years later, in 1926, the light would be using acetylene gas for fuel.
The year 1926 also brought about automation. The keeper at Cana Island was responsible for maintenance, both monthly and emergency. Through the years, the light would be changed over to battery power and then over to solar power, but never electricity. To this day, the lighthouse still does not have electrical power.
The first keeper, Henry Stanley, climbed the stairs and lit the light on the night of October 15, 1868. He served from 1868 to 1883 when he received his transfer order to the Sherwood Point Lighthouse. William Duclon served as Henry's replacement for the next 35 years until 1918 when he retired. He and his wife raised a family of seven boys at the lighthouse. Peter Coughlin would be the final keeper for the lighthouse. He served from 1919 to automation in 1926. It is unclear where he left the Lighthouse Service or he transferred to another lighthouse. It is very possible that he retired given that he was age 62 when he accepted duties at Eagle Bluff.
Although the light continued to operate without a lighthouse keeper, the lighthouse and grounds did not fare so well. In 1960, the Door County Historical Society set forth to restore and preserve the lighthouse as a museum. The restoration took four years, and countless hours of meticulous work to return it to period time. Walter Duclon, the youngest of Keeper Duclon's boys was integral in providing the details necessary. It is possible that this was the first lighthouse restoration in the country.
List of Keepers:
- Henry Stanley (1868-1883)
- William Duclon (1883-1918)
- Peter Coughlin (1919-1926)
- Wisconsin Lighthouses: A Photographic & Historical Guide, Ken & Barb Wardius, 2003.
- Lighthouses of Lake Michigan: Past and Present, Wayne S. Sapulski, 2001.
- Great Lakes Lighthouses Encyclopedia, Larry & Patricia Wright, 2011.
- Western Great Lakes Lighthouses, Bruce Roberts and Ray Jones, 1996.
- Lighthouses of the Great Lakes: Your Ultimate Guide to the Region's Historic Lighthouses, Todd R. Berger and Daniel E. Dempster, 2002.
- Eagle Bluff Lighthouse Museum website.
Directions: The lighthouse sits on the grounds of Peninsula State Park. The entrance to the park is off of Highway 42, just past the Town of Fish Creek. Get a park map when you pay your entrance fee and follow the directions to the lighthouse.
Access: Grounds and tower open in season.
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