Posted/Updated by Bryan Penberthy on 2007-11-14.
A pierhead lighthouse has been present at Kenosha as early has 1856. By the early 1900s, the Kenosha Harbor had undergone some major renovations. Two new piers were constructed which jutted out into the lake, as well as an enhanced break-wall to protect the north pier from the fury of Lake Michigan.
Due to the construction of the new piers, two new lighthouses were constructed at that time. The first one was at the end of the north pier to mark the entrance. Standing fifty feet tall, and constructed of cast iron plates, it was guaranteed to withstand anything the lake could give it. The tower was outfitted with the fourth order Fresnel which was removed from the Southport Lighthouse. This tower was light on May 23, 1906.Although the Southport Tower was discontinued at this time, it would remain the residence for the pierhead keeper.
Also constructed at that time was an elevated catwalk to allow safe passage to the tower during inclement weather and a fog signal building which stood in front of the tower at the end of the pier. The fog signal building and the tower were connected by a covered walkway to allow the keeper to pass between the two buildings while remaining out of the elements. All buildings were painted white at this time.
U.S. Coast Guard Archive Photo
The second lighthouse, which would serve as a range light, was built on the breakwater. This tower would be thirty-five feet tall, as was a "pagoda style" lighthouse. This tower was replaced by a skeletal tower in 1921, and again in the 1960s by a cylindrical D9 style tower. The D9 style lighthouse is visible in this picture.
Over the years, the site would go through several changes. The lighting apparatus was upgraded first in 1913 to use an incandescent oil vapor. This system would stay in place until electricity was brought to the towers in 1925. Also at that time, the fog signal was replaced by an air operated diaphone system. In 1917, the tower was repainted to red, which is still its color today. At some point, the elevated catwalk and the fog signal buildings were removed, and the fourth order Fresnel lens was removed in favor of a plastic optic.
- 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.
Directions: From Highway 32 (Sheridan Road), head east on 50th Street. Take 50th Street into Simmons Island Park until it changes names to 4th Street. Head south on 4th Street. Continue following 4th Street south, it will round a bend and change names to Lighthouse Drive. Follow Lighthouse Drive to the end to view the Kenosha Pierhead Lighthouse. Also, while on 4th Street, you will pass the Kenosha (Southpoint) Lighthouse.
Directions: Grounds open. Tower closed.
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