Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse

Kewaunee, Wisconsin - 1931 (1891**)

Photo of the Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse.

History of the Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse

Posted/Updated by Bryan Penberthy on 2011-02-21.

U.S. Coast Guard Archive Photo of the Kewaunee Pierhead LighthouseLight with attached fog signal building (CG)

In as early as 1891, there was a pair of range lights that marked the entrance to Kewaunee Harbor. These were installed at a time when many harbor improvements were being made due to the ferry service which linked Kewaunee to Ludington, Michigan. In 1895, the front range lighthouse was replaced with a square cast-iron tower with open lower half to expose the supporting structure. This style is similar to the Chicago Harbor Southeast Guidewall and the Calumet Harbor Lighthouse in Indiana. The tower housed a fifth order Fresnel lens to broadcast its beam.

Given the heavy fog experienced in the area, in 1909, the federal government built a fog signal building immediately behind the front range lighthouse. The tower was linked to the fog signal building via an enclosed passageway to shelter the keeper from the elements. At this time, similar to many pierhead lighthouses on the Great Lakes, an elevated catwalk back to shore was installed. The lower half of the two story fog signal building was sided in cast-iron plates to provide durability and housed to apparatus for the fog signal. The upper half was sided with wood shingles, and was set up as a living area for the keeper when extended stays were necessary.

From what I have read, a railroad car ferry collided with the front pier light in 1930 severely damaging it. At that time, it was removed from service. Rather than replacing the tower, an addition was added to the two story fog signal building to add height, and the lantern room and Fresnel lens was installed onto that. Several years later, a matching lighthouse would be built in Holland, Michigan.

Not too much is written about the rear range lighthouse. I guess the original rear range lighthouse was constructed in 1891, about the same time as the front range. I've read that the rear range light was replaced with a taller steel skeletal tower in 1912, and then decommissioned in 1941. But that is about it.

As far as the ferry service at Kewaunee, in 1990 it was moved to Manitowac, Wisconsin where it continues to run today.


  1. Wisconsin Lighthouses: A Photographic & Historical Guide, Ken & Barb Wardius, 2003.
  2. Lighthouses of Lake Michigan: Past and Present, Wayne S. Sapulski, 2001.
  3. Great Lakes Lighthouses Encyclopedia, Larry & Patricia Wright, 2011.

Directions: From the Town of Kewaunee, take Highway 42 to the intersection of Highway 29 (Ellis Street). Follow Ellis Street east towards the lake. From the foot of Ellis Street, you can gain access to the pier, and walk out to the lighthouse.

Access: Grounds open. Tower closed.

View more Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse pictures
Tower Information
Tower Height: 43.00'
Focal Plane: 45'
Active Aid to Navigation: Yes
*Latitude: 44.45700 N
*Longitude: -87.49200 W
See this lighthouse on Google Maps.


* Please note that all GPS coordinates are approximated and are meant to put you in the vicinity of the lighthouse, not for navigation purposes.

** This year denotes a station date. This is the year that a lighthouse was first reported in the vicinity or at that location.

All photographs and information on this site is copyright © 2016 Bryan Penberthy unless otherwise specified. No content may be used without written permission. Any questions or comments, please email me.