Posted/Updated by Bryan Penberthy on 2011-03-05.
The area around the Rawley Point Lighthouse was named after the area's most prominent settler Peter Rowley, which operated a popular trading post in the region. Geographically, the land protrudes into the lake in a smooth, rounding sort of way. Just off shore, are numerous dangerous shoals that have claimed many ships.
The first light to mark the point was built in 1853 consisting of a wooden framework about 75 feet tall that formed a structure, at which a lantern was hoisted to the top each night. This light was constructed about 1.5 miles south of the present tower, and although considered poorly located by most mariners, it would still be used for twenty years.
In 1873, a new light was constructed in the current location today. The new tower, constructed of brick and with an overall height of 85 feet, was attached to a large two-and-a-half story multiple family dwelling. Given the size and importance of this site, it was manned by a head keeper, and two assistant keepers. This tower would serve for another twenty years, until a new tower was to take over.
Many books and websites incorrectly report that the Rawley Point Lighthouse was at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, and then shipped to Wisconsin after it was over. This is not the case.
From what I have read, the tower at the 1893 fair was constructed as the Waackaack Lighthouse destined for New Jersey. However, since this location wasn't ready for the tower, it was shipped to Chicago to be used as an exhibit for the 1893 World's Fair.
If you look at this website, it shows the Waackaack Lighthouse. One can clearly see that the lighthouse is four-sided, where as the current Rawley Point Lighthouse, while still skeletal, is eight-sided. This leads me to believe that the tower at the 1893 World's Fair was the Waackaack Lighthouse, and did indeed make it back to New Jersey once the fair was over.
A sign near the current tower reports that the lighthouse originally marked the Chicago River. The U.S. Coast Guard's historical site confirms this as well. From what I have read, this tower served from July of 1859 to November of 1893. It was then disassembled, heightened, and then transported to Wisconsin. The new Rawley Point tower was erected just behind the two-and-a-half story keeper's dwelling in 1894. Once this tower was in place, the original 1873 brick tower was partially dismantled to become level with the roof. It was then capped off and opened up as living space for the three families.
1859 Chicago Lighthouse became Rawley Point
A third order Fresnel was installed in the tower standing seven feet tall and rotating on metal rollers. It was originally lit by vapor lamps, changed out in 1920s in favor of electricity. Also in 1920, radiobeacons were introduced to the site, as well as other major locations on the Great Lakes. The keepers assigned to this station also monitored the other radiobeacons to ensure accuracy.
The Fresnel lens was removed in 1952, when one of the prisms was damaged. Replacing it is a modern optic lit by 300,000 candlepower visible 28 miles into the lake. The keeper's quarters was severely damaged by fire in January of 1962. The station was automated in 1979, however Coast Guard personnel still use it for housing.
One other note: No one is too sure when the spelling of the point changed from Rowley to Rawley.
Directions: The lighthouse is located off of Park Road, which is just off of County Road O in Point Beach State Park. The state park is about four miles north of Two Rivers.
Access: Grounds closed, but the lighthouse is easily viewed from the nearby park. Tower closed.View more Rawley Point Lighthouse pictures