Milwaukee Breakwater Lighthouse

Milwaukee, Wisconsin - 1926 (1926**)

Photo of the Milwaukee Breakwater Lighthouse.

History of the Milwaukee Breakwater Lighthouse

Posted/Updated by Bryan Penberthy on 2007-10-23.

To create a harbor at Milwaukee, large breakwaters, which were constructed in the 1880s, run parallel to the shore. Because these breakwaters are only several feet above the water, they become very hard for ships to navigate in darkness. Several holes were left intentionally so smaller boats would not have to go to the center to get into or out of the lake. Each of these was marked with a smaller light.

Prior to the creation of the Milwaukee Breakwater Lighthouse, there was the Milwaukee Lightship (No. 95) which was stationed three miles offshore. The lightship continued its duty until 1932. The Milwaukee Breakwater Lighthouse was completed in 1926. It rests on a 23 feet high concrete pier. Due to storms that the lake can generate, the entire tower is constructed of steel plates held in place by a steel frame. The tower originally housed a fourth order Fresnel lens which came from the Milwaukee Pierhead Lighthouse, but was later replaced by a modern plastic optic.

The interior of the lighthouse had to broken into many areas. These areas included living quarters for the crew, a boathouse so the crew would have a way to get to shore, a storage area for supplies, and a work area. The tower would also have to house a diesel generator to power the station as well as the equipment needed for the fog signal. The lighthouse was automated in 1966.


  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.
  4. Lighthouses of the Great Lakes: Your Ultimate Guide to the Region's Historic Lighthouses, Todd R. Berger and Daniel E. Dempster, 2002.

Directions: The best viewing spot I found for this lighthouse is behind the Amphitheater. To get there, follow North Harbor Drive to where it ends at East Polk Street. Make a right onto East Polk Street, then a left onto North Jackson Street. Follow Jackson Street to the end, then make a left onto East Erie Street. East Erie Street will loop around the back of the Amphitheater and provide great views of the lighthouse.

Access: Tower closed.

View more Milwaukee Breakwater Lighthouse pictures
Tower Information
Tower Height: 53.00'
Focal Plane: 67'
Active Aid to Navigation: Yes
*Latitude: 43.02700 N
*Longitude: -87.88200 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.