Milwaukee Pierhead Lighthouse

Milwaukee, Wisconsin - 1906 (1872**)

Photo of the Milwaukee Pierhead Lighthouse.

History of the Milwaukee Pierhead Lighthouse

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

Long piers originally marked both sides of the entrance to Milwaukee Harbor. The first lighthouse, which was constructed of wood in 1872, was created on the north pier. At one point, there was a steam-powered fog signal plant at the site. However, both the tower and the fog signal plant were replaced by the current tower in 1906.

Over the years, the piers on which the lighthouse stood would change. The north pier is much shorter than it was originally since many low-lying areas were filled in. And the south pier no longer exists, it was absorbed into the coast line. The current tower, still on the north pier, was constructed using cast-iron plates.

The tower was originally outfitted with a fourth order Fresnel lens, but that was transferred to the Milwaukee Breakwater Lighthouse in 1926. At that time, this tower was outfitted with a smaller fifth order Fresnel lens. Power and operation was then handled remotely from the Milwaukee Breakwater Lighthouse. Like the Milwaukee Breakwater Lighthouse, this one was also automated in 1966. Today, the lighthouse is solar powered and is outfitted with a modern plastic optic.


  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.

Directions: Grounds open. Tower closed.

View more Milwaukee Pierhead Lighthouse pictures
Tower Information
Tower Height: 42.00'
Focal Plane: 45'
Active Aid to Navigation: Yes
*Latitude: 43.02600 N
*Longitude: -87.89500 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.