Posted/Updated by Bryan Penberthy on 2007-11-04.
The first lighthouse to mark the Racine Harbor was the Root River Lighthouse constructed in 1839. The free standing conical 34 foot tower was constructed of Cream City brick on the lot of where the present day public library stands. At the time however, it was situated on a bluff overlooking the Root River. Lighting was provided via Argand lamps and reflectors. The keeper's quarters were a single story brick cottage that stood behind the tower.
The tower went through a series of upgrades in 1858, which included raising the tower to a height of 40 feet, and installing the more efficient fifth order Fresnel lens to improve light output. This tower would serve for several more years until the Root River was straightened to provide more efficient lake access. The lighthouse was now more than a half mile from the river, and therefore no longer useful. It was decommissioned in September of 1865, sold to a private party in 1870, and demolished in 1876.
In the meantime, a simple wooden pierhead light that was constructed on the north pier in 1849 took over primary lighting duties until the current Racine Harbor Lighthouse was constructed in 1866. The tower was a one-and-a-half story brick house with a tower embedded in the roof which was constructed on a crib on the north pier. Illumination was provided by the fifth order Fresnel lens which came from the old Root River Lighthouse. This lens would serve until 1870 when the tower was outfitted with a larger fourth order lens.
With the piers being lengthened several times over the years, it was deemed necessary to mark the outer edge of the harbor. This was done in 1901 when the North Pierhead lighthouse was brought into service. The Racine Harbor lighthouse was officially decommissioned on November 23, 1901. With that, the lantern room was removed and capped over. The structure would continue to serve as the keeper's quarters for the North Pierhead Light, which was connected via an elevated catwalk, as well as Coast Guard housing until it was sold. The structure is now privately owned and is part of Pugh Marina.
Directions: From Highway 32 (North Main Street), head east on Hamilton Street. Then head south on Michigan Blvd to Reichert Court. Head east on Reichert Court. This will be the best viewing area for the lighthouse. Also in the same area is the Racine North Breakwater Lighthouse.
Access: Grounds open. Tower closed.View more Racine Harbor Lighthouse pictures