Posted/Updated by Bryan Penberthy on 2007-11-08.
Simmons Island has had a lighthouse dating back to 1848. Constructed of rubble-stone, the tower was 80 feet tall, and used an Argand style lighting system to create the beam of light. This system was employed for nine years until it was replaced with a more efficient fifth order Fresnel lens. By 1858, this tower was demolished due to a failing foundation.
A new tower was built 1858, however, due to poor construction, it would be razed by 1866. The current Southport Lighthouse, as viewed on this page, was completed in 1866. The tower, like many others in the area, was constructed of Cream-City brick and stands fifty-five feet tall. Illumination at the time came from a fourth order Fresnel lens. A year later, in 1867, the two-story keeper's dwelling was completed.
Starting in 1903, the decision was made to keep the light in the tower lit year round due to milder winters allowing for year round shipping, although that order would only last until the new tower was completed three years later.
By 1906, a new pierhead lighthouse was built on the north pier which jutted out into Lake Michigan. At this time, the lens and light system was installed into this new tower. To remove the opportunity for confusion amongst lake going mariners, in 1913 it was decided to remove the lantern room. At one point, the old tower served as a weather station for roughly 47 years, ending in 1960.
The tower is currently owned by the City of Kenosha. The city set about restoring the tower in 1991, with a new lantern room being installed in 1994. Currently illumination comes from a 300mm plastic optic. Although the lighthouse is not listed as an aid to navigation, it is illuminated nightly. Current plans are to turn the keeper's dwelling into a museum.
Directions: From Highway 32 (Sheridan Road), head east on 50th Street. Take 50th Street into Simmons Island Park until it changes names to 4th Street. Head south on 4th Street. The lighthouse will be on your left. If you continue following 4th Street south, it will round a bend and change names to Lighthouse Drive. Follow Lighthouse Drive to the end to view the Kenosha Pierhead Lighthouse.
Access: Grounds open. Tower open in season.View more Kenosha (Southport) Lighthouse pictures