North Point Lighthouse Reopens to the Public
One of Milwaukee’s maritime treasures is once again open to the public. The North Point Lighthouse, located in Lake Park, reopened last weekend after being closed for repairs since January. The lighthouse is open for tours on Saturdays and Sundays from 1-4 p.m.
The former lighthouse keeper’s home, adjacent to the 74-foot tall tower, is used today as a small museum and event space and features a number of relics from Milwaukee’s maritime history. During their weekend hours, guests can take guided tours of the space and learn about the often taxing profession of lighthouse keeping. When the tower’s beacon was still lit with oil, for example, the keeper needed to refill it every four hours, while still managing to keep a log of every ship that passed within sight for the records of the federal government’s United States Lighthouse Service.
The highlight of the tour, of course, is the tower itself. Guests are invited to make the climb all the way to the house’s former lantern room, which offers a stunning 360-degree view of the city, harbor and lake. On clear days, the view from the top can be 20 miles or more. The tower is actually comprised of two different structures. The topmost section dates to 1888, when a cast iron tower was built to replace the original 1855 brick lighthouse near the site. In 1912, after the trees of Lake Park had grown so tall as to obscure the house’s lens, a 35-foot tall base was added beneath the house. This permitted the house to remain in service until 1994, when it was officially retired. In 2007, after more than a decade of preservation and restoration efforts, the lighthouse was reopened as a historic site and museum.
This summer, the North Point Lighthouse Friends will also be completing the installation of a green infrastructure storm water management system. The step-pool system will filter storm water from the lighthouse property and direct it through a rain garden before sending it into a storm sewer and onto Bradford Beach. This kind of treatment system is new to Wisconsin and the Lighthouse Friends hope that it can help to “connect the dots” between Milwaukee’s intimate historic connection to the water and its present-day environmental efforts.
Also returning this month is “Lectures at the Lighthouse,” a monthly series of talks by scholars, authors and historians on topics related to the city and its waterways. This year’s speakers include Chris Winters, who will speak on Wisconsin’s Flagship, the S/V Denis Sullivan; Dr. Richard J. Boyd, who will recount tales of Milwaukee’s infamous pirate, Capt. Dan Seavey; Meg Jones, presenting her work on Milwaukee during World War II; and myself, talking about my book, Milwaukee Mayhem. The series kicks off on Wednesday, April 26, with Matt Jarosz, who will be discussing design studies for the now-closed Lake Park bridge.