Community group shines new light on an old friend
North Point Lighthouse Quick Facts
- 1851 Present two-acre site from Wahl Avenue to the lake shore was acquired by the U.S. Lighthouse Service for a cost of $1,000.
- 1855 Original North Point Lighthouse and Keeper's Quarters were built of cream city brick and officially opened November 22, 1855. The 28-foot tower built on the bluff put the elevation of the beacon 107 feet above water, the highest on the Great Lakes. A contemporary Milwaukee Sentinel article reported that the lens in the lighthouse was a Fourth Order Fresnel lens manufactured by Barbier, Benard & Turenne of Paris.
- 1868 The original lens was replaced and the lantern room rebuilt. Most likely the new lens was also a Fourth Order Fresnel by the same manufacturer.
- 1870s When shore erosion caused 16 feet of the lighthouse's front yard to break loose and drop to the beach, the government decided to build a new lighthouse 100 feet inland.
- 1879-1888 The new lighthouse was built with a 39-foot high octagon shaped structure constructed entirely of bolted cast iron sections. The 1868 lens was placed in the new lighthouse. The present keeper's quarters were built between 1879 and 1888.
- 1893 Lake Park was being designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, premier 19th Century American landscape architect, who built New York's Central and Brooklyn's Prospect Parks. North Point Lighthouse, surrounded by two acres of land, divided Lake Park into two sections. Before Lake Park could be freely traversed by carriage road, the park commissioners had to obtain permission from the federal government in Washington DC. In 1892 efforts led by the commissioners and Wisconsin Senator John L. Mitchell resulted in permission to complete the Olmsted plan without disturbing the lighthouse's function. This allowed a carriage road and two bridges to be built east of the lighthouse.
- 1900 Trees growing in Lake Park along the shore began to obscure the light from mariners on Lake Michigan. On March 4, 1909, Congress appropriated $10,000 to raise the height of the light tower.
- 1912 Work began in July to build a 35-foot steel structure next to the old lighthouse. When the steel structure was finished, the old light tower with its 1868 lens was reassembled on top of the new structure, making the tower 74-feet high. The work was sufficiently completed to allow the light to be placed back into service on December 15. In April 1913 the work was finished under budget at a cost of $9,455.
- 1980 North Point Lighthouse and Keeper's Quarters placed on the National Register of Historic Lighthouses.
- 1984 North Point Lighthouse and Keeper's Quarters placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- 1994 The Lighthouse and Keeper's Quarters are taken out of service by the U.S. Coast Guard and the 1868 Fresnel lens was removed and stored by the U.S. Coast Guard at Milwaukee.
- 1996 Community organizations in Milwaukee lay groundwork for restorations and begin planning for appropriate use of the Lighthouse, Keeper's Quarters and bluff top site.
- 1997 Milwaukee County Parks Department applies to U.S. National Park Service and General Services Administration to acquire the site for historic preservation and park purposes.
- 1999 Milwaukee County approves the grant of an option to lease Lighthouse, Keeper's Quarters and bluff top site to Water Tower Preservation Fund Inc.
- 2000 Fundraising efforts begin for historic restoration of the Lighthouse and historic renovation of the Keeper's Quarters.
Facts researched by North Point Lighthouse Friends History Committee. April, 2001.
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