The Lighthouses of August

Yours truly has been photographing Great Lakes and coastal lighthouses for over forty years. I’ve found this pursuit to be both inspirational and rewarding in many ways. One of the most important benefits of this endeavor was the creation and presentation of Lights of the Lakes for over thirty of those forty years.

Yesterday I had the occasion to be in Southeast Wisconsin near Lake Michigan. While visiting lighthouses was not the main intent of today’s trip, the friend who I was traveling with suggested we stop at Wind Point Lighthouse on our way home, having earlier spent most of the day at the Volo Auto Museum in Illinois. After a late lunch in Kenosha, we drove through downtown and spotted the Kenosha Southport Lighthouse off in the distance. We made our way to it and found it to be glowing in the afternoon sunshine, free of people, on a picture perfect August afternoon. This was my first visit to this lighthouse in many years.

After leaving Kenosha, we drove north through Racine and up to Wind Point, one of the most majestic lighthouses in Wisconsin. I’d been there before, and presented my photos of Wind Point in an earlier blog post. This visit did not disappoint, as the dramatic light shone this magnificent beacon in all its summer glory.

Kenosha Southport Lighthouse

A Wisconsin historical marker tells the story of the Kenosha Southport Lighthouse.

Built by the federal government in 1866, the Kenosha Lighthouse replaces two other lighthouses constructed at this site in 1848 and 1858. Originally designated a coast and harbor light for Southport, now Kenosha, WI provided the first navigational illumination a mariner would see upon entering Wisconsin from the Chicago area. Standing 55 feet tall and situated on a hill, the lighthouse projected light from 74 feet above lake level. The tower is built of yellow Milwaukee Cream City brick and is conical in shape. Originally the lighthouse contained a fourth order Fresnel lens fueled by kerosene with a fixed-white light which varied by flashes. Officially discontinued in 1906, the lantern room was later removed and replaced by a 25-foot tripod mast for displaying storm warning flags and lights. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1990, the lighthouse has been restored and holds an automated electric light.

Here are today’s photos of the Kenosha Southport Lighthouse.

Wind Point Lighthouse

A Wisconsin historical marker tells the story of the Wind Point Lighthouse.

To assist navigation around the point into Racine harbor, the Wind Point Lighthouse began functioning in 1880 with a kerosene lamp, focused and magnified by a third order Fresnel lens. Its light could be seen for 19 miles.

At 108 feet, it is one of the tallest and oldest lighthouses still serving navigation on the Great Lakes. Its fog horns, which last sounded in 1964, could be heard for 10 miles.

In recognition of the key role this lighthouse has played in the maritime history of Racine County, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

In 1997, the National Park Service awarded ownership of the property to the Village of Wind Point. The Coast Guard still maintains the light as a public navigation aid.

Erected in 2002 by Friends of the Wind Point Lighthouse
in memory of Judge Richard G. Harvey, Jr.

Here are today’s photos of the Wind Point Lighthouse.

Shipwreck Kate Kelly

The schooner Kate Kelly sank in 1895 about two miles off Wind Point. The following description is from the Wisconsin Shipwrecks website.

About two miles offshore from here, the wooden schooner Kate Kelly lies broken and scattered in 55 feet of water. She had departed Alpena, Mich., in early May 1895, loaded with railroad ties and bound for her home port of Chicago. In command was Captain Hartley J. Hatch, one of the Great Lakes’ most experienced captains. He had led Great Lakes schooners and steamers on trips to South Africa, the Mediterranean Sea and Europe. Captain Hatch was also an inventor and had outfitted the Kate Kelly with novel life-saving devices that were ‘a wonder to all lakemen.’ On May 13, the Kate Kelly encountered a raging storm that proved too much for her and Captain Hatch’s inventions. She sank just short of her home port, as farmers watched helplessly from the shore. Soon, the only signs of the Kate Kelly were her masts protruding from the water and thousands of railroad ties floating off Wind Point. Captain Hatch and all six crewmen perished. During her three decades of service, the Kate Kelly made many long trips hauling grain and coal between Lake Michigan ports and Kingston, Ontario. Similar wooden schooners dominated Great Lakes shipping after the Civil War. Even with stiff competition from steam vessels, the adaptable vessels survived on the lakes into the 1930s. 

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