Milwaukee Breakwater Light

Milwaukee Breakwater Light
Milwaukee Breakwater Light
Milwaukee Breakwater Lighthouse
Location Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Coordinates 43°01′37.24″N 87°52′55.14″W / 43.0270111°N 87.8819833°W / 43.0270111; -87.8819833Coordinates: 43°01′37.24″N 87°52′55.14″W / 43.0270111°N 87.8819833°W / 43.0270111; -87.8819833
Year first lit 1926
Automated 1966[1]
Foundation Concrete
Construction 1/4" steel plate, steel frame, cast iron lantern
Tower shape Square on square house, topped by round lantern
Markings / pattern white with black lantern & parapet
Height Tower – 53 feet (16 m)[2]
Focal height Focal plane – 67 feet (20 m)[3]
Original lens Fourth order Fresnel
Current lens unknown
Range 14 miles (23 km)
Characteristic Fl R 10 seconds

Structure is floodlighted from sunset to sunrise. Submarine cable runs to Milwaukee Pierhead Light. Illuminated sign on channelward side of light structure worded CABLE CROSSING NO ANCHORING.

Fog signal HORN: 2 blasts ev 20s (2s bl- 2s si-2s bl-14s si). Operates from Apr. 1 to Nov.[4]
ARLHS number USA-497[5][6]
USCG number 7-20635
Milwaukee Breakwater Light
Location: South end of north breakwater, .7 miles east of the mouth of the Milwaukee River
MPS: Light Stations of the United States MPS
NRHP Reference#: 11000678[7]
Added to NRHP: September 16, 2011

The Milwaukee Breakwater lighthouse is located in the harbor of Milwaukee in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. It protects the entrance to the Milwaukee River.



This lighthouse, owned and operated by the United States Coast Guard, is an active aid to navigation. The steel tower has a square Balcony and "round cast iron lantern room [that] features helical astragals" in the lantern.[8] The two-story steel lighthouse keeper's quarters are in the art deco style.[9] The structure rests on a 60 feet (18 m) by 54 feet (16 m) concrete pier, which rises more than 20 feet (6.1 m) above the lake's surface.[10] The tower rests 14 feet (4.3 m) above the second floor and is 53 feet (16 m) tall overall. The red light has a focal plane of 67 feet (20 m) feet above Lake Michigan.[3] The lantern and parapet are painted black.[9]

The structure is near the middle of the four-mile-long Milwaukee breakwater. It is built to withstand heavy weather and waves when Lake Michigan becomes roughest. The building is made of quarter-inch "steel plates over a steel skeletal frame, and is equipped with windows and portholes with glass a full half inch in thickness." The structure was originally painted red, but became white thereafter.[8]

In 1926, the original fourth order Fresnel lens was transferred from the Milwaukee Pierhead Light.[8] The "helical barred lantern is also thought to have come from the pierhead light".[10] The lens was removed in 1994,[11] and is now an exhibit in Manitowoc at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum.[12]

The resident lighthouse keepers serviced not only this light, but all of the lights in the harbor, however boat launching and landing from this structure was especially risky.[8] A list of keepers is available.[13]

The light is not listed on the National Register of Historic Places or the state list.[14]

In June 2011 the United States Coast Guard declared that they no longer need the lighthouse, and that they will transfer it to eligible organizations, or if none are found, auction it.[15] [16]


The lighthouse is situated on the north side of the harbor at the end of the breakwater. Because the shore and breakwater are disconnected, it is necessary to use a boat to reach it. The best view is from the parking lot at the end of East Erie Street, adjacent to the Milwaukee Pierhead Light.[10] Those who are interested in photographing it will need a telephoto or zoom lens.[17] The tower and site are closed.

I-43.svgI-43 to east I-794.svgI-794. Take exit(1F)(Lincoln Memorial Drive), proceed north to Michigan Street. Turn right onto Michigan. Turn right onto Harbor Drive and proceed under the interstate to Polk Street. Turn right on Polk, which ends at Erie Street. Turn left on Erie into the parking lot where it ends.[15]


  1. ^ "Historic Light Station Information and Photography: Wisconsin". United States Coast Guard Historian's Office. 
  2. ^ Pepper, Terry. "Database of Tower Heights". Seeing the Light. 
  3. ^ a b Pepper, Terry. "Seeing the Light: Lighthouses on the western Great Lakes, database.". 
  4. ^ (PDF) Light List, Volume VII, Great Lakes. Light List. United States Coast Guard. 
  5. ^ "Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society, Milwaukee Pierhead (Lake Michigan) Light ARLHS USA-497". 
  6. ^ "Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society, World List of Lights.". 
  7. ^ "Weekly list of actions taken on properties: 9/12/11 through 9/16/11". National Park Service. September 23, 2011. Retrieved September 27, 2011. 
  8. ^ a b c d Terry Pepper, Seeing the Light, Milwaukee Breakwater Light.
  9. ^ a b Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of the United States: Eastern Wisconsin". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 
  10. ^ a b c Wobser, David, Milwaukee Breakwater Light,
  11. ^ Lighthouse friends, Milwaukee Breakwater Light article Note, however, that there are claims that the original lens is still in place. See, Terry Pepper, Seeing the Light, Milwaukee Breakwater Light.
  12. ^ Photograph, Milwaukee Breakwater Light Fresnel lens (and others) at Rowlett, Russ, Lighthouse Directory, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  13. ^ Tag, Phyllis L., Great Lakes Lighthouse Research, List of keepers, Milwaukee Pier/Breakwater Lights.
  14. ^ National Park Service Maritime History Project, Inventory of Historic Light Stations – Wisconsin – Milwaukee Breakwater Light.
  15. ^ a b "Milwaukee Breakwater Lighthouse, Wisconsin". Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  16. ^ Beatty, MaryAnne. "GSA Making 12 Historic Lighthouses Available at No Cost to Public Organizations Willing to Preserve Them". GSA Website. US General Services Administration. Retrieved 12 July 2011. 
  17. ^ See, Terry Pepper, Seeing the Light, Milwaukee Breakwater Light.

Specialized Additional reading

External links

USCG archive photo

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