Milwaukee Breakwater Light

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Milwaukee Breakwater Light
Milwaukee Breakwater Lighthouse
Milwaukee Breakwater Light is located in Wisconsin
Milwaukee Breakwater Light
LocationMilwaukee, Wisconsin
Coordinates43°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[1]
Year first constructed1926
Year first lit1926
Construction14 inch (6.4 mm) steel plate, steel frame, cast iron lantern
Tower shapeSquare on square house, topped by round lantern
Markings / patternwhite with black lantern & parapet
Tower height53 feet (16 m)[3]
Focal height67 feet (20 m)[4][5]
Original lensFourth order Fresnel
Range14 nautical miles (26 km; 16 mi)[1]
CharacteristicFl R 10 seconds[1]

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 signalHORN: 2 blasts ev 20s (2s bl- 2s si-2s bl-14s si). Operates from Apr. 1 to Nov.[6]
ARLHS numberUSA-497[7][8]
USCG number7-20635
Heritageplace listed on the National Register of Historic Places Edit this on Wikidata
Milwaukee Breakwater Light
LocationSouth end of north breakwater, .7 miles east of the mouth of the Milwaukee River
MPSLight Stations of the United States MPS
NRHP reference #11000678[9]
Added to NRHPSeptember 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.[10] The two-story steel lighthouse keeper's quarters are in the art deco style.[11] The structure rests on a 60 by 54 feet (18 by 16 m) concrete pier, which rises more than 20 feet (6.1 m) above the lake's surface.[12] 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.[5] The lantern and parapet are painted black.[11]

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 14 inch (6.4 mm) "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.[10]

USCG archive photo

In 1926, the original fourth order Fresnel lens was transferred from the Milwaukee Pierhead Light.[10] The "helical barred lantern is also thought to have come from the pierhead light".[12] The lens was removed in 1994,[13] and is now an exhibit in Manitowoc at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum.[14]

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.[10] A list of keepers is available.[15]

The light is not listed on the National Register of Historic Places or the state list.[16] It was nominated for NRHP status by the City of Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission on July 25, 2011.[17]

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.[18][19] In 2013, Optima Enrichment acquired the lighthouse from the Coast Guard and is currently raising funds in order to open the lighthouse to the public.[20]


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.[12] Those who are interested in photographing it will need a telephoto or zoom lens.[21] The tower and site are closed.


  1. ^ a b c Light List, Volume VII, Great Lakes (PDF). Light List. United States Coast Guard. 2014.
  2. ^ "Historic Light Station Information and Photography: Wisconsin". United States Coast Guard Historian's Office.
  3. ^ Pepper, Terry. "Database of Tower Heights". Seeing the Light.
  4. ^ Pepper, Terry. "Database of Focal Heights". Seeing the Light.
  5. ^ a b Pepper, Terry. "Seeing the Light: Lighthouses on the western Great Lakes, database".
  6. ^ Light List, Volume VII, Great Lakes (PDF). Light List. United States Coast Guard.
  7. ^ "Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society, Milwaukee Pierhead (Lake Michigan) Light ARLHS USA-497".
  8. ^ "Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society, World List of Lights". Archived from the original on 2009-04-21.
  9. ^ "Weekly list of actions taken on properties: 9/12/11 through 9/16/11". National Park Service. September 23, 2011. Retrieved September 27, 2011.
  10. ^ a b c d Terry Pepper, Seeing the Light, Milwaukee Breakwater Light.
  11. ^ a b Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of the United States: Eastern Wisconsin". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  12. ^ a b c Wobser, David, Milwaukee Breakwater Light,
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Photograph, Milwaukee Breakwater Light Fresnel lens (and others) at Rowlett, Russ, Lighthouse Directory, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  15. ^ Tag, Phyllis L., Great Lakes Lighthouse Research, List of keepers, Milwaukee Pier/Breakwater Lights.
  16. ^ National Park Service Maritime History Project, Inventory of Historic Light Stations – Wisconsin – Milwaukee Breakwater Light.
  17. ^ Motion relating to the NRHP status for the Milwaukee Breakwater Light.
  18. ^ "Milwaukee Breakwater Lighthouse, Wisconsin". Retrieved 5 July 2011.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ "Brookfield nonprofit acquires historic Milwaukee Breakwater Light," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel September 16, 2013
  21. ^ See, Terry Pepper, Seeing the Light, Milwaukee Breakwater Light.

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