Milwaukee Pierhead Light

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Milwaukee Pierhead Light
LocationMilwaukee, Wisconsin
Coordinates43°01′33.378″N 87°53′42.938″W / 43.02593833°N 87.89526056°W / 43.02593833; -87.89526056Coordinates: 43°01′33.378″N 87°53′42.938″W / 43.02593833°N 87.89526056°W / 43.02593833; -87.89526056[1]
Foundationconcrete pier
Automatedcirca 1939
Height41 feet (12 m)[2]
ShapeFrustum of a cone, decagonal lantern room
MarkingsRed with black lantern and parapet[4]
HeritageNational Register of Historic Places listed place Edit this on Wikidata
First lit1872
Focal height43 feet (13 m)[3]
LensFourth-order Fresnel lens[4] (original), unknown "modern beacon"[5] (current)
Range7 nautical miles (13 km; 8.1 mi)[1]
CharacteristicRed flashing light every 4 seconds[1]
Milwaukee Pierhead Light
LocationMilwaukee, Wisconsin
Arealess than one acre
NRHP reference No.12000971[6]
Added to NRHPNovember 2012[7]

The Milwaukee Pierhead Light is an active lighthouse located in the Milwaukee harbor, just south of downtown.[8][9] This aid to navigation is a 'sister' of the Kenosha North Pier Light.[10]


The station was established in 1872. It is west of the Milwaukee Breakwater Light, and is near the outflow of the Milwaukee River—not far east of where that river converged with the Kinnickinnic River—into the Milwaukee Harbor and Lake Michigan.[5]

USCG archive photo

This light has a round steel tower with a round gallery and a ten-sided lantern. In 1926, the original 4th Order Fresnel lens was transferred to the Milwaukee Breakwater Light, and that lens is now displayed at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The Fifth Order Fresnel lens—installed in 1926—was removed in 2005. The tower is newly painted circa 2007.[11] The 5th Order lens is said to be on display also at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum.[12]

According to one source: "The original lantern room had helical bar windows and is believed to [be] the one presently on the Breakwater Light."[13] This is corroborated by the report that the Breakwater Light has a "round cast iron lantern room [that] features helical astragal" in the lantern.[14]

A Submarine cable runs from this light to the Milwaukee Breakwater Light, upon which a lighted danger warning is displayed.[1]

The light was recently painted, circa 2007.[10]

From 1872 until 1926, the light had its own keepers.[15][16] Thereafter, this light, like all of the lights in the harbor, was serviced by the resident Lighthouse keepers who were stationed at the neighboring North Point Light Station until it was automated.[14]

The light was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in November 2012.[7]


The light is located in downtown Milwaukee, at the end of East Erie Street, which leads to a short pier. Parking is available. The pier may be walked, but the tower is 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.[17]


  1. ^ a b c d Light List, Volume VII, Great Lakes (PDF). Light List. United States Coast Guard.
  2. ^ Pepper, Terry. "Database of Tower Heights". Seeing the Light. Archived from the original on 2000-09-18. Retrieved 2009-10-04.
  3. ^ Pepper, Terry. "Database of Focal Heights". Seeing the Light. Archived from the original on 2008-08-30. Retrieved 2009-10-04.
  4. ^ a b "Historic Light Station Information and Photography: Wisconsin". United States Coast Guard Historian's Office. Archived from the original on 2017-05-01.
  5. ^ a b Lighthouse friends, Milwaukee Pierhead Light article.
  6. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  7. ^ a b "Milwaukee Pierhead Light". Wisconsin Historical Society. January 2012. Retrieved 2020-01-03.
  8. ^ "Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society, Milwaukee Pierhead (Lake Michigan) Light ARLHS USA-498".
  9. ^ "Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society, World List of Lights". Archived from the original on 2009-04-21.
  10. ^ a b Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of the United States: Eastern Wisconsin". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  11. ^ But compare, Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of the United States: Eastern Wisconsin". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. which opines that the whereabouts of the 5th Order lens are "unknown".
  12. ^ National Park Service Maritime History Project, Inventory of Historic Light Stations - Wisconsin - Milwaukee Pierhead Light.
  13. ^ Wobser, David, Milwaukee Pier Head Light, Boatnerd
  14. ^ a b Terry Pepper, Seeing the Light, Milwaukee Breakwater Light.
  15. ^ 12th District Survey of Pier Head light dated 1873.
  16. ^ Tag, Phyllis L., Great Lakes Lighthouse Research, List of Milwaukee Pierhead/Breakwater Lighthouse keepers.
  17. ^ Lighthouse friends, Milwaukee Breakwater Light article

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