Milwaukee Pierhead Light

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Milwaukee Pierhead Light
Milwaukee Pierhead Light
Milwaukee Pierhead Light is located in Wisconsin
Milwaukee Pierhead Light
Milwaukee Pierhead Light is located in the United States
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]
Year first constructed1872
Year first lit1872
Automatedcirca 1939
Foundationconcrete pier
Tower shapeFrustum of a cone, decagonal lantern room
Markings / patternRed with black lantern and parapet[2]
Tower height41 feet (12 m)[3]
Focal height48 feet (15 m)[4]
Original lensFourth-order Fresnel lens[2]
Current lensunknown "modern beacon"[5]
Range7 nautical miles (13 km; 8.1 mi)[1]
CharacteristicRed flashing light every 4 seconds[1]
ARLHS numberUSA-498[6][7]
USCG number7-20670
Heritageplace listed on the National Register of Historic Places Edit this on Wikidata
Milwaukee Pierhead Light
LocationMilwaukee, Wisconsin
Arealess than one acre
NRHP reference #12000971[8]
Added to NRHPSeptember 2012

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


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.[10] The 5th Order lens is said to be on display also at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum.[11]

According to one source: "The original lantern room had helical bar windows and is believed to [be] the one presently on the Breakwater Light."[12] This is corroborated by the report that the Breakwater Light has a "round cast iron lantern room [that] features helical astragal" in the lantern.[13]

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.[9]

From 1872 until 1926, the light had its own keepers.[14][15] 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.[13]

The light was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in September 2012.


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.[16]


  1. ^ a b c d Light List, Volume VII, Great Lakes (PDF). Light List. United States Coast Guard.
  2. ^ a b "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 Lighthouse friends, Milwaukee Pierhead Light article.
  6. ^ "Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society, Milwaukee Pierhead (Lake Michigan) Light ARLHS USA-498".
  7. ^ "Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society, World List of Lights". Archived from the original on 2009-04-21.
  8. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09.
  9. ^ a b Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of the United States: Eastern Wisconsin". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  10. ^ 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".
  11. ^ National Park Service Maritime History Project, Inventory of Historic Light Stations - Wisconsin - Milwaukee Pierhead Light.
  12. ^ Wobser, David, Milwaukee Pier Head Light, Boatnerd
  13. ^ a b Terry Pepper, Seeing the Light, Milwaukee Breakwater Light.
  14. ^ 12th District Survey of Pier Head light dated 1873.
  15. ^ Tag, Phyllis L., Great Lakes Lighthouse Research, List of Milwaukee Pierhead/Breakwater Lighthouse keepers.
  16. ^ Lighthouse friends, Milwaukee Breakwater Light article

Further reading[edit]

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