Southport Lighthouse Seeing The Light

Simmons Island, Kenosha, Wisconsin Home Back

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Historical Information

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With initial settlement of what was then known as the "Pike Creek" area in 1836, it did not take long for the settlers to realize the need for a light to guide vessels into the protection that the creek offered. The following year, in 1835, the citizens of Pike Creek exhibited their first light, consisting of a ten foot high tree stump, with a platform of rocks at its pinnacle, on which a beacon fire was lighted. In 1840, an improved structure consisting of a twenty-four foot tall four-legged tower capped by a lantern room was constructed at the mouth of the Creek. 

Click to view enlarged imagesIn 1847, land was purchased on Simmons Island for the construction of the first "Government Light," with construction of the light completed the following year. 

A larger second light, equipped with a Fifth Order Fresnel was was built to replace this original structure in 1858, however it's construction was less than acceptable, as in a matter of a decade it was found to be deteriorating sufficiently to require replacement by the existing structure in 1866.

Click to view enlarged imagesStanding fifty-two feet tall, the tower was built of Cream City brick, and unlike other tall towers constructed of such material appears to have weathered the years well, with only slight flaking evident in the structure today. Equipped with a Fourth Order Fresnel lens, the light originally exhibited a fixed white with a single flash panel. This signature was later changed to an isophase flash. The tower stood alone for one year until the completion of the keepers dwelling in 1867

Click to view enlarged imageAs a result of mild winters on the Lake Michigan's West Coast, in 1903 the Lighthouse Board ordered the light to remain illuminated throughout the year. Only three years thereafter, the decision was made to discontinue the light, and the light was extinguished permanently. In 1913, the lantern was removed, and the tower capped-off at the gallery level. That same year, a twenty-one foot tall steel tower with a fifteen foot flagstaff at its' top was installed for the display of storm warning signals.

Click to view enlarged imageIn the early 1950's the Federal Government was making plans to demolish the structure. Concerned citizens and civic groups banded together in an effort to save and preserve the tower, which had grown to become a treasured landmark to the people of Kenosha. In 1955, the U.S. Government conveyed a quitclaim on the lighthouse and station property to the City of Kenosha.

Finally, in 1994, sufficient funds were raised to allow the replacement of the lantern room, and the installation of a 300mm acrylic optic within. While no longer registered as an active aid to navigation by the Coast Guard, the light has been reactivated and once again shines proudly from the lantern room.

Keepers of
this Light

Click Here to see a complete listing of all Kenosha Southport Light keepers compiled by Phyllis L. Tag of Great Lakes Lighthouse Research.

Seeing this Light

From I-94, head east on Hwy 158 to Sheridan Road, which eventually becomes 52nd street as it crosses the City limits. Turn right on Lighthouse Road to Simmons Island Park. Turn right after crossing the bridge to the island, and you will see the light to your left.

For more information on the Kenosha Historical Society, or to make a donation to assist  in the tower restoration project, contact:

The Kenosha County Historical Society
220 51st Place
Kenosha, WI 53140

Telephone (262) 654-5770

Reference Sources

Inventory of Historic Light Stations, National Parks Service 1994 
Photographs from author's personal collection.
Personal observation at Kenosha, 09/08/2000.
Email from Pete Christy, 11/18/00
Information obtained from Kenosha Historical Society members at the lighthouse.
Wisconsin Lighthouses, A photographic & Historical Guide, Ken & Barb Wardius, 2000
Keeper listings for this light appear courtesy of Great Lakes Lighthouse Research

Terry Pepper. This page last updated 04/14/2010 .

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