Manitowoc Breakwater Lighthouse ©

Dawn M. Becker

Milwaukee, United States

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377 views 1-13-2012
orton and texture effect


MCN: CT2RF-ST36W-3H1MF

Featured in “Hometown Photography” 10-10-2010

The Manitowoc Breakwater Light has guided lakefarers in and out of the Manitowoc harbor for over 164 years, with the first lighthouse being established in 1839. In 1840, a brick structure located at the corner of 5th and York Streets perched on a high hill a short distance from the mouth of the Manitowoc River.
A wood pyramidal tower standing 35 feet high was built in 1850 on the outer end of north pier. a catwalk extended to shore assured safe access to the 300 pound hand-operated bell, the city’s first fog signal and the oil lamp that provided light to help pilots navigate into The river.
This light would later be known at the Pierhead Light. In 1859, the original lighthouse structure was raised and then rebuilt on the same location with a revolving 56th Order lens.
By 1895, this lighthouse needed such extensive repairs that it was demolished and reconstructed by the government. Along the river at the Goodrich Docks, at this time, a two-family residence was built on the location of the old lighthouse.
This same year the Manitowoc Breakwater Lighthouse was established on the outer end of the North Breakwater. It was a wood structure covered with corrugated tin. The structure did not have a tower but a small lens room to accommodate the kerosene lamp and a 10-inch steam fog whistle.
In 1918 a new light structure was built on the North Breakwater, a lighthouse, which greets all people coming into Manitowoc Harbor today. The lighthouse originally had a 4th Order lens but was soon replaced with a 5th Order lens.
A Type F Diaphone (compressed air) fog signal was installed as an added safety feature for mariners sailing into manitowoc Harbor. The main light was fixed red and was visible seventeen miles off of the Lake Michigan shoreline.
A radio beacon as installed in 1927 and five years later the diaphone and radio beacon were synchronized to help guide them safely into the harbor.
The Pierhead tower that was built in 1850 was destroyed in a storm and a new steel skeleton structure was erected three years later on the same location. Then in 1947, the structure was moved to the outer end of the pier until 1948 when the light was moved ashore to the Goodrich Docks on the north side of the river.
The Manitowoc Breakwater Light saw many refinements over several years. The light changed from red to straw in 1939 and in 19?? a telephone line and new radio beacon transmitters were installed in the radio room. The color of the light changed in 1956 to a flood white.
In 1964, machinery and Type F Diaphone were removed from the Manitowoc Breakwater Light to modernize it to electric power foghorns along with installing a diesel generator set allowing the light and foghorn to run automatically for navigation, a system in use today.
The most recent change to the Manitowoc Breakwater Light was the removal of the 5th Order lens that is now housed in the Wisconsin Maritime Museum. The United States Coast Guard removed this lens in October 2002 and replaced the lens with a modern light fixture.
The delicate lens will undergo much needed repair and restoration to stabilize it for exhibition. To observe professional staff and volunteers restoring the 5th Order lens form the Manitowoc Breakwater Light, visit the Riverside Gallery located in the Wisconsin Maritime Museum.

Artwork Comments

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