Lighthouses – Testaments To Our Maritime Culture
From the era of birch bark canoes to large riverboats and steel-hulled ships, the Fox River and Lake Winnebago system has remained an important water route throughout the middle United States. In the 19th and early 20th century, this corridor transported people and goods from east to west and throughout the world. Several active and inactive lighthouses still stand along this waterway.
Green Bay Harbor – (Green Bay active) Built in 1935, this light is located 9 miles offshore from the City of Green Bay, and consists of a 70 foot steel tower with a concrete base. Formerly known as the 10 Mile Light, 4 Coast Guard personnel were stationed at the lighthouse for a period of 2 weeks. Living in such close quarters, boaters remember occasionally hearing shouting matches coming from the tower.
Long Tail Point – (Green Bay, in ruins) Located on a sandbar island on the southern most end of Green Bay, this old lighthouse marks a time when the port city hoped to rival Chicago. It is the oldest lighthouse in the region, erected in 1847. The tower was built by limestone picked from the eastern shore of Green Bay. The crumbling tower was closed in 1856, and is now located on the Long Tail Point State Wildlife Area.
Grassy Island Range – (Green Bay, inactive) These two matching lighthouses were once located on Grassy Island, used to guide boats into the Green Bay Harbor. Built after the harbor was completed in 1871, the towers stood on either side of the island. The northern light was 25 feet tall, while the upper light stood at 35 feet. In the 1960s, the Green Bay Yacht Club relocated the lights. In 2005, they were fully restored.
Kimberly Point – (Neenah, active) In 1939, Helen Kimberly Stuart, community activist and daughter of John A. Kimberly, began making plans to erect a lighthouse at Kimberly Point Park, at the confluence of the Fox River and Lake Winnebago. Construction on the 39.5 foot lighthouse began in 1945. Upon completion, the structure was named for James C. Kimberly, who donated the funds for the project.
Asylum Bay – (Oshkosh, inactive) Constructed in 1940, this 24 foot light stood guard at Assylum Point. The structure once marked the headquarters of a fish harvesting operation, which gathered one million pounds of fish from Lake Winnebago for Chicago and New York markets. The owners, however, encountered problems obtaining a license to operate the light so it was never electrified.
Bray’s Point – (Oshkosh, active) Located where the Fox River empties into Lake Winnebago, this Oshkosh landmark was built in 1909. It was designed by an Oshkosh architect, George Andrews Rockwell, and was built by Senator William Bray on his land. At 44 feet, it is one of the most ornate lighthouses in Wisconsin.
Fond du Lac – (Fond du Lac, active) This Fond du Lac landmark was built by lumberman W. J. Nuss in 1933 for the city, with plans donated by architect Roger A. Sutherland. In the midst of the depression, the light was constructed entirely by out-of-work Fond du Lac citizens. In 1993, this 56 foot Cape Cod style tower was restored by the city.
Calumet Harbor – (Pipe, active) Located in Columbia Park, this lighthouse marks the harbor entrance of Pipe Creek. It was originally constructed as a water tower for the Fond du Lac Table Factory, but was moved and converted to a watch tower and navigational aid in 1936. In 1992, the 70 foot, steel skeletal tower was restored by the Columbia Park Tower Fund and Fond du Lac County.
By Raymond A. Foss