Another day, another lighthouse and that means another blog, right! We left Sturgeon Bay last Friday and now we are in Caledonia, which is between Milwaukee and Racine. We are in a lovely Racine county park called Cliffside Park. There are lots of shade trees and the sites are very large. Lots of space between the sites.
Unfortunately there are lots of barking dogs! Well, not exactly lots but when they get to barking it sure seems like a lot of dogs. We have been here for 5 nights and have 5 more to go on our reservation. We decided that we would pack up, visit the dump site and change sites so we wouldn’t have the barkers right next door. So far it has been a good move but it is early. No telling what will we will experience over the week end!
We are about 20 miles or so south of Milwaukee and have been there a couple of times now. Our first trip was into town to see three lights, the North Point Lighthouse, the pier head and the breakwater. The Breakwater is an impressive sight. It is a large 5 story structure at the end of a rock breakwater that juts out into Lake Michigan for over a mile and half. Prior to being activated it was staffed by 4 Coastguard’s men who worked shifts of three days on, three days off and there were always 2 men at the lighthouse working 12 hour shifts. The light was automated in 1966 and the crew removed. In 2013 it was awarded to a non-profit group Optima Enrichment by the Coast Guard. This group is responsible for the restoration and maintenance for future generations. Rick was able to get a pretty decent picture of the breakwater from the pier head which is much closer to the mainland!
After grabbing some lunch at a harbor burger and custard stand we drove up the hill from the harbor to see the North Point Light. This is a very large property, it covers around two acres with a good size Keeper’s House and the separate light tower. It was interesting to read, in the museum, that the landscaping for the grounds had been done by Frederick Law Olmstead, the famous landscape architect who had designed Central Park in New York City and other famous gardens around the country. You can see some of his vision in the overlooks to Lake Michigan and the landscaping of two large gorges on both sides of the property with paths at the bottom that allows someone to walk from street level down the hill to the shore line.
One very interesting aspect of this lighthouse is the luxury neighborhood that is across the street. Several blocks of large mansions have been built between the light and the property where the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is located. It was fun to drive through that elegant area and thinking that perhaps some of the beer barons of Milwaukee may have lived in that area.
On our next outing we headed north of Milwaukee to Port Washington. There is a small harbor there and it is filled with pleasure boats and a larger harbor area where coal ships come in to deliver their cargo to the factories and power plants in the area. The Port Washington Light house has a very interesting history, as all lights do. This is the second light built in Port Washington. The first was not built as structurally sound as it needed to be and after 10 years was torn down and a new keeper’s house was built. Instead of a separate tower the new tower was placed on top of the southern gable of the two story keepers dwelling. This light operated from 1860 to 1903. It continued to be occupied by various Coast Guard personnel until it was leased and then sold to the Port Washington Historical Society.
Now this is where the story became truly fascinating. In 2000 a notable person from Luxembourg visited the area and toured the lighthouse. Evidently this area was settled by many people from Luxembourg. When he heard about the need to rebuild the tower this visitor offered to have a new tower and lantern room built. This was done in appreciation for the US servicemen who liberated Luxembourg during WW II. The replica tower and lantern were built in Luxembourg and delivered to Port Washington in March 2002. A dedication ceremony was held June 16, 2002 and present for the dedication was Georges Caleux, Minister of Sites and Monuments, the person who had offered the tower and Madame Erna Ehnnicot-Schoepges, Minister of Culture and Higher Education for the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Also in attendance were the Lt Governor of Wisconsin, the US Representative for Wisconsin and the Mayor of Port Washington. These 5 dignitaries were hoisted up in a basket of a local fire truck to cut a red ribbon that encircled the lantern room! That is one of the best lighthouse stories we have heard.
After leaving the lighthouse we drive down the hill to the harbor to take pictures of the breakwater. After walking around for a bit we headed back to the RV park but first we had to stop and take a picture of a light that is privately owned. So we stopped on a small two lane road, Rick jumped out and took a couple of quick pictures. Interestingly this lighthouse was built with private funds in 1981 by an ordained Serbian Orthodox priest and his wife, Brana and Neva Kevich, to fulfill a dream of living in a lighthouse. It was certified by the Coast Guard in 1990 as a private aid to navigation. In 1996 it was sold to its current owners Dave and Mary Bennett, no relation to Richard and Karen Bennett!