As the Lighthouse Festival approaches September 30 – October 2, I thought you’d like to know some interesting facts and stories about some of the Door County Lighthouses. Door County has the most lighthouses in any county in Wisconsin.
= The Pottawatomi Lighthouse was built in 1836 on Rock Island and is the oldest. It was upgraded in 1858. In 1870, at 38, William Betts became the lightkeeper. William was a Civil War Vet. Seventeen-months after he started, he married 16 year old Emily Ron who served as assistant keeper. William and Emily raised 9 children on the property and lived at the lighthouse for sixteen years. Rumor has it, it’s haunted. You can hear children playing outside, and many other noises from within the house.
= In 1853 the Bailys Harbor Birdcage Lighthouse was built. The Birdcage was rebuilt because it was faulty, and on top of it, it was built in the wrong spot. The goal was to move ships away from the reef, but it moved ships into danger.
= Pilot Island Lighthouse was built in 1858. It was thought to be the most lonely, but actually the most social. They had weddings and parties on the 3 l/2 acre property. The Fog signal was reported as the loudest on the Great Lakes. You could hear the Fog Horn 40 miles away. The kerosene lamps were suspended by strings to prevent the flames to go out due to the Fog Horn’s vibrations. Pilot Island is the most isolated lighthouse in Door County.
= Eagle Bluff Lighthouse was built in 1968 in Peninsula State Park. The lighthouse was built using cream-colored Milwaukee brick. In 1883, William Duclon took charge of the lighthouse. Along with his wife and seven children, the Duclon family were very musical. In fact they became the Duclon Orchestra and performed in Door County. In 1960, the lighthouse was restored to a museum.
= Chambers Island Lighthouse was built in 1868, which looks similar to Eagle Bluff Lighthouse. There is a bit of a difference, Eagle Bluff has an octangular tower as Chambers Island has a square tower. Of course, stories to be told, it’s haunted. In 1976, a caretaker heard footsteps coming down the steps and walking throughout the building. He also heard tools moving and beds shaking!
= Baileys Harbor Light Ranges were built to helps ships guide themselves into self refuge. In 1896, Henry Gattie became the lighthouse keeper and was quite the catch! In 1901 he married with a fantastic wedding that everyone enjoyed and hoped it could happen every month.
=Cana Island Lighthouse was built in 1869 and celebrating more then 150 years of standing watch on the shores of Lake Michigan. It was built with cream city brick and steel and the tallest building in Door County. In the 1870’s plus, it experienced storms and flooding which were hard on the lighthouse. In 1902, the 75 foot tower was covered in steel plates to protect it from the water.
= Sturgeon Bay Bay Ship Canal Pierhead Lighthouse was built in 1882. It started as a 29 foot medal framed tower. Four years later, due to how critical it was to navigation, it was upgraded to it’s current 43 foot red structure, included a fog horn and keepers quarters. The lighthouse keepers lived on a barge close to it. This lighthouse is not open to the public.
= Sherwood Point Lighthouse was the last lighthouse with a lighthouse keeper on the Great Lakes. By 1983, all others were automated. It is the only light house built out of red brick in Door County. It is also haunted. In 1898, keeper William Cochems married Minnie Hesh. In 1928 Minnie died who was the assistant keeper. After her death, you could hear tea cups rattling, to her presence on the staircase would appear.
= Plum Island Range Lights at Death’s Door was built in 1897 as a need to guide ships through Death’s Door. This is the most expensive lighthouse in Door County at $21,000. In today’s currency, over $700,000. Why is it called Plum Island? It’s because it is smack dab in the middle of Death’s Door.
= Sturgeon Bay Shipping Canal was built in 1898 and is 98 feet the tallest lighthouse in Door County. It was a free standing light house until 1930 when a steel skelton was built to stabilize it. Everyone always thought the Cana Lighthouse was the tallest, but actually it is eleven feet shorter.
Enjoy the lighthouse tour for many more interesting stories about our Door County Lighthouses!
Posted by: Jill