By Lisa Lickel
Lighthouses in the Midwest? Like, for the corn yachts? Or the hog express? Um, no. But, well, yes, about the lighthouses. For great big ships. Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan hug Lakes Superior and Michigan, Huron and a tip of Erie. Some mighty big ponds of water, as we like to say. (Yes, yes, Wisconsin ceded land to Michigan and gave up Chicago – truly, don’t hit me, I’m just the bearer) so that Illinois could have some shore, Michigan could have the UP (seriously, I’m beginning to think we should have kept it: can anyone say “pastie”), so they would give a little to Indiana. A little shore shuffling, so to speak.
So, yes, myriads of lighthouses. A plethora of delight to keep the shipping industry from bashing the shores. Those vestiges of the Ice Age would be seas, if only they were salty. We make big ships for the navy in Manitowoc.
This photo of Wind Point Lighthouse is courtesy of TripAdvisor
Racine, Wisconsin, on Lake Michigan’s southern shore, located south of Milwaukee, was an intriguing place to grow up. If you lived within a few blocks of the lake, you could go to sleep every night to the susurrus of the wave action. (Sorry – I just love that word. I’m trying hard not to use it in every manuscript and giggle when I see it editing the first draft. If you ask, I might even confess where I first learned it. But probably not.) One of my friends lived two blocks from the zoo where she heard the lions roar every evening. I grew up with the beacon of Wind Point Light Doppler-affecting my nights and the comfort of a fog horn on pea soup days. I used to live less than a mile from the shoreline - a mere bikeride away. Wind Point Light is the oldest light still operating on the Great Lakes. Built in 1880, it stands 112 feet tall. The earlier light, Racine Light, built in 1835 in the harbor area, couldn’t be seen from the other side of Wind Point or warn ships about the offshore reef.
The Light was automated and de-staffed in the mid-1960s, and by the time I was a Girl Scout, it served as the Wind Point town hall and we got to have overnights in the light keeper’s quarters. How cool is that? I did sort of briefly mention to hubby that the caretaker position was open in 1989 or thereabouts, and the commute was really not that bad – well, for me, anyway – but he didn’t buy it. Oh, well, I can still visit. Every once in a while I need a Racine day, though I hardly recognize it since I moved away after graduating from Horlick High School. It’s about time again – maybe October. Or sooner. Anyone want to join me?
Here are some sites to learn about other lighthouses of Wisconsin: http://www.wisconline.com/attractions/lighthouses.html
Lighthouses of the Great Lakes: http://www.great-lakes.net/tourism/cul/lighthouse.html/
The very cool Great Lakes Lightkeeper’s Association: http://www.gllka.com/
And yes, there is a festival for that: http://lighthousefestival.org/
To learn more about Wind Point Light: http://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=242
To check out the Friends of Wind Point http://www.windpoint-lighthouse.com/