Saturday, August 11, 2012

Discover Wisconsin – Lighthouses

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.

Photos of Wind Point Lighthouse, Racine

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:
The very cool Great Lakes Lightkeeper’s Association:
And yes, there is a festival for that:
To learn more about Wind Point Light:
To check out the Friends of Wind Point


  1. Michigan DEFINITELY got the better end of the deal, Lisa - in my humble opinion, anyway ;)

    I've been to a couple Michigan lighthouses. Lovely. Enjoyed this post!

  2. Lisa,
    Sounds like a great fall trip for Friends of the Pen to me!

    You used a favorite of mine: plethora. And you intro'd me to the whisper-word!

    Great post!

  3. Sigh, yes, those are fun words. I've been to the Raspberry Island lighthouse in the Apostles.

  4. I think a great vacation would be visiting the Great Lakes lighthouses. Racine sounds like a terrific place to start.

  5. Very cool story. I'm a lighthouse fan... and I also love words (like plethora). So of course, I liked your "other word" that you won't tell where you got it. ;]

  6. I didn't get Plethora from the 3 Amigos, but we all go into a major giggle fest for days when we watch it and hear it in the movie.

  7. Yum to pasties and yes, I know how to pronounce it.

    Hurray for lighthouses,too.

    Nice post, Lisa.


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