|Wind Point, WI|
Description: In 1870, the Lighthouse Board petitioned Congress for $40,000 to construct a lighthouse and fog signal on Racine Point, located three-and-a-half miles north of Racine and eighteen miles south of Milwaukee. A lighthouse had been established at Racine in 1835, but this light was shut out by Racine Point for vessels approaching Racine from the north. The Lighthouse Board felt that a lighthouse on Racine Point could help mariners avoid Racine Reef, which lies well offshore, and reduce the number of shipwrecks that had occurred near the point.
In May 1879, a lot on Wind Point measuring 295 by 292.5 feet was purchased for $1,000 along with a 33 by 628 foot right-of-way to the public highway. Also that year, plans for the station were submitted and approved, and duplicate fog whistles were ordered.
Built of brick with an inner and outer wall, Wind Point Lighthouse gradually tapers from a diameter of twenty-two feet at its base to twelve feet eight inches at its lantern. The tower stands atop a ten-foot-deep stone foundation and measures 110 feet three inches from its base to the ventilator ball atop its lantern room. The tower features two distinctive architectural embellishments found in many of the tall towers on the Great Lakes: masonry gallery support corbels and arch-topped windows. A spiral cast-iron staircase, with 144 steps and five landings, winds up the inside of the tower to the watchroom and lantern room, which are each encircled by a gallery.
The ten-sided lantern room originally housed a third-order Fresnel lens manufactured by Barbier & Fenestre in Paris, France. This lens, which is now on display at the lighthouse, has twelve flash panels and revolved once in six minutes to produce a six-second flash every thirty seconds. The lens rested atop sixteen ball bearings and was rotated by a clockwork mechanism powered by a weight suspended in a drop tube located between the inner and outer walls of the tower.
Alfred B. Finch, a Civil War veteran, served as the first head keeper at Wind Point, and his son Asa served as the first assistant keeper. The light and fog signal were placed in operation on November 15, 1880, but after just a few days of operation, the revolving machinery for the light malfunctioned, and Alfred and Asa had to manually turn the lens for five frigid nights.
The tower is attached via a twenty-two-foot-long covered way to the brick keepers’ dwelling. Besides, the lighthouse, the station was also originally equipped with two ten-inch steam fog whistles, housed in twin buildings located just east of the lighthouse.
A circular iron oil house was erected on the station grounds in 1893 to store the volatile kerosene oil used for the light. The current concrete oil house was built in 1910.
A thirty-four-foot by twenty-foot extension with a back building was added to the keepers’ dwelling in 1899. The need for additional space in the dwelling was likely promoted by the addition of a second assistant keeper to the station in 1896. In 1910, the dwelling had seven rooms for the head keeper, and five rooms for each of the two assistants.
A brick fog signal building was constructed in 1900 to house duplicate, compressed-air sirens powered by oil engines. Two years later, two automatic Brown sirens, with copper trumpets were installed, and one of the two old wooden fog signal buildings was moved to the southwest part of the lot and converted into a woodshed. The characteristic of the fog signal was changed in 1906 from a three-second blast separated by twenty-seven seconds of silence, to a three-second blast separated by fifty-seven seconds of silence.
A wharf, topped by iron rails, extended 103 feet into Lake Michigan from the station, and its outer end was protected by a twelve-foot-square crib equipped with two boat davits. Though the station was accessible by road from Racine, the keepers were supplied a boat, which was stored atop a trolley in the station’s boathouse at the western end of the wharf. The keepers put their boat to good use in helping mariners, who encountered difficulties off Wind Point. Keeper Henry R. Bevry, whose tenure from 1913 to 1945 was the longest of any had keeper at Wind Point, went to the aid of numerous people. In 1914, he and his two assistants saved the motorboat Jeanette in rough seas. In 1918, Bevry and an assistant rendered aid to the auxiliary cruiser Driad that was grounded on a reef, and in 1921 Bevry and his assistants rescued two boys on a draft that were blown out into deep water.
Bevry had the same two assistants during most of his service: Julius Lonne served as first assistant from 1910 until he dropped dead of a heart attack on December 23, 1940, and William Nash served as second assistant from 1910 to 1938. This picture of Bevry and his two faithful assistants appeared in a newspaper article in 1923. (Bevry is on the left, Lonne center, and Nash on the right).
On December 5, 1923, Wind Point Lighthouse became just the second light on the Great Lakes to be electrified when a 300-watt light bulb was placed inside the Fresnel lens. The apartments for the keepers were also electrified thanks to the work of the Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company.
The Fresnel lens at Wind Point was replaced with a DCB-24 aerobeacon in 1964, when the station was automated and de-staffed. The lens was given to the Racine Historical Museum (now the Racine Heritage Museum), the fog signal was discontinued, and the station buildings were leased to the Village of Wind Point. The three apartments in the keepers’ dwelling were put to good use, with one housing the offices of the Wind Point police, one serving as the residence for a curator/caretaker and his family, who maintain the buildings and grounds, and one being converted into a village hall for village meetings, non-profit group gatherings, and rentals.
In recognition of the key role this lighthouse had played in the maritime history of Racine County, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.
The Fresnel lens was loaned to the village in 1989 to be displayed at the lighthouse for the bicentennial of the Lighthouse Service, and has remained there ever since. The National Park Service awarded title of the lighthouse to the Village of Wind Point in 1997. Formed in 1999 to help interpret the site, The Friends of the Wind Point Lighthouse turned the fog signal building into a museum and opened the tower for climbing on select days during the summer.
In May 2007, the Jeld-Wen Company announced that the lighthouse would receive new windows and doors as the co-winner of a national competition. Also in 2007, the DCB-24R aerobeacon failed and was replaced by a VRB-25 lens. This change led to complaints by boaters in the area who felt the new light was too weak. Letters were sent to the Coast Guard by the City of Racine Harbor Commission, the State of Wisconsin Waterways Commission, the Racine County Sheriff’s Department, and the Village of Wind Point, asking that the intensity of the light be increased and that the false flashes produced by the new beacon be eliminated. After nearly three years of dialogue, the Coast Guard addressed the complaints by replacing the beacon’s thirty-five-watt bulb with a 100-watt bulb and adding screens to the western windows in the lantern room to eliminate the extra flashes.
In 2016, the Village of Wind Point severed ties with The Friends of Wind Point Lighthouse, after the non-profit organization refused to share more of its financial information than it was required to submit to the IRS. The Friends had agreed to donate two dollars for every tower climber in 2016 to the village, but didn’t want to take on the role of raising funds for maintenance of the lighthouse. Through the years, the Friends had provided over $65,000 to the village for various lighthouse-related projects. The village has taken over management of lighthouse tours for now.
Located on Wind Point, 3.5 miles north of Racine. The lighthouse is owned by the Village of Wind Point. Grounds open, part of dwelling is a hall that can be reserved, tower open during open houses.
The lighthouse is owned by the Village of Wind Point. Grounds open, part of dwelling is a hall that can be reserved, tower open during open houses.
Notes from a friend:Kraig writes:
The keeper of Wind Point Lighthouse received the following letter, dated April 21, from the officer in charge of St. Joseph Coast Guard Station:Assuming that it would be interesting for you to know that I saw your light here the other night, I was dropping you these few lines.The distance from St. Joseph to Wind Point Lighthouse is about 80 miles.
See our List of Lighthouses in Wisconsin
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.