|Two Rivers, WI|
Description: The City of Two Rivers is named for the East and West Twin Rivers, which run together just before flowing into Lake Michigan. After having been appointed by the Board of Navy Commissioners to examine and select lighthouse site on the Great Lakes, Lieutenant G.J. Pendergrast toured the lakes in 1837 and submitted a lengthy report detailing his findings. Pendergrast wrote that while he had not landed at Two Rivers he passed close enough to determine the stream entering the lake there could form a good harbor.
On September 28, 1850, Congress appropriated $3,500 for a lighthouse at the mouth of Twin Rivers. Henry B. Miller, Superintendent and Inspector of Lights on the Great Lakes, informed Wisconsin Governor Leonard J. Farwell in early 1852 that his legislature needed to pass an act of cession of jurisdiction for lighthouse property at Two Rivers before the appropriated funds could be drawn upon.
By 1858, a sixth-order Fresnel lens had been placed in the lantern room, but the light’s days were numbered. In 1859, Congress empowered the Lighthouse Board “to discontinue from time to time such lights as may become useless by reason of mutations of commerce and changes of channels of harbors, and other causes.” Twin Rivers Lighthouse was discontinued that August, with Albert Bary having served as keeper for most of its existence.
In 1870, engineers with the U.S. Army surveyed Two Rivers and reported that to make use of the rivers as a harbor it was “necessary to widen and deepen the mouth, to revet the sides of the excavation, and extend piers from the shore line into the lake, according to the plan adopted at other harbors on Lake Michigan.” At that time there were two tanneries, a chair factory, two sawmills, and a tub factory at Two Rivers, and leather was by far the most lucrative export from two private piers that had been extended into the lake. Leather exports were valued at $975,600, while lumber exports were valued at $220,000. The engineers estimated that extending parallel piers into Lake Michigan to a depth of eighteen and dredging a channel to a depth of twelve feet would cost $265,589.
Work on the piers began in 1871, and by 1878, they had been extended 1,200 to a depth of twelve feet at a cost of $110,000. As most of the length was built of piles, sand was able to sift through and fill in the dredged channel. A sand-tight lining was fitted to the pile piers in 1879 to eliminate this problem, and over the next several years, additional cribs were added to complete the piers.
The square, pyramidal lighthouse measured thirty-five feet from base to ventilator ball and was built by with twelve-inch-square corner posts and sills. The bottom portion of the tower was open framework, while the upper portion had an enclosed watchroom accessed from the elevated walkway. A trap door led from the watchroom up into the ten-sided lantern, from which a red light was displayed from a sixth-order, Sautter &Co. Fresnel lens.
The 1903 Report of the Lighthouse Board noted that there was no dwelling associated with Two Rivers Lighthouse and recommended $3,500 be appropriated to construct one on the land where the Twin Rivers Lighthouse once stood. The Board repeated its request for funds each year until an act on February 25, 1907 finally funded the keeper’s dwelling. A red brick oil house was built near the eleven-room, frame keeper’s dwelling in 1909.
Also in 1909, a 1,500-pound fog bell was mounted on the seaward side of the pierhead tower, and a Gamewell striking apparatus, wound up intermittently by a ¼-horsepower motor, was installed in the watchroom. A ten by eighteen foot frame powerhouse was constructed at the inner end of the north pier to shelter a generator that powered the motor in the watchroom. The fog bell was struck a single blow every fifteen seconds.
Starting in 1919, funds were requested for improving the fog signal at Two Rivers. It was noted that “craft operating out of Two Rivers found the bell of little assistance in making the port during fog” and that there had been “an insistent demand” that the fog signal be improved. In 1928, a diaphone fog signal was put in place, and the pierhead light was changed to electric illuminant.
Two Rivers Lighthouse was deactivated in 1969 and replaced with a modern beacon. In 1975, the upper portion of the wooden lighthouse was moved onto the grounds of the Historic Rogers Street Fishing Village, where it was surrounded by a wide, wooden walkway in 1998. The tower’s Fresnel lens was broken during the move, and three decades later, Sandy Zipperer, executive director of the museum, launched an effort to have it repaired.
Joseph Cocking of Lighthouse Lamp Shop, Inc. spent over a year researching the lens to determine its exact form, molding the bent metal back into shape, and fabricating the lens pieces that had been broken or lost. The restored lens was unveiled at the museum during a celebration held on May 28, 2009.
Head Keepers: George D. Ruggles (1853), Albert Barry (1853 – 1854), David Ward (1854), Albert Barry (1854 – 1859), Anthony Gauthier (1886 – 1915), Otto Schmiling (1915 – at least 1940).
Located in the Rogers Street Fishing
Village in Two Rivers. The lighthouse is owned by the Rogers Street Fishing Village. Grounds open, tower open in season.
The lighthouse is owned by the Rogers Street Fishing Village. Grounds open, tower open in season.
Notes from a friend:Kraig writes:
Two Rivers claims to be the home of the ice cream sundae. A historical sign states:
See our List of Lighthouses in Wisconsin
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, Marilyn Stiborek, used by permission.