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 Indiana Harbor East Breakwater, IN    
Lighthouse best viewed by boat or plane.
Description: According to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, the southern boundary of the state of Michigan was to be a line drawn from the southern tip of Lake Michigan east to Lake Erie. The maps of that day had the southern end of Lake Michigan positioned a little farther north than it really is, and as a result the line drawn from the southern end of Lake Michigan to Lake Erie put Toledo and the mouth of the Maumee River in Ohio. When this error was discovered, the “Toledo War” erupted as Michigan declared its intention to take Toledo. Congress stepped in to resolve the conflict and awarded the Upper Peninsula to Michigan, if it would renounce its claim on Toledo. Accordingly, Michigan’s southern border was set to be roughly ten miles north of the southern tip of Lake Michigan, and as a result Indiana gained several miles of valuable lakefront property.

This proved quite fortunate for Indiana, as during the early 1900s the southern shoreline of Lake Michigan became the site of major industrial development. Several industries were established in the area to reap the benefits of access to the Great Lakes, multiple railroads, and the rapidly growing city of Chicago.

On March 26th 1901, Inland Steel Company accepted an offer by Lake Michigan Land Company of fifty acres of free dune land near East Chicago along with a promise that a harbor and railroad would be built at the site, if Inland Steel would agree to construct a steel plant there that would cost no less than one million dollars. Inland Steel divested itself of Inland Iron and Forge Company for $500,000, and then raised another $500,000 to fund the project.

1921 Indiana Harbor East Breakwater Lighthouse
Photograph courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
During 1901 and 1902, Indiana Harbor was dredged and a breakwater constructed. In 1903, work began on a canal that would eventually lead from Indiana Harbor inland to both the Grand Calumet River and Lake George. Over the next several years, numerous industries were established along the waterway. In 1917, Mark Manufacturing built its East Chicago mill on the west side of Indiana Harbor (Inland Steel was located on the eastern side of the harbor). Clayton Mark, the namesake owner of the company, built a company housing community near the mill, and not surprisingly named it Marktown. Soon Marktown was an oasis amidst all the industry, as a tin mill, rolling mill, and a refinery were also built nearby. For an interesting series of aerial views showing the development of Indiana Harbor around Marktown, click here.

In 1914, the federal government assumed responsibility for Indiana Harbor and the canal. An act of June 12, 1917, appropriated $100,000 for the establishment and improvement of aids to navigation at Indiana Harbor. A stone-filled crib topped with concrete was built along with 810 feet of the east breakwater under contract by Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co of Chicago. A reinforced concrete lighthouse measuring forty-four by sixty-five feet and with a height of twenty feet was built atop the crib. This light was activated on May 2, 1924.

As fill was added to the lake surrounding the Indiana Harbor East Breakwater Lighthouse, the entrance to the harbor moved northward. The east breakwater was extended, and at its outermost point a new tower was erected in 1935 to guide freighters into Indiana Harbor. This modern structure is a twin to the tower placed on the Port Washington, Wisconsin breakwater the same year. Originally, a fourth-order Fresnel lens was used in the lighthouse, producing a white flash of one second duration every 7.5 seconds from a focal plan of 78 feet. Today, a modern green beacon sits atop the art deco tower sending out a signature of three seconds on followed by three seconds off.

Foreign competition has taken its toll on the industry surrounding Indiana Harbor, but although the names of the mills have changed over the years, a significant amount of steel continues to be produced there. The heavy industry in the area has polluted the canal and harbor, but in 2001 plans for the dredging and cleanup of the waterway were being made, using as a model the successful project carried out on the contaminated Cuyahoga River in Cleveland.

Head Keepers: William Renier (at least 1935 – at least 1940).

Photo Gallery: 1 2 3 4

References

  1. A History of Inland Steel Company And The Indiana Harbor Works, W.A. Perry, 1979.
  2. Reports of the Department of Commerce, 1920.

Location: Located at the end of an industrial breakwater in Indiana Harbor.
Latitude: 41.68085
Longitude: -87.44111

For a larger map of Indiana Harbor East Breakwater Lighthouse, click the lighthouse in the above map or get a map from: Mapquest.


Travel Instructions: Due to the private, industrial area surrounding the breakwater, the Indiana Harbor Lighthouse is best seen from the water.

The lighthouse is owned by the Coast Guard. Tower closed.

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