Photo courtesy of: U.S. Coast Guard 

Chicago Harbor

Chicago, IL

Built :  1832, 1852, 1858, 1893

Type : Conical-Integral, cast iron

Status : Active 

Location : Chicago , IL on South end of the North arm breakwater.

Height : 48 feet

Access : Boat, on North breakwater.

County: Cook 

History of the Light : Chicago had it's first lighthouse completed in 1832 at the entrance to the Chicago River. Congress authorized construction of this lighthouse the previous year making it one of the first to be built on Lake Michigan.

From the 1860's on, many different lighthouse combinations/alterations occurred amongst the piers of Chicago Harbor.

In 1852, a newer lighthouse was completed at the end of the North pier with construction being supervised by the Bureau of Topographical Engineers. Upon completion the previous lighthouse was taken out of service. This lighthouse was relocated approximately 12 miles North to Grosse Point in 1872-1873 as the chief coastal light for the area.

The North breakwater had it's first lighthouse completed in 1876. This was later replaced by the existing lighthouse.

The North arm of Chicago Harbor's outer breakwater was completed in 1917. The entire existing lighthouse tower, originally constructed in 1893 on the mainland, was relocated to the South end of the new breakwater. This process was completed in 1919 for a total of $88,000 appropriated by congress.

Photo courtesy of: U.S. Coast Guard

Current tower in it's original 1852 location of construction on Chicago's North Pier.

Photo courtesy of: U.S. Coast Guard

This is believed to be the first lighthouse located on the North breakwater.

The foundation consists of rubble stone with a concrete pier. The steel tower is lined with brick and measures 48 feet tall with a base diameter of 18 feet. Atop the tower is a 10 sided cast iron lantern. The keeper's quarters are built within the tower..

A fog signal building is attached to the South side of the tower measuring 28 feet square with a hipped roof. It originally housed a diaphone whistle which has since been removed. There is also a boathouse is attached to the North side of the tower measuring 18 by 28 feet, also with a hipped roof.

The original Third Order Fresnel lens consisted of red and white panels. This lens was intended to for the new Point Loma lighthouse in California and put on display at the 1891 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Still on display two years later, the new Chicago lighthouse was completed with the Lighthouse Board deciding to use the lens here instead. This lens produced a lens focal plane of 82 feet above lake level and is still the same with today's modern beacon.

The original lens is now on display at the Cabrillo National Monument in California.

The lighthouse was automated in 1979 and still acts as an active aid-to-navigation.

It was restored in 1997.


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