Milwaukee Breakwater Lighthouse

Milwaukee County, Wisconsin

November 2022 Feature Adam O’Conner

The Milwaukee Breakwater Lighthouse was one of the many lighthouses needed to light up the four-mile stretch of breakwater barriers that protect the Milwaukee waterfront in Wisconsin.

Built in 1926, the lighthouse remains one of the last examples of a fully-enclosed breakwater lighthouse on the Great Lakes as it sits in the middle of the four-mile stretch of breakwater barriers.  

It was built to withstand heavy weather and waves when Lake Michigan is at its roughest.

The lighthouse is still an active aid to navigation today and has been automated since the 1960s. It is not open to the public, but can be viewed from the end of Erie Street.

The white-painted steel tower lighthouse guards the main entrance to the harbor. It features a square balcony and round cast iron lantern room and the two-story keeper's quarters are in the art deco style. 

The structure is built on a 60- by 54-foot concrete pier, which rises above the lake’s surface more than 20 feet. The tower is built 14 feet from the second floor and is 53 feet tall overall.

The lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011. Although it is rarely visited, at least once a year the Coast Guard visits to perform mandatory inspections. They check the wiring, sound signal, lights and do what they can to make sure it is operating the way it should be.

While it can be difficult for people to get to the lighthouse, it is fun to look at, and a unique piece of history. It is a great way for people to see the history and enjoy the views of the Milwaukee Harbor area.

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