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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

View From Southport Light

Cream City brick on the original tower and Keeper's house - addition done in red brick at later date

The quick background information goes like this: In 1837 the Pike Creek settlement, where Kenosha now lies, became Southport. The area was the southern most port in the Wisconsin territory on Lake Michigan and in that year, 61 steamboats and 80 schooners called on the village. A lighthouse was needed in order for these ships to find the village at night. The first was an oak stump cut ten feet off the ground with a wooden platform, lined with rock, built on top. On this, a fire was lit each night during the shipping season. Can you imagine sailing into harbor by the light of a fire?

The Southport Light is currently not in use, but was built in 1866 and was in use until 1906.  I've been there before but the other day I finally splurged and paid to go up in the tower which is about 55 feet tall and situated on a hill about 19 feet higher than lake level overlooking Lake Michigan.

This is how I take a "work break" during my day

In the days before electricity the Fresnel lenses were turned by a weight driven "clockwork" gearbox.  If you are mechanically inclined go to this link to learn everything you ever wanted to know on the subject. My mind started spinning, I'll have to wait for Wayne to explain it to me since I'm more creatively inclined.

Wall channel for weight and pulley system next to porthole

If you want to see one in action the Keeper told me the one at Split Rock in Minnesota still operates.  Funny because we were at Split Rock 3 years ago this month (click my link to see the beautiful photos I took!) and skipped the tour because the price was "too high". They must have lowered it because an internet search says it is only $5 each admission which I would not hesitate to pay.  Maybe we were under the impression that admission stickers for the adjacent State Park were mandatory.

Porthole view of Harbor Park and Southport Marina where I walk every time I come to town

Free parking is available at Split Rock during the summer (May 15 through October 31) when the visitor center is open. During the winter (November 1 through May 14) and when the visitor center is not open, a state park vehicle permit is required for parking. I guess we will have to go back!  I know I wanted more time to tackle the Superior Hiking Trail there.

Simmons Island Light looks tiny from Southport Light!

In addition to the Marina and the lighthouses you can visit the Civil War Museum, or choose from a variety of events from Art Fairs to Car Shows and the Taste of Wisconsin at the end of July.  Every Wednesday there is a free classical music concert at the Sesquicentennial Bandshell and of course brew pubs and burger joints are easy to find when you're ready to eat!

Birdhouses and blooms out behind the Light

If you want to visit, Southport Light Station Museum is open Thursday through Sunday from May until the end of October.  Admission to the museum in the lightkeeper's home is free and it is $10 to climb the light tower, children ages 8-12 are $5 and younger children I assume are free.  Just down the street is one of our old Kenosha favorites, The Boat House Pub, if you're thirsty stop in for one of their 19 different types of Long Island Tea concoctions like I used to do...20 years ago!

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