Digest>Archives> March 2006

Saving Southport's Sentinel


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New porch on the keeper’s house at the Southport ...

Thanks to the combined efforts of many dedicated people, including the City of Kenosha and the Kenosha History Center, restoration at the 1867 Southport Lighthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin is making fantastic progress.

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1908 view of Southport Lighthouse, Kenosha, WI. ...

Current work on the restoration project is a result of $273,000 in Federal grant money and $165,000 in cash and in-kind contributions from the Kenosha History Center and additional funds for other projects from a Coastal Management grant and a Department of Transportation grant. The Kenosha Planning Department, which is overseeing the restoration, said the project is around 75%–80% funded.

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The roof of the keeper’s house at Wisconsin’s ...

The architectural firm of Engberg & Anderson Design Partnerships of Milwaukee, which was involved with the North Point Lighthouse, Wisconsin keepers restoration, was hired as the architect for the project, which actually started last summer included rebuilding the front porch on the keeper’s house, replacing rotten and missing woodwork, replacing damaged brick, tuck-pointing and bringing back the original colors.

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Backdoor of the keeper’s house before restoration ...

Some of the more complicated work was moving the backdoor to its original location and making it handicap accessible, restoring the kitchen window to its original size, restoring the main entrance doorway and replacing two entrance doors with replicas of the ones that were there in 1908.

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The new backdoor with handicap access ramp on the ...

New 200AMP electric service was installed last fall and a new HVAC system will be installed this spring utilizing the original radiators for heating.

Interior restoration has been ongoing this winter restoring the plaster walls, woodwork and floors. Custom windows and storm windows are being built to replicate the windows from 1908.

It is hoped that the building will be opened by the summer of 2007. The rooms in the old keeper’s house will be used to display Kenosha’s maritime history as well as telling the story of the lighthouse keepers who tended the lights. The volunteers have located some pieces of the original Fresnel lens that was once in the tower and believe they will soon be getting a fourth order lens for display.

In 1906, the Southport Lighthouse was discontinued by the government and replaced by the Kenosha Pierhead Lighthouse. However, keepers continued to live in the Southport Lighthouse keeper’s house. In 1940, the government abandoned it and the lantern room was removed. Several years later, it was purchased by the City of Kenosha.

Saving this historic site has been an ongoing project

since 1989, when a group of local citizens formed the Lighthouse Preservation Committee, which allied itself with the Kenosha County Historical Society to restore the tower. They made a replica of the lantern room and installed it as well as restoring the tower.

The restoration project to bring the Southport Lighthouse back to its glory days is a model for all preservation groups in showing what private and public partnerships can do with dedicated volunteers who do make a difference.

You can keep track of the Southport Lighthouse restoration progress at www.kenoshahistorycenter.org

Donations toward the restoration can be made to:

Kenosha History Center

220 51st Place

Kenosha, WI 53140

This story appeared in the March 2006 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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