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Chicago Harbor Light Lighthouse Illinois

Chicago Harbor Light Lighthouse Illinois (Known places)

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Tags: lighthouse (39 pics), chicago (26 pics)

The Chicago Harbor Lighthouse is an automated active lighthouse, and stands at the end of the northern breakwater protecting the Chicago Harbor, to the east of Navy Pier and the mouth of the Chicago River.


It was constructed in 1893 (125 years ago) for the World's Columbian Exposition and moved to its present site in 1919 (99 years ago). The United States Lighthouse Board prominently displayed 'its 'state of the art' wares and engineering achievements." Prominently featured was "the engineering Marvel (19 pics)" of Spectacle Reef Light and a one hundred and eleven foot tall skeletal cast iron lighthouse tower.

Also displayed were a number of Fresnel lenses, including a stunning Third Order Fresnel lens which previously was awarded first prize at a Paris glass exhibition. The lens featured alternating red and white panels, and had been ordered for installation in the new lighthouse at Point Loma Light in California. The coincidental conclusion of construction of the new Chicago Harbor light and the close of the Exhibition prompted the Lighthouse Board keep the lens in Chicago, and thus the lens was installed in the lantern room of the new tower.

Also at the close of the Exhibition, the skeletal tower was disassembled and shipped to and resassembled as Rawley Point Light just north of Two Rivers, Wisconsin.

Surrounded by rip rap, the structure has several levels: a concrete base and two red roofed buildings with a tapered white cylinder between them which is topped by a parapet and the light itself.

In 1917 (101 years ago) the breakwater was renovated. At the time, the lighthouse was moved to its present site, and its attached fog signal room and boathouse were built.

The design is "unique... similar to that of the offshore sparkplug towers, but this tower is taller." Except for the additions made at the time of the move, it "bears some resemblance" to the Rock of Ages Light near Isle Royale on Lake Superior, which is its contemporary.

The lighthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on Jul. 19, 1984 (34 years ago), and later was designated a Chicago Landmark on Apr. 9, 2003 (15 years ago).

The original Third Order Fresnel lens was removed, and is now on display at Cabrillo National Monument in California. It had been originally intended for and was destined for the Point Loma (California) light, but was diverted (for almost a century) and kept in Chicago following its display at the exposition.

In 2005 (13 years ago), the light was declared excess by the Coast Guard. It was offered at no cost to eligible entities, including federal, state, and local agencies, non-profit corporations, and educational organizations under the provisions of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000 (18 years ago). After an unsually long delay, United States Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar initiated transfer to the City of Chicago on Feb. 24, 2009 (9 years ago). The city had designated the lighthouse a Chicago Landmark on Apr. 9, 2003 (15 years ago).

The Lighthouse's "significant role in the development of Chicago" is commemorated in a relief sculpture, entitled The Spirit of the Waters located near the LaSalle Street entrance of Chicago City Hall.



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