The first Chicago Lighthouse was built in 1832, and several more have followed. The 1832 light would have been the first erected on Lake Michigan, along with the first light erected at St. Joseph, Michigan.
The existing light was built at the mouth of the Chicago River in 1893, which was the site of the previous lights. It was moved to its present location on the north breakwater in 1919.
The station consists of a 48-foot high, brick-lined round steel tower that is 18-feet in diameter. The lantern is 10-sided built of cast iron, and houses a Third Order Fresnel Lens that flashes a red light 82 feet above the water. The lens had been displayed at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1891 and was destined for the new Point Loma California light. However, the lens was installed in the Chicago light when completed in 1893. Keepers manned the station until 1979 when the light was automated.
The tower is sandwiched between two one-story, gable roofed buildings. One is a fog signal building, and the other is a former boathouse. It appears as though the tower was moved first, from the mainland to the breakwater, and followed by the two buildings to complete a lighthouse sandwich.
The Chicago harbor Light is visible from downtown Chicago or the Navy Pier, but is best seen from a private boat. The light is an active aid to navigation and access is not permitted.
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