Grosse Point Light
Grosse Point describes a large point of land that lies some 13 miles north of Chicago on Lake Michigan. The point is not as evident today, due to land filling that has taken place. For the more than 1600 sailing ships and nearly 700 steamers sailing the Great Lakes at the time, the point was a landmark for vessels traveling along the shoreline heading to Chicago. The Great Fire had destroyed most of Chicago in 1871 and the lumber trade was in great demand. Chicago had also become a major railroad center that increased the need for vessel traffic.
As early as 1832, a lighthouse had been established in Chicago. Other lights followed in 1852 and 1859. However, smoke from the coal-fired industries, steam ships and home heating often made the Chicago lights difficult to see. In 1873, the Lighthouse Board approved moving the leading Chicago light to Evanston Illinois, on Grosse Point. District Engineer Orlando M. Poe recommended the location and participated in the drafting of plans and specifications. Lighthouse enthusiasts will recognize his obvious influence in the towers design (see additional Poe information below).
The light is located on a bluff and the cream-colored brick tower rises 113 feet. An indication of the importance of the light is noted by the fact that it received a Second Order Fresnel lens, one of only five installed on the Great lakes. The massive lens is still in place and is the only Second Order lens still in its original location on the Great Lakes.
The tower is attached to a 2-1/2 story matching brick duplex keeperís dwelling by an enclosed passageway. The whole complex was painted yellow, while to roofs and lantern are red. The tower has been encased in concrete due to deterioration of the original brick.
Ownership of the station was transferred to the City of Evanston in 1942, and turned over to the Evanston Historical Society for preservation in 1946. The light had been extinguished in 1941 as part of the National Air Raid Protection Plan, and was relit in 1946 after transfer to the Historical Society.
The dwelling serves as a museum for the light station and the City of Evanston. Open hours are relatively limited and visitors should call ahead to determine when the dwelling will be open. 847-328-6961.
The station is located at 2601 Sheridan Road at the
intersection of Central Street in a residential neighborhood. A small
admission fee is charged. Free parking is available at the Evanston Art
Center next door.
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