Saturday, July 11, 2009

Wind Point Lighthouse

Friends of ours have a house on a small lake in central Wisconsin that you can ride your bike around in about 40 minutes. I have taken the ride, or walked it, several times and am always struck by the number of lighthouse decorations outside of the houses on this inland lake, where this isn’t much need for a real lighthouse.

But people think that bodies of water of any kind go together with lighthouses. I understand the attraction and the romance associated with these interesting and varied structures. I have been known to go out of my way to see lighthouses and have visited them in such places as Maine, Nova Scotia and Florida as well as the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior and several along the shores of Lake Erie.

Although there are two lighthouses within a short walk of my house – the Kenosha North Pier Lighthouse (the red one) and the Old Southport Lighthouse across the harbor, I decided today to go check out the one on north side of Racine. The Wind Point Lighthouse is no longer a working lighthouse but it is one of the tallest and oldest on Lake Michigan. Unlike the Kenosha North Pier lighthouse, this one sits on a sandy point that juts out into the lake. Today the area around it is a quiet residential neighborhood, with a golf course directly to the south. Visitors can tour the grounds, which include a museum, the old and new fog horn buildings and other remnants of a bygone era. On designated days during the summer, you can climb to the top of the 108-foot tower. A small garden overlooking the lake provides a pleasant place to sit and imagine what this place was like in 1880 when the lighthouse was first built.

There is a website that rates lighthouses based on historic significance, majesty, preservation, water view, accessibility and a few other factors and Wind Point rates a 27, which places it in the Gold Category. The top lighthouses in the country are in the Platinum Category (30-35). 27’s not bad for a local landmark.
This past winter when Michael and I were in the Florida Keys, we struck up a conversation with a couple at the Key West Light. We both collect National Parks Passport Stamps, but they told us that the United States Lighthouse Society has a similar passport for lighthouses. I don’t remember how many lighthouses they had visited but I do remember that we were ahead of them on National Park visits. Michael and I decided not to get the lighthouse passport, which now includes over 300 stamps. Today, I checked the list and Wind Point is one of them but Kenosha isn’t. Maybe when Kenosha’s lighthouses make the list I will get one. Then again, maybe not.

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