Door County, Wisconsin is known for its charming villages, beautiful beaches, lake vistas and nine lighthouses that help safely guide ships around the peninsula—each with a different look, history and, in many ways, personality.
From Baileys Harbor, I drive along winding roads to a parking lot at the edge of a causeway snaking between Spike Horn Bay and Lake Michigan. From here I walk along the causeway to the island.
The path continues on the island; lined with purple wildflowers and towering trees. Just ahead I see the top of the light tower, but I have to walk further to see the entire lighthouse and be able to admire its recent restoration.
I am greeted by lighthouse historian Dwight Zeller who says this lighthouse has been standing watch on the shore of Lake Michigan for more than 140 years. “We went to great length to make sure we restored the lighthouse as closely to the original as we could,” he explains as he walks with me toward the Milwaukee cream city brick house and 89-foot-tall light tower.
Inside the house the lighthouse keeper and his family lived on the main floor and the assistant lighthouse keeper and his family lived on the second floor.
After touring the house he invites me to climb the 97-steps of the tower’s spiral staircase to reach the gallery deck where I can see out over the lake, the 8.7-acre island and Door County.
“The light has been in continuous use since it was first lit, making it one of the few lighthouses in the nation where the original lens is still functioning as an active navigational aid,” says Zeller. “The buildings and grounds have been maintained by the Door County Maritime Museum for more than 40 years.”
All too soon it is time to leave this maritime history behind and head back to present-day Door County and all it has to offer.
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