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City Awarded $4.2M Grant For Harbor Work

The State of Wisconsin awards the City of Kewaunee a $4.2 million grant, for harbor repairs and initial stabilization of the Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse. The main focus was to protect the lighthouse structure from the elements and curtail further damage.



Exterior Stabilization & Restoration

 The initial stabilization took place in 2017 as a comprehensive exterior restoration. The asphalt roof was replaced with a new metal roof system. Rotted roof sheathing was replaced and a complete ice and water shield synthetic layer was laid. Along with the extensive roof repairs, exterior wood elements were stripped of their paint, repaired or replaced if needed, then primed and painted. Additionally, corrugated metal siding on the tower exterior was replaced with fiber/cement board siding to give the structure a cleaner and more uniform look.

Plywood and plexi-glass enclosures on window openings were removed, allowing more light into the interior and new aluminum storm windows were installed to keep the weather out. The existing window units remain in place, protected from further deterioration for a future restoration project.


2019 - June 6

Fresnel Lens Decommissioned

The 5th Order Fresnel lens that shone atop the lighthouse for more than 100 years was decommissioned on June 6, 2019. It was replaced by an LED light that is far more efficient than the 500-watt bulb that lit the lens until that point. 

The delicate lens was removed from the tower, professionally stabilized, and placed on display at the Kewaunee County Historical Society, located at 217 Ellis St in Kewaunee. Typically open Thursdays and Fridays from 10am – 4pm.
Stop in and visit!



Entry Door & Deck

The large door that faces the city was heavy plywood and in very poor condition.
A set of historically accurate doors were installed in the summer of 2020.
To accommodate the anticipated tours, the entry level deck was enlarged and a permanent railing installed in 2021. Previously, a staircase from the catwalk extended down to this platform.



Lighthouse & Pier Accepted to Registers of Historic Places

The Kewaunee lighthouse and pier were both added to the Wisconsin and the National Registers of Historic Places.

A commemorative plaque was installed on the lighthouse in 2023


Window Replacement & Electricity

The main (machinery) level of the lighthouse has 5 windows on each side of it. Several of these windows had steel plates welded to the exterior of the lighthouse to cover the window. Palphalm Welding of Kewaunee County removed the steel plates covering the windows in the spring of 2023.

Barry Nelson expertly crafted replica windows to replace the badly deteriorated windows formerly in place on the first floor. In most cases, the hardware from the windows wasn’t able to be salvaged and Barry has fabricated new hardware to replace it. Barry and a crew of volunteers spent several working days removing the badly deteriorated windows and replacing them with the new ones.

Around the same time, Jim Schaller of the City’s Lighthouse Preservation committee was working with electrician Dan Jerabek of Kewaunee to reconnect power to the lighthouse.
When the lighthouse was mothballed in 1981, the power was disconnected from the entire building, except the single line running directly up to the light. Jim and Dan installed new conduit in the machinery space, added a few outlets, and installed 6 light fixtures salvaged from local Hillcrest School before its demolition.

An attic inspection in 2021 showed that the conduit and electrical fixture boxes above the 2nd floor ceiling were still in place. The conduit from the first floor to the second was replaced along its former path and tied into the existing wiring in the 2nd floor ceiling. Simple fixtures were installed on the 2nd and 3rd decks and all light bulbs are LED. A photocell turns the interior lights on and off automatically daily.


Upcoming Restoration Project

Foundation Repair - Phase I

The Kewaunee Pierhead lighthouse is built atop a poured concrete foundation, in which two huge fuel oil tanks sit. The main level (machinery space) is steel-framed, brick-lined, and sheathed in riveted, steel plates on the exterior.

When the lighthouse exterior was renovated in 2017, work was concentrated on the upper levels of the lighthouse, as they were more in need of attention. No work was completed on the foundation or the machinery deck at that time.

The final major task on the exterior of the building is the repair of the foundation. The pier level, where the oil tanks are, is frequently wet with muddy water, suggesting water infiltration from underneath. The south side of the main level also sees frequent water ingress through the gap between the concrete foundation and the steel sheathing. 

We anticipate repairing the lighthouse foundation in 2024 with cooperation from Palpham Welding of Kewaunee County and JK Sealants of Denmark.

A metal belt will be attached around the entire exterior to seal the gap between the concrete and steel. The gap between the lighthouse and the pier deck will be re-caulked.

This repair is expected to cost approximately $7,000.

We expect to still see water intrusion in the basement during heavy waves, but we expect this to seal the majority of the water out. We will revisit the basement if needed, once we see the effects these repairs have had.

Donations are a great way for you to help with these big projects!

How You Can Help

Want to get your hands dirty and contribute to the restoration? Or would you prefer to keep your hands clean and help behind-the-scenes or on tours?

Want to contribute financially?

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