Two Lighthouses On Simmons Island
Kenosha is a Wisconsin Harbor Town, due to the fact that Lake Michigan – a Great Lake – sits to the east of the city. What’s a harbor town without a lighthouse or two?! With mostly leisure watercraft and sport fishing boats cruising the waterway where a busy shipping port and commercial fishing industry once operated — two lighthouses still stand to this day and shine bright at night to signify the harbor.
Can you climb a lighthouse in Kenosha?
Yes! You can climb the 1866 Southport Lighthouse seasonally. You must be 8 years old or older to climb. There is a fee. It's free to tour the maritime museum in the 1867 Light Station keeper’s house. Together, the two structures make up the Southport Light Station Museum. Learn More>
- 72 steps to the top of the tower, where you look out windows
- See* 3+ Counties, 2 States, and 1 Great Lake
- On a clear day, see the Chicago skyline
*Views depend on weather conditions/visibility
At the maritime museum, don’t miss:
- An exhibit on local shipwrecks, which details more than 40 shipwrecks buried near Kenosha
- A model of the SS Wisconsin, which sank in Lake Michigan in 1929
- A Fresnel lens with the size lens that used to sit atop the Southport Lighthouse
- Learn about the first and only woman lighthouse keeper: Lorinda Merrill
History: The First Lighthouse
Back in 1837, Kenosha was known as Southport — because the area was the southern most port in the Wisconsin territory on Lake Michigan. In that year, 61 steamboats and 80 schooners called on the village. A lighthouse was needed in order for these ships to find the village at night. The first lighthouse was an oak stump cut ten feet off the ground with a wooden platform, lined with rock, built on top. On this, a fire was lit each night during the shipping season.
Today: Two Lighthouses Stand Tall
The Southport Lighthouse, built in 1866, is the third government lighthouse built on Simmons Island, formerly Washington Island. It was the first navigational light a mariner would see upon entering Wisconsin from Chicago. It was operational until 1906.
After years of extensive remodeling and renovation, the lighthouse and the 1867 Light Station keeper’s house are now open to the public seasonally. Together, the two structures make up the Southport Light Station Museum, which is operated by the Kenosha County Historical Society (Kenosha History Center). During designated hours, a maritime museum inside the keeper’s house is open and the lighthouse tower is available to climb.
Did you know you can light the Southport Lighthouse for a special person, occasion, anniversary, birthday or memoriam? Contact the staff of the Kenosha History Center to do so!
The North Pier Lighthouse is now privately owned, but still serves as the active, operational lighthouse for the Kenosha harbor. The lighthouse is the home of the Kenosha Lighthouse Studio, a community destination for artists and art enthusiasts. Residents and visitors are welcome to approach the lighthouse to take photos with the iconic red structure – one of Kenosha’s most recognized landmarks!
U.S. Lighthouse Society Lighthouse Passport Program
Participating Passport Stamp Locations in Kenosha
Stamps and passports are available for both the Southport Lighthouse and North Pier Lighthouse at:
Kenosha History Center, 220 51st Place, Kenosha, WI 53140
Southport Light Station Museum, 5117 4th Avenue, Kenosha, WI 53140