Grosse Point Quick Facts
Year Station Established: 1873
Is the Light operational? No
Year Light First Lit: 1873
Year Deactivated: 1935
Tower Height: 113 ft.
Original Optic: 2nd Order, Fresnel
Present Optic: 2nd Order, Fresnel
Existing Keepers Quarters? Yes
Year Constructed: 1873
Number of Stories: 3
Architectural Style: Italianate
Construction Materials: Brick
Grosse Point Lighthouse
(7 photos, 158KB total download)
Last Visited: June, 2002
Grosse Point Lighthouse was built by the United States Government in 1873 as the lead lighthouse marking the approach to Chicago after several shipwrecks demonstrated its need. The promontory on which it stands was named Grosse Point (Great Point) by early French explorers and traders in the 17th century.
The tower stands 113-feet tall and was originally constructed of brick, metal, and glass. However, the exterior brick began to deteriorate and in 1914 a 3 ½-inch facing of concrete was added. The illuminating optic at the top of the tower is a second order Fresnel lens, the largest type of optic used on the Great Lakes and one of only five ever installed in lighthouses there. The beam of light from this optic could be seen up to 21 miles over the lake in good atmospheric conditions, and it served both to warn ships of shallow waters around the point and to guide the way into the Port of Chicago. Two fog signal buildings were added to the site in 1880 and a separate fuel supply facility was built in 1900. At its height of operation Grosse Point Lighthouse required three keepers and a day laborer for maintenance and to keep the light and fog signals in top condition. In 1923, the lighthouse was electrified and staff was reduced to two keepers. Then, in 1934, with the installation of a photoelectric device - the first of its kind used in a lighthouse - the light station was decommissioned (not staffed). Under this arrangement the light was still active until 1941 when it was extinguished as part of America's national air raid protection program during WWII. After the war, in 1945, the light was re-lit and has ever since served as a secondary aid to navigation for pleasure boaters plying the waters of Lake Michigan north of Chicago.
By 1945, control over the lighthouse buildings and grounds had been transferred from the U.S. Government to the City of Evanston and the city's Lighthouse Park District - named after this beautiful structure that has become the symbol of the city. In 1999, Grosse Point Lighthouse was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service the first lighthouse on the Great Lakes to carry that status. Today, the Grosse Point Lighthouse site serves as a location for seasonally operated educational and recreational programming. In addition, The Garden Club of Evanston maintains wildflower and butterfly gardens as attractive features of the lighthouse grounds.
Nearest Address: 2601 Sheridan Rd, Evanston, IL
- From I-94, take exit 35 and head east on Old Orchard Rd.
- In 1.3 miles turn left onto Gross Point Rd.
- Shortly after that in 0.2 miles, turn right onto Central St.
- Follow Central St. to the end (about 2.7 miles).
- Directly in front of you is Grosse Point Lighthouse. Take a left onto Sheridan Rd, and part in the Fine Arts Center parking lot.
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