Lighthouse, breakwater named to historic register

State designation paves way for national listing that could help city secure money needed to restore pierhead light

A rising sun illuminated the sky and Port Washington lighthouse, which has been named to the Wisconsin Register of Historic Places. Photo by Bill Schanen IV
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

The Port Washington lighthouse and north breakwater have been placed on the Wisconsin Register of Historic Places, Mayor Marty Becker announced last week.

“This is the iconic symbol of Port Washington so it was important that this be done,” Becker said.

“To make it a state historic place is very exciting.”

 Becker attended the State Historic Preservation Review Board meeting on Aug. 17 when the city’s application was reviewed, and said officials there were also excited by the nomination.

“Three people came up to me and said, ‘We love Port Washington,’” he said.

The city’s application for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places is now being forwarded to the U.S. Department of the Interior for consideration — something that could be decided in the next three months, Becker said.

It would be unusual for the nomination not to be accepted nationally if it is approved by the state, Tim Heggland, a preservation consultant hired by the city to shepherd the nomination through the process, said recently.

“I can’t remember a nomination ever from Wisconsin not being listed,” he said.

Port’s lighthouse is not unique, Heggland said, noting there are nine others built with the same basic design. But it is a handsome, Art Deco structure with a steel construction  that is accessible and notable.

“As a piece of engineering, it represents a moment in time on the Great Lakes,” he said. “The portholes and steel construction represent something quite modern.”

Port’s lighthouse and breakwater were built as a Works Progress Administration project in the early 1930s, about the time the We Energies power plant was constructed.

The City of Port Washington, which was given ownership of the lighthouse by the federal government this year, has been working to raise thousands of dollars to restore the structure.

The city has been working to raise funds to maintain and restore the lighthouse, and currently has about $30,000 of the estimated $45,000 it will need to replace the porthole windows.

“I don’t know where we’ll get the money, but we have to,” Becker said, adding he hopes the historic register listing will give the city a leg up in obtaining grants for the lighthouse restoration.

“Because we have a historic place, there should be money available,” he said.

City Administrator Mark Grams said the lighthouse committee may have to be resurrected to aid in the process.

The bigger benefit of the listing is likely to be its impact on tourism, Becker said.

“I think it can only help tourism,” he said.

Becker offered praise to the committee and former Mayor Tom Mlada for the work they did in putting together the nomination and in helping the city obtain ownership of the structure, which the federal government was divesting.

“Kudos to them for all the work to get us here,” he said.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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