About Us And Our Restoration

Mission Statement

The mission of the Friends Of The Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse is to provide financial and physical support for the restoration and ongoing maintenance associated with the lighthouse.

Vision Statement

Once preserved, the lighthouse and other historical and maritime features in Kewaunee will become an educational and recreational asset to the community.

Picture showing a large cargo ship passing by with the lighthouse in the foreground.
The 1000′ long M/V Stewart J. Cort passes by Kewaunee en route to Indiana with a cargo of taconite
Photo by Jake Heffernan

Restoration of an Icon

The Friends of the Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse are a non-profit 501(c)3 organization with a governing board, designed to help facilitate the restoration and public experience of The Kewaunee Lighthouse.

The Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse is a beloved community icon and a reminder of the local maritime history shared by the early settlers, shipper-merchants, and recreational enthusiasts of today. Still serving as an active aid to navigation, the City of Kewaunee received ownership of the lighthouse from the National Park Service in 2011.

Scan the QR code in the Venmo app or search for “Kewaunee Lighthouse” to donate securely via Venmo!

In 2022, the lighthouse and pier were both added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The City of Kewaunee was awarded a state grant in 2015 for use toward the repair of the harbor seawall and the stabilization of the lighthouse. The main focus was to protect the lighthouse structure from the elements and curtail further damage.

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.

The exterior restoration underway in 2017 – Photo by Robin Nelson

Although these initial repairs were ultimately for the protection of the structure, they have greatly enhanced the appearance of the lighthouse and are just the beginning in the process of the restoration! The grant from the State of Wisconsin has been an incredible first step in the restoration initiative. Even so, the next phases of the project will require the support and contributions of people both in the community and beyond.


The large door that faces the city was heavy plywood and deteriorating. 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.

2023 WINDOW REPLACEMENT & INTERIOR POWER
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 will 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 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 the historic Marquette School before its demolition in 2018.

The 1st floor Machinery Space of the lighthouse with the new windows and the electricity was reinstalled.

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.

The Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse interior lights shine bright over Lake Michigan for the first time since 1981

The 5th Order Fresnel lens that lit the lighthouse for more than 100 years was decommissioned on June 6, 2019. It was replaced by an LED light that is more efficient than the 200 watt bulbs that lit the lens. Learn more about the lens!

The lens was removed from the tower and moved to the Kewaunee County Historical Society’s History Center. The History Center is located at 217 Ellis St in Kewaunee and is typically open Thursdays and Fridays from 10am – 4pm. Stop in and visit!

Kewaunee’s 5th Order Fresnel lens on Display at 217 Ellis St

Be on the lookout for opportunities to learn more about the restoration progress (including tours!) and what you can do to support our efforts.

For a full history of Kewaunee Light Station – go to our History page!

Additional History Sources (External Links)

City of Kewaunee – Information about the Lighthouse from the City

Lighthouse Friends – A very comprehensive history




UPCOMING MAJOR RESTORATION PROJECT: Foundation Repair

The South side of the lighthouse receives the most wave action. More than 100 years of freeze/thaw has damaged the foundation and rusted the exterior steel shell. Water frequently enters the lighthouse through gaps like these

The Kewaunee Pierhead lighthouse is built atop a poured concrete foundation, in which two huge diesel tanks sit, the main level (machinery space) is steel framed, brick lined, and sheathed in riveted steel plates on the exterior. The second level and tower are wood framed. 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 diesel 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. (headline photo)

We anticipate repairing the lighthouse foundation in 2023 with cooperation from Palpham Welding of Kewaunee 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 concrete foundation will be repaired and patched where necessary, openings on the North side of the foundation will be permanently sealed, and the gap between the lighthouse and the pier will be re-caulked.

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

DOES YOUR EMPLOYER MATCH CHARITABLE DONATIONS?
Consider naming the Friends of the Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse as the beneficiary.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

DONATIONS help us to fund restoration projects in the lighthouse.

VOLUNTEERS are the key to our success. Many of our recent projects have been accomplished by volunteers, cutting the cost immensely and keeping the craftsmanship local!

We’re always looking to build our volunteer base and we would love to welcome you to our group! We are looking for volunteers in several specific areas but encourage anyone interested in preserving this icon to join us!

Lighthouse Docent/Tour Guide
Lighthouse Cleaning Crew
Fundraising Coordinator
Grant Writer
Carpentry

Please email us for more information!


BOARD OF DIRECTORS

PresidentJayne Conard
Vice-PresidentVacant
TreasurerAmy Degeneffe
Secretary & NewsletterDenise Anderson
Board Member & HistorianJake Heffernan
Board MemberHeather Heffernan