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 designed to help fund the restoration 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. 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.

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 real set of 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.

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) Three decades of constant moisture on this floor has deteriorated most of the plaster that was formerly covering the brickwork. In the future, we will likely remove the remaining plaster before cleaning and sealing the brickwork.

We are currently working on assessing the full extent of the repairs needed and preparing cost assessments.

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

MINOR PROJECTS CURRENTLY UNDERWAY OR PLANNED
– Re-Installation of power and lighting throughout lighthouse
– Removal of metal panels covering windows on main (Machinery) level and install storm windows to protect remaining window hardware
– Creation of more permanent museum displays for the interior

WISH LIST

An alternative to monetary donation is in-kind donations. We’re currently in search of the following items to assist in our restoration/tours.


Coffee Pot (1940s-1950s vintage, non working ok)
Hot Plate (1940s-1950s vintage, non working ok)
Old Coffee Can – 1950s
Sturdy folding chairs for our volunteers

If you have an item you’re interested in donating, please email us.


BOARD OF DIRECTORS

PresidentJayne Conard
Vice-PresidentRobin Nelson
TreasurerAmy Degeneffe
Secretary & NewsletterDenise Anderson
Board Member & HistorianJake Heffernan