The 1886 Lighthouse was the first Lighthouse for the City of Two Rivers. Made almost entirely of wood, it is one of few original wooden structures left on the Great Lakes. Originally, it stood on the north pier of the Two Rivers Harbor where it served the citizens of Two Rivers until 1969. It was moved onto the museum grounds in 1975. This silent sentinel witnessed many surf boats, life saving craft, and Coast Guard boats leave the harbor in search of wrecked ships and stranded passengers.
While the keeper did not live in the Lighthouse, he had a lonely and dangerous job, nevertheless. The quarters included a stove, cot, chamber pot, and chair and table for his long hours on watch. Often the catwalk which led to the Lighthouse was covered with snow. On windy and wave pounding days, it was a perilous walk from shore to the quarters and the Lighthouse itself could sway in the wind. In 1928, storm damage from wave action damaged the thirty foot high north side of the Lighthouse. It was repaired, but was one of the main reasons why metal material replaced wood construction by 1900. Fire was another reason so many wooden Lighthouses were lost.
Two Rivers' North Pier lighthouse is a type of lighthouse known as a pierhead light. This means that its primary duty was to mark a harbor entrance and serve as a navigation aid to ships entering the harbor. This type of light is different from the warning lights commonly located on points, rocks or reefs that many people are familiar with i.e. the rotating, white, beacons that warn ships of dangerous points and instruct them to stay well away.
The permanent light servicing the station was a 240 degree Fresnel lens. Sadly, the lens was broken in the process of relocating the lighthouse from its original home on Two Rivers Coast Guard property to the corner of Rogers Street and 21st Street in the mid 1970s.
Initiated in 2005 by then Executive Director Sandy Zipperer with major support from the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, West Foundation, Wisconsin Nationwide Trucking and Florida-based Lighthouse Lamp Shop, Inc., four years of precise and historically accurate work resulted in the unveiling of the lens restored to its full glory during a formal celebration held on May 28, 2009.
Joe Cocking, a retired Coast Guardsman, has been saving lenses of historic aids to navigation for more than twenty years. He is the founder of the Lighthouse Lamp Shop and oversaw the restoration of the Two Rivers Lighthouse Lens. According to Cocking, ?It took over a year to research the light to find out what it would have originally looked like, mold the bent metal back into form, fabricate the pieces that had been broken or lost, reverse engineer the lens prisms, and secure funding for the restoration.? Researching the lens was just the start of the project. Cocking enlisted the help of the Lighthouse & Museum Conservation Department of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum, metal experts Randall and Michael Cox of Southern Latch Manufacturing based in St. Augustine and Nick Johnston of Carolina Lens Works in China Grove, North Carolina.
In appreciation of the Florida restoration team?s efforts, the Rogers Street Board of Directors approved the display of the refurbished lens at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum prior to it being returned to Two Rivers.
According to then Rogers Street Board President Robert Bergeon, "The return of the lighthouse lens is a tribute to Two Rivers past. The restoration of the lens is a gift to the current and future citizens of Two Rivers whose lives, like those who went before, are intertwined with the lake. Preserving our very unique history is not only the purpose of Rogers Street Fishing Village & Great Lakes Coast Guard Museum, but also the reason for the Museum?s current Capital Campaign. The Campaign?s goal is to provide the structure required to protect and preserve this jewel of Great Lakes history, along with the other priceless artifacts donated to the Museum related to our fishing industry, Lake Michigan shipwrecks, and the historic Life Saving Station, now the U.S. Coast Guard Station Two Rivers."
?The light station is an important historic structure to the City of Two Rivers being one of the two icons on the City?s logo," Zipperer said at the unveiling. "The other key symbol being the BUDDY O, also located on the museum grounds. It is also important to the heritage of the Great Lakes region", she added. "At one time wooden lighthouses were prevalent in every port city on the Great Lakes, but as fires from the lamps destroyed many structures, lighthouses were soon metal constructed. The once plentiful wooden pierhead houses were demolished and replaced. While replicas still stand,
the Two Rivers light remains largely unchanged through its 130 years of existence," she said. The Two Rivers Light attracts lighthouse buffs from
all over the country and is featured in many lighthouse guidebooks and magazine articles.