Photo by Joe Powell

All photos by Joe Powell

Standing tall on a ravine overlooking our fair city, lake, and historic Lake Park (and the occasional semi-trailer) is the North Point Lighthouse; one of countless icons of MKE so often seen but rarely explored.

For the whole history, rife with interesting characters, sunken ships, and poor city planning, you’ll need to stop in yourself. The quick rundown is that the North Point Lighthouse as you see today was first built in 1888 and extended to the current 74-feet in 1912. First mineral oil, then coal gas, then electricity powered the lens that could be seen for 25 miles.
North Point Lighthouse (28)It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, but by 1994 it had been decommissioned and closed. It sat unused and neglected until renovated and reopened to the public by Milwaukee County and North Point Lighthouse Friends in 2007.

We stopped by on a cloudy Saturday afternoon to take a peek inside this landmark. The drive on Wahl Ave, just up the bluff from Bradford Beach, is a great segue with its classic and modern mansions overlooking the lake. Park on the street and walk up the short driveway to the front door porch and let yourself in.

It’s a bright space inside; roomy but not cold. It’s only $5 per person, which includes tour guide, and they’re open from 1-4PM Saturdays and Sundays. You’ll have to sign a waiver if you want to climb the tower, and there’s a height restriction for little explorers.
North Point Lighthouse (2)There were maybe 4 other people there when we arrived; North Point is one of the better kept secrets in Milwaukee. The tour was informative, and you could tell the guide was interested in the topics she presented which made the stories more engaging than simply reading off the plaques at each exhibit.
North Point Lighthouse (25)The tour ends at the tower, with an explanation about how the keepers took care of the place, and what their life was like. Then you’re free to climb the few flights of spiral metal stairs to a ladder and the extremely cramped light quarters. The light isn’t up there anymore, having been installed in the ground-floor museum, but instead you can look out at 360 degrees of Milwaukee. The downtown skyline is barely visible, and the lake seems to stretch on forever.

North Point Lighthouse (9)The North Point Lighthouse is a small space that packs a unique view of both Milwaukee today and it’s maritime past. It’s well worth the short jaunt up to Lake Park.
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