Port Washington, Wisconsin, is located on Lake Michigan’s western shore, just a few miles north of Milwaukee. Port Washington’s first lighthouse was established in 1849, with a tower and keeper’s house built of Cream City brick. The lighthouse was rebuilt in 1860. This time, a short square tower was installed on the southern gable of a two-story dwelling, again made of local Cream City brick. A new Port Washington Pierhead Light was established nearby in 1889. Eventually it was realized that only one light was needed, and the 1860 lighthouse was deactivated in 1903. The lighthouse tower was eventually removed from the top of the structure.
Because the Port Washington area was home to many immigrants from Luxembourg, in 2000 the Luxembourg Minister of Sites and Monuments visited the area. Seeing the condition of the lighthouse, he offered, on behalf of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, to restore the lighthouse to its original appearance by installing a replacement tower. The Port Washington Historical Society raised additional funds for restoration, and a new tower was installed in 2002. The restored lighthouse contains a museum of lighthouse keeping life, managed by the Port Washington Historical Society.
Dawn St. George is the executive director of the Port Washington Historical Society. Patrick Curtiss is a board member of the society. He’s also the lighthouse manager and he’s the author of a new book, The Light on the House at the Top of the Stairs. And Andrea Cole is a board member as well as the volunteer coordinator for the light station.
Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. He is the president and historian for the American Lighthouse Foundation and founder of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, and he has lectured and narrated cruises throughout the Northeast and in other regions. He is also the producer and host of the U.S. Lighthouse Society podcast, “Light Hearted.” He can be emailed at Jeremy@uslhs.org