Grassy Island Range Lights

100 Bay Beach Rd., Green Bay, Wisconsin

Pair of island-built range lights, moved to mainland in 1966 and restored in 1999

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Overview

That's I-43 in the background.

Photo taken by J.R. Manning October 2018

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Description 

"The Grassy Island Upper and Lower Range Lights consist of two tapered, square plan, wood shingle- clad, two-story wood frame structures built in 1872 as navigational aids for ships entering the port city of Green Bay, which is located at the southern end of Green Bay at the place where the Fox River enters the bay. These pyramidal-shaped Lights are now located on the east bank of the Fox River on a revetment that protects the entrance to the Green Bay Yacht Club's boat harbor. This location places the Lights within eyesight of their original location on Grassy Island, which is located in the bay approximately one-and-one-half miles north of the river's mouth. When major changes were made to this island in 1966, the Lights were declared surplus by the U.S. Coast Guard and would have been demolished but for the determined efforts of members of the Yacht Club, who succeeded in having them moved by barge from their original location to the east end of the Yacht Club's grounds. In 1999 the Lights were moved again to then- present permanent location along the river's edge at the west end of the Club grounds after a new site had been prepared for them. A major restoration effort was then undertaken which will be completed in the summer of 2004. When finished, this effort will have preserved and restored two of the oldest remaining wooden navigational aids on Lake Michigan, these being one of only two remaining pairs of wood construction nineteenth century range lights remaining on the lake."

Grassy Island is located about 1-1/2 miles from the mouth of the Fox River and for many years, provided a barricade to the river and was an obstruction to navigation. A channel was cut through the island, and these lights were built to aid navigation though the channel.

In 1966, the US Coast Guard made changes to the island and declared the lights as surplus, and marked them for demolition. The Green Bay Yacht Club rallied to their defense, and moved them, via barge, to the club's location at the mouth of the Fox River.

The lights were always white, but in 1934, the lights were changed to green at the request of mariners who said the white lights were difficult to distinguish from the lights of the city.

After moving, the lights were neglected until 1999 when they were restored and moved to their current positions. The lights are again white, lit by halogen bulbs.

Quotation from the National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form prepared by Timothy F. Heggland, Consultant, January 28, 2004. A link to the document is listed below under "Sources."

Range Lights 

Written by J.R. Manning

Range lights are a system of two lights, one shorter than the other. When a mariner lines up their vessel to the lights so they appear as one light, the are said to be "on range." By following the range line, the mariner can be assured of safe passage into the harbor.

Range lights were always built in pairs with the lower, or front light, closest to the mariners and the light furthest away the taller, or rear light. Range lights were often built from wood, relatively easy to acquire and with craftsmen locally available for construction. Many are built with steel.

National Register information 

Status
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on January 12, 2005
Reference number
04001484
Architectural style
American Movement
Area of significance
Architecture
Level of significance
Local
Evaluation criteria
C - Design/Construction
Property type
Structure
Historic function
Water-related
Period of significance
1850-1874
Number of properties
Contributing structures: 2

Update Log 

  • October 27, 2018: Essay added by J.R. Manning
  • October 27, 2018: Updated by J.R. Manning: Updated status, added description and added photos
  • May 24, 2017: New Street View added by Michael Miller

Sources