Saving Green Bay’s iconic lighthouses

Posted in: Municipal, Water

View of lighthouses looking south
View of lighthouses looking south

One of the landmark structures in Green Bay, Wisconsin, are two timber framed historic lighthouses that mark the entrance of the Fox River from the bay. The lighthouses, originally used as range or beacon lights, were constructed in 1872 on Grassy Island about one mile north of mouth of the river. Over the years, widening of the entrance channel began to infringe on the range lights foundations. Also with the adoption of radar, the range lights had long outlived their purpose as navigational aids.

So in 1966 the U.S. Coast Guard decided to widen the shipping channel and destroy the lights in place. Hearing of the demolition plans, the Green Bay Yachting Club reached out to the Coast Guard and arranged to have the range lights relocated on the club’s property.

The lights were located on a breakwater peninsula made of construction debris. This was a very poor foundation material for the 25-foot tall structures. Additionally, storms over the years eroded the breakwater such that the range lights were in jeopardy of foundation failure.

The Yachting Club was determined to save the range lights, that had been placed on the National Historical Register of Historic Places in 2005.

Grassy Island Range Lights, 1945
Grassy Island Range Lights, 1945

And this is where I come into the story. Mead & Hunt has been working with the Yacht Club and local leaders to create a permanent, lasting, safe location for the beacon lights.

Both lighthouses will be moved off site temporarily, to allow construction of a new pile foundation that would better permanently support them. The breakwater will also be reconstructed with a continuous sheetpile wall to prevent any further erosion. Then the range lights will be moved back to the peninsula and placed on their new foundations. The peninsula will be paved and beautifully landscaped in a park-like setting. The new community park will be named after Admiral Dave Nelson, a great supporter of the efforts to restore and preserve the range lights.

The project will preserve the Grassy Island Range Lights for many years to come.

Jim Botz, PE

About the Author

Jim Botz, P.E., is a Senior Geotechnical Engineer in the Water Resources Group. He designs and evaluates dams and earth embankments for flood control and recreation throughout the United States. Jim also has served as the project manager and  lead engineer on many port and harbor project throughout the Great Lakes. Jim is well recognized for his adept ability to build skilled teams that provide clients with the highest level of service.

Read more posts by Jim Botz, PE

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