Two of Door County’s most recognizable lighthouses – both built in 1869 – celebrate their 150th anniversaries in 2019: the Cana Island Lighthouse and the Baileys Harbor Range Lights. A community-wide celebration of the sesquicentennial of these two iconic sentinels of the Great Lakes will take place throughout 2019 in the town of Baileys Harbor.
On Friday, June 7th, 3-6pm The Ridges Sanctuary will celebrate the anniversary of the Baileys Harbor Range Lights. The celebration coincides with the first day the 2019 Door County Spring Lighthouse Festival. On Wednesday, August 7th – National Lighthouse Day – the Door County Maritime Museum will recognize the 150th of the Cana Island Lighthouse, also 3-6pm. Both celebrations will feature speakers, the invited descendants of past lighthouse keepers, live music and refreshments. The Baileys Harbor Community Association will commemorate the joint anniversary celebration with new banners throughout the downtown area, with images of the two lighthouses welcoming visitors all year long.
No visit to The Ridges Sanctuary in Baileys Harbor would be complete without experiencing the iconic Baileys Harbor Range Lights. Built in 1869 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, the Upper Range Light and its companion Lower Range Light are the only lighthouses of this design that are still on range and functional as navigational aids. These modest but enduring structures played a critical role in the history of Baileys Harbor and in the founding of The Ridges. The Upper Range Light is open for tours starting the first week of June through the end of October.
At the time they were built, the Range Lights were considered a more effective way to keep ships off the treacherous reefs and shallows at the entrance to Baileys Harbor. From the water, a sailor got “on range” by vertically aligning the white light in the Upper Range Light, which shone at a height of 39 feet above the water, with the Lower Range Light’s red beacon, fixed at 22 feet above the water.
Cana Island is perhaps Door County’s most photographed lighthouse, celebrating 150 years of standing watch on the shore of Lake Michigan in 2019. The light station grounds include a number of original buildings: the light tower, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976; the octagon-shaped oil house; the lighthouse keepers’ home; a period brick privy; and a wooden barn. When the lighthouse was originally constructed from Milwaukee cream city brick in 1869, it was the tallest brick structure in Door County. In the early 1900s, the brick was encased in protective steel cladding.
Cana Island is a unique little island that’s bounded by the waters of Lake Michigan on three sides. The buildings and grounds have been maintained by the Door County Maritime Museum for over 40 years, and are in the final stages of a four-phase restoration. Ride a haywagon over the causeway to explore the island, including the 89-foot-tall light tower, oil storage house and lighthouse keeper’s home. The highlight of any Cana Island visit is climbing the 97 steps of the tower’s spiral staircase to reach the gallery deck, which delivers a sweeping view of Lake Michigan and the Door County peninsula. Cana Island is open to the public daily, May through October.
For more details regarding the 2019 celebration events, please visit the following websites:
- The Door County Maritime Museum – www.dcmm.org
- The Ridges Sanctuary – www.ridgessanctuary.org
- Baileys Harbor Community Association – http://baileysharbor.doorcounty.com/