WIN: Local Group Launches Effort to Restore Chicago Harbor Lighthouse for Museum

“Architects and maritime history lovers are raising money to restore the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse, which was built in 1893 for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

“The red and white lighthouse was moved to its current location off of Navy Pier in 1919 and has fallen into disrepair. Now, nonprofit Friends of The Chicago Harbor Lighthouse wants to preserve, restore and celebrate the lighthouse so future generations can enjoy its history, President Kurt Lentsch said at a meeting at the Chicago Maritime Museum.

“Over the next two to 10 years, the group members hope to turn the lighthouse into a museum and event space that people can reach by boarding a boat at Navy Pier. They expect the entire project will cost $3-$5 million, Lentsch said.

“‘We could really make this something special for the city of Chicago, for the Great Lakes experience, for historical preservation. It could really work out,’ Lentsch said at the Feb. 17 meeting.

“Due to the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, city officials are only required to maintain the light for navigational purposes and aren’t responsible for repairing the physical structure, which has remained largely the same as when it was built.

“Members of the nonprofit are in the initial stages of this project. They are mainly focused on raising money and awareness at this point, Lentsch said.

“The group has support from city officials and is consulting with a project manager about next steps, which include determining a pin number and address for the site as well as figuring out which ward oversees it.

“These things have to happen before building permits can be granted, said Edward Torrez, an architect who’s helping lead the venture.

“Ideally, visitors will eventually be able to visit the lighthouse, climb past exhibits detailing its history — complete with artifacts — and to access an observation deck at the top. Individuals and companies could rent the space for events.

“‘You would never be able to see the city from this angle anywhere else,’ Lentsch said. ‘Everyone should be able to experience this view of our beautiful city. The city of Chicago is so rich in its history, in its architecture, so it’s just a shame that the lighthouse is sitting out there empty right now.’ (Padar, Block Club Chicago, 2/27/23)

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