Lighthouses of the United States: Illinois

The U.S. state of Illinois has two well-known and historic light stations on Lake Michigan in the Chicago area, plus several pierhead lights. In addition, the Chicago Department of Water maintains lights on each of its four current or former water intake cribs.

There is no Chicago area lighthouse preservation group, and preservation attention has focused almost entirely on the well-known Grosse Pointe Light in Evanston. The pierhead lights of Illinois and Indiana, however, may need to be defended against demolition in the future. The Calumet Harbor Light, technically in Indiana rather than Illinois, was demolished in 1995.

Aids to navigation in Illinois are maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard Ninth District, but ownership (and sometimes operation) of historic lighthouses has been transferred to local authorities and preservation organizations in many cases.

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights. USCG numbers are from volumes 5 and 7 of the U.S. Coast Guard List of Lights.

General Sources
Seeing the Light - The Lighthouses of Illinois
Outstanding historical accounts and photos posted by Terry Pepper.
Illinois Lighthouses
Excellent photos, historical information, and travel directions from Kraig Anderson.
Lighthouse Hunters - Illinois
Photos and accounts by Christine and Tom Cardaci.
Lighthouses in Illinois
Photos available from Wikimedia.
Lighthouses of the Great Lakes - Lake Michigan
This site by Neil Schultheiss has photos and accounts of most of the lighthouses on the lake.
National Maritime Inventory - Illinois
Inventory of Illinois lighthouse data.
Coast Guard Lighthouses - Illinois
Historic photos with notes by Marie Vincent.
Leuchttürme USA auf historischen Postkarten
Historic postcard images posted by Klaus Huelse.

Chicago Harbor Lights
Chicago Harbor Light, Chicago, August 2009
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Pat and Ellen Prather

Lake County (Waukegan Area) Lighthouses
[Waukegan Breakwater (3?)]
Date unknown (station established 1898). Active; focal plane 32 ft (10 m); two white flashes every 5 s. 30 ft (9 m) round cylindrical "D9" tower, painted white with one black horizontal band. Anderson has a photo, and Google has a satellite view. The National Museum of American History has a historic postcard view of the original lighthouse, a "pagoda" style hexagonal wood tower with lantern and gallery. This lighthouse was replaced in 1938, probably by a skeletal tower. Located at the end of the breakwater on the northeast side of Waukegan harbor. Site and tower closed. Owner/site manager: U.S. Coast Guard. USCG 7-20335.
* Waukegan Harbor (Little Fort) (2)
1889 (onshore station established 1849). Active; focal plane 36 ft (11 m); green light occulting every 4 s. 35 ft (10.5 m) round cylindrical cast iron tower with gallery, painted white with a broad green band covering the upper third. Anderson's page has a good photo, the Cardacis have a page with photos, and Google has a satellite view. The lighthouse was relocated when the pier was extended in 1905. The lantern and an attached fog signal building were removed after the light station was nearly destroyed by fire in 1967. The Coast Guard has a historic photo showing the lantern, and Pepper has a photo showing the entire station before the fire. The lighthouse has been a favorite target for graffiti. Located at the end of Government Pier at the foot of Madison Street in downtown Waukegan. Accessible by walking the pier. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: U.S. Coast Guard. ARLHS USA-875; USCG 7-20315.

Cook County (Chicago Area) Lighthouses
**** Grosse Point
1873 (O.M. Poe). Reactivated (inactive 1941-1946, now privately maintained); focal plane 119 ft (36 m); 2 white flashes every 15 s. 113 ft (34 m) round brick tower encased in concrete, with lantern and gallery, connected by a covered walkway to a 3-story brick keeper's house. Lighthouse painted white, lantern and gallery red. The original 2nd order H. LePaute Fresnel lens (1850) is still in service (this is the only 2nd order lens still in use on the Great Lakes). Two fog signal buildings. A photo is at right, Tom Gill has a photo, Pepper's page has historical information and outstanding photos, Anderson also has a fine page with good photos, Huelse has a historic postcard view, and Google has a street view and a satellite view. This is a famous lighthouse, recognized as a National Historic Landmark. The keeper's house is Chicago's only maritime museum; one fog signal building serves as a visitor center while the other houses a nature center. A project in spring 2013 is repairing and renovating the lighthouse. Located in Lighthouse Park on Sheridan Avenue at the foot of Central Street in Evanston. Site open, museum and tower open to guided tours Saturday and Sunday afternoons June through September. Owner/operator: City of Evanston. Site manager: Lighthouse Park District. ARLHS USA-359; USCG 7-20190.
* Farwell Avenue Breakwater
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 12.5 m (41 ft); red flash every 3 s. 36 ft (11 m) square skeletal tower. A photo is available, and Google has a street view and a satellite view. Located at the end of a groin at the foot of Farwell Avenue. Accessible by walking the pier. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: City of Chicago. USCG 7-20165.
* Hollywood Avenue Breakwater
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 41 ft (12.5 m); red flash every 3 s. 36 ft (11 m) square skeletal tower. A photo is available, and Google has a satellite view. Located at the end of a groin at the north end of Lakeshore Drive, adjacent to Kathy Osterman Beach. Accessible by walking the pier. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: City of Chicago. USCG 7-20145.
* Foster Avenue Breakwater
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 41 ft (12.5 m); red flash every 3 s. 36 ft (11 m) square skeletal tower, painted red. Richard Mobley has a photo, Michael Aaron Hansen has a winter photo, and Google has a satellite view. Located at the end of a groin at the Foster Avenue Beach. Accessible by walking the pier. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: City of Chicago. USCG 7-20140.
Wilson Avenue Crib
Date unknown. Active (privately maintained); focal plane 68 ft (21 m); quick-flashing white light. 47 ft (14 m) round cylindrical tower with lantern and gallery; the light is displayed from a platform built atop the lantern room. GLLKA's blog has an article on this light, the Cardacis have a page with photos, and Sandor Weisz has a July 2007 photo. Located in the lake about 3 miles (5 km) off Montrose Harbor, on the North Chicago waterfront. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed. Owner/site manager: Chicago Department of Water Management. ARLHS USA-1134; USCG 7-20135.
Grosse Pointe Light
Grosse Pointe Light, Evanston, May 2010
Wikimedia Creative Commons photo
by Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar
* Montrose Breakwater
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 41 ft (12.5 m); red flash every 3 s. A view from the lake is available, and Google has a satellite view and a distant street view. Located at the end of a breakwater protecting Montrose Harbor, a marina at the foot of Montrose Avenue. Accessible by walking the pier. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: City of Chicago. USCG 7-20105.
* Belmont Harbor Inner
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 80 ft (24.5 m); red flash every 3 s. 72 ft (22 m) square skeletal tower with gallery. A distant view is available, and Google has a street view and a satellite view. Located on the north side of the entrance to Belmont Harbor, a marina at the foot of Belmont Avenue. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: City of Chicago. USCG 7-20095.
* North Avenue Jetty
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 39 ft (12 m); quick-flashing red light. 33 ft (10 m) square skeletal tower, painted white with a red band at the top. Josh Pettus has a photo, and Google has a street view and a satellite view. Located at the end of a breakwater protecting the North Avenue Beach, at the foot of Lasalle Drive. Accessible by walking the pier. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: City of Chicago.
William E. Dever Crib
1935(?). Active (privately maintained); focal plane 72 ft (22 m); quick-flashing white light. Square cylindrical skeletal tower centered atop a large, circular water intake structure. Pepper has a fine page for the lighthouse, the Cardacis have a page with photos, Kirk Kessler has a 2007 photo, the Coast Guard has a historic photo. The NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Reseach Laboratory maintains a weather station on the crib; a NOAA webcam shows the Chicago skyline. This light replaced a light established in 1900 on the adjacent Carter Harrison Crib. (The Dever Crib was built to replace the Harrison Crib, but because of increased water demand the Harrison Crib remained in use until 1997.) Located in the Lake about 3 miles (5 km) off the Chicago River entrance. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed. Owner/site manager: Chicago Department of Water Management. ARLHS USA-1248; USCG 7-20040.
Chicago Harbor Southeast Guidewall
1938. Active; focal plane 48 ft (14.5 m); white light, 3 s on, 3 s off. 30 ft (9 m) square pyramidal skeletal tower with upper half enclosed, lantern and gallery. Lighthouse painted white with a single green horizontal band; lantern painted black. Kevin Oliver's photo is at right, Wikimedia has Frank Buchalski's photo, and Google has a satellite view. This lighthouse marks the entrance to the Chicago River and an inland waterway leading to the Mississippi River. Located on a guidewall on the south side of the river entrance, south of Navy Pier in Chicago. Good views from the south side of Navy Pier. Site and tower closed. Owner/site manager: U.S. Coast Guard. ARLHS USA-930; USCG 7-20000.
Chicago Harbor
1893 (relocated to the breakwater in 1919). Active; focal plane 82 ft (25 m); red flash every 5 s. 48 ft (14.5 m) round cast iron tower with lantern and gallery, sandwiched between two 1-story buildings (a fog signal building and a boathouse). Lighthouse painted white, lantern roof black; the building roofs are red. The original 3rd order Fresnel lens, exhibited at the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, is still in use. Keeper's quarters incorporated in the tower. Pat and Ellen Prather's photo is at the top of this page, a fine 2007 photo is available, Anderson has an excellent page with good photos, Schultheiss has an excellent photo by Dave Wobser, Marinas.com has aerial photos, and Google has a satellite view. A unique lighthouse: its design is similar to that of the offshore sparkplug towers, but this tower is taller. The lighthouse was originally built at the Chicago River entrance, where it replaced a lighthouse in service 1832-1852; the fog signal building and boathouse were added during relocation. The tower was restored by the Coast Guard in 1997. In 2005 the lighthouse became available for transfer under NHLPA. The City of Chicago applied for ownership, and after an unusually long period of consideration the Interior Department approved that application in February 2009. Located at the south end of the north harbor breakwater, about 1 km (0.6 mi) east of the Southeast Guidewall Light. There are good views from the Navy Pier or from harbor sightseeing cruises; the lighthouse can be seen distantly from many places on the Chicago lakefront. Site and tower closed. Owner/site manager: U.S. Coast Guard. ARLHS USA-171; USCG 7-19960.
Four Mile Crib
Date unknown. Active (privately maintained); focal plane 66 ft (20 m); white flash every 15 s. Approx. 30 ft (9 m) hexagonal skeletal tower with lantern and gallery, painted red. Mike McGhie's photo is at the bottom of this page, the Cardacis have a page with photos, but the crib is a barely visible spot in Bing's satellite view. Visible distantly from Navy Pier. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed. Owner/site manager: Chicago Department of Water Management. ARLHS USA-304; USCG 7-19925.

Southeast Guidewall Light, Chicago, July 2009
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Kevin Oliver
68th Street Crib (Dunne Crib)
1909. Active (privately maintained); focal plane 61 ft (20 m); red flash every 3 s. 50 ft (15 m) hexagonal skeletal tower lantern and gallery. Lighthouse painted blue; lantern roof is silver-gray. Pepper also has a fine page for this lighthouse, the Cardacis have a page with photos, Google has a distant street view from Jackson Park, and Bing has a satellite view. The crib was the main water intake for South Chicago for many years. On January 20, 1909, while it was under construction, it was the scene of a disastrous fire that claimed the lives of 60 workers. Visible distantly from the lakeshore in the Jackson Park-South Shore area. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed. Owner/site manager: Chicago Department of Water Management. ARLHS USA-1090; USCG 7-19870.

Illinois Waterway Lighthouses
Note: The Illinois Waterway connects Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River via the Calumet and Illinois Rivers. The waterway is 336 mi (541 km) in length and is maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; navigational aids are maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Cal-Sag Junction
1994. Active (privately maintained); focal plane 47 ft (14 m); continuous amber light. 30 ft (9 m) round unpainted limestone tower with lantern. A photo is at right, another photo is available, and Google has a satellite view. In the early 1990s, the Illinois Waterway System added streamside elevated pool aeration (SEPA) stations which use artifically created waterfalls to improve water quality through aeration. This lighthouse is a attractive feature of SEPA Station 5. Located at the junction of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and the Cal-Sag Channel northeast of Lemont. Site and tower closed, but there's a good view of the lighthouse from the Illinois and Michigan Canal Trail on the west side of the waterway. Owner/site manager: Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. USCG 5-5745.
* Seneca (Anchor In Marina)
2000. Active (privately maintained and unofficial); focal plane 27 ft (8 m); continuous white light. 19 ft (6 m) hexagonal wood lighthouse, painted white, mounted on a square concrete base. Cathleen Daum has a closeup photo, and trees shade the lighthouse in Bing's satellite view. Located on the south side of the Illinois River in Seneca. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: Anchor In Marina.
[Henry (Longman's Landing)]
1935. Inactive since 1945. 18 ft (5.5 m) round rubblestone tower; the light was shown through a square window at the top. Crystal Johnson has a 2010 photo, and the City of Henry has a photo (middle photo in fourth row), but the tiny light is not seen in Google's satellite view. This small light was built by Elsie Longman (famous as "Steamboat Elsie") using stones from the abandoned Henry Lock and Dam. It served as a leading light for southbound vessels passing under the Henry Bridge (IL 18), and it was recognized as an official aid to navigation. It lapsed when Elsie died in 1945. Lighthouse Digest featured this light in a May 2012 article by Timothy Harrison. Located on the west bank a short distance south of the bridge. Site status unknown.
Cal-Sag Junction Light
Cal-Sag Junction Light, Lemont
Metropolitan Water Reclamation District photo
* IVY Club (Peoria Heights)
Date unknown. Active (privately maintained and unofficial); focal plane 60 ft (18 m); flashing green light. Lantern mounted atop a 3-story yacht club building. A photo is available, Marinas.com has aerial photos of the club, and Google has a good satellite view. Located on the west side of the Illinois River at 5102 North Galena Road in Peoria Heights. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: Illinois Valley Yacht and Canoe Club.
* [IVY Club Breakwater]
2013. Active (privately maintained and unofficial); focal plane 28 ft (8.5 m); flashing white light. 16 ft (5 m) octagonal steel tower with lantern mounted on an octagonal concrete base. Upper half of the tower painted red, lower half white, lantern black. The tower is too new to appear in Google's satellite view. Located at the end of the extended breakwater of the IVY Club. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: Illinois Valley Yacht and Canoe Club.
East Peoria (Eastport Marina)
Date unknown. Active (privately maintained and unofficial); focal plane about 17 ft (5 m); continuous white light. 17 ft (5 m) octagonal tower with lantern, painted in a red and white checkerboard pattern. In front of the lighthouse is an official light on a post (green flash every 6 s). The Peoria Journal Star has a photo by Fred Zwicky (second photo on the page), a distant photo is available, and Google has a satellite view. Located at the end of the main breakwater of the Eastport Marina, on the east side of the Illinois River (here pooled as Lake Peoria) in East Peoria. Site status unknown, possibly open; tower closed. Owner/site manager: City of East Peoria. USCG 5-7072.1.

Sangamon County (Lake Springfield) Lighthouse
Michaud (Lake Springfield)
2009. Active (privately maintained and unofficial); focal plane 30 ft (9 m); flashing white light. 30 ft (9 m) octagonal wood tower with lantern and gallery, painted white; the lantern roof is red. A photo and a closeup are available, and Google has a street view and a satellite view. The lighthouse was designed and built by Larry and Loretta Michaud as a replica of the Cheboygan Crib Light (see Michigan Eastern Lower Peninsula). Located at the tip of sharp peninsula projecting into Lake Springfield just east of the I-55 bridge, on the south side of Springfield. Site and tower closed. Owner/site manager: private.

Massac County (Ohio River) Lighthouse
* Metropolis Hope
2014. Active (privately maintained and unofficial); focal plane about 40 ft (12 m); flashing white light. 30 ft (9 m) round steel tower with lantern and gallery. Lighthouse painted white with a blue band at the top; the lantern is black. The lighthouse is too new to appear in Google's satellite view. The lighthouse was built by the Hope Light Project, a charity dedicated to the fight against cancer. Prefabricated by the Parker Custom Machine Shop in Metropolis, the lighthouse was installed and activated in June 2014. Located in Dorothy Miller Park at Metropolis. Site open, tower closed. Operator/site manager: Hope Light Project.

Mississippi River Lighthouses
* [Cairo Point]
Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 30 ft (9 m); three red flashes, in a 2+1 pattern, every 6 s. Approx. 4.5 m (15 ft) skeletal mast carrying a diamond-shaped daymark painted in a red and white checkerboard pattern. Jim Frazier has a photo, another photo is available, and Google has a satellite view. No one would call this modest beacon a lighthouse, but it marks a crucial spot: the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Located at the end of Fort Defiance Road off US 60/62 in Cairo. Site open. Owner: U.S. Coast Guard. Site manager: Illinois State Parks (Fort Defiance State Park). USCG 5-17670.
St. Louis Water Intake #2
1911. Inactive. Approx. 60 ft (18 mi) 3-story stone water intake tower mounted on a concrete pier. The tower is unpainted. David Hinkson's photo is at right, Erin and Lance Willett have a good photo, the City of St. Louis has photos of the two towers, and Google has a satellite view. This is the younger of two historic water intake towers; the older (1894) tower is across the state line in Missouri. The towers are built in the rapids of the Mississippi River, known as the Chain of Rocks. Since 1953, the the rapids have been bypassed by the Chain of Rocks Lock and Canal. However, during the late 1800s and early 1900s, the navigation channel passed between the two intake towers, so both were lit; for many years they were also staffed. Located about 1000 ft (300 m) off the east bank of the river and 250 ft (80 m) south of the old Chain of Rocks Bridge, which has been renovated for use by walkers and bicyclists. Accessible only by boat; there is an excellent view from the old bridge. Site open, tower closed.
St. Louis Water Intake #2
St. Louis Water Intake #2 and Chain of Rocks Bridge, Granite City, April 2006
Wikimedia public domain photo by David Hinkson
* Rockport Lighthouse Inn
1990. Active (privately maintained and unofficial); focal plane about 70 ft (21 m); continuous white light. 57 ft (17.5 m) unpainted octagonal concrete tower with lantern and gallery. Google has a street view and a satellite view. The lighthouse is part of a development that includes a marina, motel, and restaurant. Located beside US 54 in Rockport, opposite the town of Louisiana, Missouri. Site open, tower closed.
* Quinsippi
Around 1972. Active (privately maintained and unofficial); focal plane about 9 m (30 ft); flashing white light. Approx. 25 ft (7.5 m) round brick tower with lantern mounted atop a stone base (a former bridge pier). Lighthouse painted white. A photo is available (halfway down the page), and Google has a satellite view. Quinsippi Island, on the east side of the river just above downtown Quincy, shelters a small boat channel that leads to several marinas. The light was donated by the Moorman Manufacturing Company, which had built it for a promotion. The light failed in late 2011, but the park district planned to repair it in 2012. Located at the end of Quinsippi Island Road on the east side of the island near its southern tip. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: Quincy Park District.

Information available on lost lighthouses:

Notable faux lighthouses:

  • Fabyan (around 1910), on the Fox River in Geneva, is reported to be active but it is not on navigable water. A closeup photo is available, and Bing has a satellite view.
  • Frank Holton State Park, East St. Louis, has an attractive lighthouse (1963), but the light overlooks golf course ponds that are not navigable water. Bing has a satellite view.
  • Grafton (2007), on the Mississippi River, is not an active aid to navigation. Linda Martin has a photo, Ron White has a photo, and Bing has a satellite view. The lighthouse symbolizes the village's resurrection after being devastated by a 1993 flood.
  • Piasa Chautauqua (date unknown), on the Mississippi near Grafton, does not serve as an aid to navigation; it houses a water pump. Google has a street view, and Bing has a satellite view.

Four Mile Crib Light, Lake Michigan, June 2003
photo copyright Mike McGhie; used by permission

Adjoining pages: North: Eastern Wisconsin | East: Indiana

Return to the Lighthouse Directory index

Checked and revised February 25, 2014. Lighthouses: 23. Site copyright 2014 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.