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When visiting Chicago, Illinois, don’t miss the Chicago lighthouses

Although a visit to Chicago will not allow one to go inside either the Chicago Harbor Light or the Chicago Southeast Guidewall Lighthouse, a trip to the most visited tourist attraction, the Navy Pier will allow you to see each one.

The Chicago Harbor Lighthouse on the breakwall
Wikimedia Commons

The Chicago Harbor Light was constructed near the mouth of the Chicago River in 1893. Ships arriving in the Chicago Harbor became larger and larger, having difficulties navigating down the Chicago River. This forced officials to develop the outer harbor. An area of Lake Michigan was enclosed with a protective break wall near the mouth of the Chicago River. A municipal pier was completed in 1916 to handle the loading and unloading of these larger ships. Today, it is known as the Navy Pier. Finishing this new outer harbor, the 1893 Chicago Lighthouse was moved to a concrete foundation at the end of the north pier and became the Chicago Harbor Light. When the tower was moved, two supporting buildings were added to it; one side housed a fog signal, and the other side housed a boat house. At the height of Chicago Harbor, the lighthouse accommodated four lighthouse keepers, who were responsible for all navigational aids in the harbor. The tower became automated in 1979, no longer needing the services of lighthouse keepers. It is easily recognizable with its white body and red roofs on the attached structures.

The Chicago Southeast Guidewall Lighthouse is a green and white lighthouse that is thirty feet high, and guides ships into the lock system that was built in the 1930s. The lighthouse is located at the end of the south guidewall in Chicago's Harbor. You can get a pretty good view of the lighthouse from Navy Pier along Chicago's waterfront or from one of the many harbor cruises that run daily.

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