With a nighttime skyline so bright it is observable from space, more than a few visitors and many residents of Chicago have asked when it was that the lighthouse at the city’s downtown Chicago River was actually needed to guide vessels to the city? The answer is of course, years and years ago.
While Chicago has navigational lighting on each of its four water cribs, two historic light stations and on two pier heads, the notable and most recognizable navigational light, the Chicago River Lighthouse, was actually never planned or constructed for use in the place where it currently resides in Chicago.
Near the end of the 19th century, the science and engineering of lighthouses was nearing its peak. The United States Lighthouse Board, a Treasury Department agency, was eager to show off the progress being made in lighting technologies. The Lighthouse Board, created in 1857, was the second agency created within the Treasury Department to administer to navigational lighting. The first, the Treasury’s Lighthouse Establishment, established in 1791, had come under harsh criticism by the shipping industry and was replaced by the Lighthouse Board, which operated as a semi-military organization.1 2 3 next >>