In the early 1990s, when North Point Light Station had been decommissioned, ideas were floated and sunk for what should happen to this decayed historic site. A joint committee of two local citizens groups:
- Water Tower Landmark Trust (a community organization for the greater North Point area) and
- Lake Park Friends (grassroots group dedicated to the health/future/preservation of the Milwaukee Park that had grown up around the North Point Lighthouse) (North Point Lighthouse Friends “founding partners”) worked with County Parks Staff and Board Supervisor to positively plan that the site and its history should be preserved, that it should legally become part of Lake Park, and that its structures, once restored, should be open to public use and privately operated as a maritime museum and as a meeting place.
All of this was to be accomplished without the expenditure of County Funds.
Looking ahead to federal, state and local milestones which lay ahead, the County granted the Friends’ placeholder an option, conditioned on raising the necessary funds, to restore the North Point Light Station and operate it as a North Point Lighthouse museum and meeting place (the “plan”).
The joint committee had created the plan of what should happen and its core was left with finding someone to do it.
Events had drawn the interest and participation of historic preservation and lighthouse enthusiasts (including some “lighthouse nuts”) from the greater community to fuel the interest of those committed to the plan and supply enough lighthouse “know how” to begin to be credible.
With the planning support of a local foundation and help of a skillful facilitator, a retreat to consider this was held at the (prophetically) Friends Center on the Milwaukee River. In January 2002 the North Point Lighthouse Friends, Inc. was incorporated to advance the plan. Fundraising and concept/budget planning began with the help of more friends and colleagues aiming to restore the 1888 home and the Lighthouse Tower.
Then the Friends partnered with Milwaukee County, as its public sponsor, and applied for, pursued and won, in a statewide competition, United States and Wisconsin Transportation Enhancement Funding of $945,000, 20% local match required, for the restoration of this historic transportation related facility into a public facility at the North Point Light Station, with the Friends committing to raise the match and any project costs in excess of the $1.2 million project costs.
On October 13, 2003, US Coast Guard and GSA representatives handed to Milwaukee County a deed to the North Point Station and, to the Friends, a ceremonial key to the Tower and Quarters.
Permitting, approvals, further fundraising, planning, designing, public meetings and public bidding would be required — along with further fundraising of significant amounts from many and blessedly substantial sums from a few — before the option could be exercised and construction could begin in 2007 and in November could be formally rededicated to the public according to the plan.
Past supporters included amazing public-spirited citizens, groups, agencies and the individuals who gave their time, money and talents to accomplish this restoration preserving a unique place and its heritage for the public and generations to follow. Somehow volunteers raised and contributed a total project cost of more than $1.6 million. For a list of our involved volunteers, visit the North Point Lighthouse museum.
The Milwaukee Museum Mile is a unique consortium of museums nestled along Lake Michigan on Milwaukee’s Historic East Side. Five wonderful museums have come together to create a simple and affordable way for visitors to access and enjoy multiple museum experiences and promote the area as a destination for Milwaukee residents and visitors to our city. The museums on the Milwaukee Museum Mile are located in close proximity to one another, along N. Prospect Avenue and on N. Wahl and N. Terrace Avenues.