Secretary Salazar Announces Transfer of Historic Lighthouse to the City of Chicago

Last edited 09/29/2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today initiated the transfer of the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse, a beacon that has been a symbol of the Windy City for more than a century, from the U.S. Coast Guard to the City of Chicago.

“The Chicago Harbor Lighthouse reflects the proud heritage of Chicago and the pivotal role the city played in our nation's maritime history, connecting the Great Lakes to the East Coast and ultimately to the Gulf Coast,” Salazar said. “By transferring ownership of the lighthouse to the city, we are guaranteeing that this historic Chicago landmark will be preserved and open to the public for generations to come.”

Salazar authorized the transfer of the lighthouse to the city under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000, which allows transfer of historic lighthouses from the Coast Guard to whatever federal, state and local agencies; nonprofits; or economic development organizations can best protect them. To date, 46 historic lighthouses of some 300 historic lighthouses nationwide have been transferred under the Act.

The Chicago Harbor Lighthouse is the only surviving lighthouse in Chicago and one of only two remaining lighthouses in the Illinois portion of Lake Michigan.

Originally constructed in 1893 in time for the Chicago World's Fair, the lighthouse was moved to is present location in 1917 when the harbor's breakwater was renovated. At that time, an attached fog-signal room and boathouse were constructed.

The 48-foot-high lighthouse played such a significant role in the development of Chicago that it is commemorated in a relief sculpture, entitled "The Spirit of the Waters," located near the LaSalle Street entrance of City Hall.

In 1984 the lighthouse was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In 2003, the City of Chicago designated the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse a Chicago Landmark.

The National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act recognizes the value associated with historic light stations by allowing them to be transferred at no cost to federal agencies, state and local governments, nonprofit corporations, educational agencies, or community development organizations. Entities that receive light stations must make them available for education, park, recreation, cultural, or historic preservation purposes and provide public access.

The City of Chicago, which began the application process in 2005, was the sole applicant for the lighthouse. The Department of the Interior's National Park Service worked with the City to create an acceptable application based on the Acts' review criteria. Under the Act, the General Services Administration will effect the transfer based on the Secretary's determination of the best applicant.

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