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Due to several maritime tragedies near Evanston, specially the sinking of the passenger steamer ?Lady Elgin? in 1860, an adversity which allegedly claimed up to 400 lives, the United States Government decided to build the Grosse Point Lighthouse in 1873. With construction of the Erie Canal in 1824 and the Illinois and Michigan Canal in 1848, lake traffic on the Great Lakes, as well as the extent and importance of the City of Chicago augmented. The city, many times during the late 1800s, had more arrivals and departures in an average 8-month shipping season compared to a year-round maritime trade movement in the ports of New York City and San Francisco. However, vessels, which travel through the shoreline of Chicago?s harbor particularly the shallow water stretch of Grosse Point, were sinking or getting stranded because earlier lighthouses in Chicago proper were ineffective.

In response to the intensifying need for an effective and useful lighthouse, the Grosse Point Lighthouse was opened on June 30, 1873 but the light was used not until March 1874, welcoming the traditional start of the Great Lakes? shipping season over the waters of Lake Michigan. Despite the urgency of having a lighthouse, the Civil War delayed its completion. When it was completed, the lighthouse stood proud of having to use one of the only five second-order Fresnel lens, the largest type of optic installed and operated on the Great Lakes. Its main function is to both warn ships of shallow waters around the point and to guide the way into the Port of Chicago. Holding this unique and significant light which could be seen up to 21 miles over the lake in good atmospheric conditions, is a 113-feet tall conical tower made of brick, metal, and glass. However, concrete was added in 1914 when the tower began to weaken. Beside the lighthouse is the light station that stands on a concrete foundation with wooden piles that reach to a depth of 30 feet was made up of a duplex building (that shelters the keeper?s quarters) with an above ground pathway leading to a fuel supply facility and the light tower. Three keepers and a maintenance day laborer were hired to take care of the light station and to keep the light and fog signals in top condition. Advancements were done to the lighthouse including its electrification in 1923 and the installation of a photoelectric device in 1934 leading to the decommissioning of the light station.

The U.S. Government transferred the control over the lighthouse buildings and grounds to the City of Evanston and the city?s Lighthouse Park District in 1945. In 1999, the Grosse Point Lighthouse became the first lighthouse designated as a National Historic Landmark on the Great Lakes. Today, the lighthouse is decorated with wildflower and butterfly gardens maintained by the Garden Club of Evanston, making it more attractive to tourists.
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