The Chicago Harbor Lighthouse was constructed in 1893 for the World’s Columbian Exposition. The World’s Columbian Exposition was held in Chicago in 1893 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the New World in 1492. The Lighthouse moved to its current location in 1919.
The Lighthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 19, 1984, and a Chicago Landmark on April 9, 2003. In 2010 the City of Chicago took over ownership of the Lighthouse from the General Services Administration (GSA), facilitated by the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act. The Chicago Harbor Lighthouse is an integral part of Chicago’s history and is a unique symbol of Chicago’s maritime past.
Lighthouses are an invaluable part of America’s maritime heritage.
These unique structures symbolize the strength and longevity of our country’s trading practices and communal spirit. Many communities have developed preservation groups for their local lighthouses to ensure that they are well-maintained for future generations.
The National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000 (NHLPA), P.L. 106-355 amended the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA). The NHLPA provides a mechanism for conveying Federally-owned historic light stations to qualified new stewards after years of unfailing and faithful service as beacons to sea-farers and traders. The National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act Program facilitates the continued use and public appreciation of these historic properties by transferring ownership to other government entities and non-profit organizations who have committed to preserving the lights into the future.
Public bodies and non-profits may apply to acquire an historic light station through the NHLPA at no cost, through a competitive application process administered by the Department of the Interior's National Park Service (NPS).
When the City of Chicago took ownership of the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse, there were discussions with developers for potential commercial development at the property. A few years ago, a rending depicted a hotel built on the breakwall North of the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse. Luckily, those discussions didn’t go anywhere.
Chicago is known as the Second City, and not often in life do second chances come along. I hope that there is a local “qualified entity” in Chicago to participate in this program to take ownership of the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse. It would be a shame to see this iconic structure sold to the highest bidder whose goals are motivated by profit rather than preservation.
I’m willing to help roll up my sleeves to help in any way I can to make this happen. Who is with me?
Chief Dreamer and President, Friends of the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse
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