A member of the Chicago boating community for over 20 years, Kurt Lentsch has cruised past the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse hundreds of times. Along with his fellow boaters, from a front-row seat, he watched this iconic structure deteriorate to the condition it is in today. Something needed to be done to save Chicago’s quintessential symbol of maritime history. The dream began.
In March 2022, Kurt took action. He walked into the Illinois Secretary of State's Office on Washington Street with the dream and a stack of papers. The dream was to preserve, restore and celebrate the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse and the papers were the documents forming the Friends of the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charity.
One year later, with Working Groups in place, including preservation, construction, fundraising, communications, and community outreach teams, the Friends of the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse is ready to make this dream come true.
“For more than a century, the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse has guided sailors and provided security to those on the water,” says Kurt. “Now, it is our turn to return this magnificent structure to its original beauty.”
A logistics executive from Chicago’s Western Suburbs, Kurt is well-known in the Chicago boating community. He and his family enjoy cruising Lake Michigan on their power boat, Anna Marie. A past board member of the Burnham Park Yacht Club and the Chicago Yacht Club, Kurt also served as chair of the Chicago Yacht Club’s Power Fleet. A United States Coast Guard licensed captain and a member of the USCG Auxiliary since 2001, Kurt is also the Administrator of the Chicago Boaters community, a Facebook group focused on boat safety and boating in Chicago with more than 7000 members.
As the daughter of a charter boat captain, Marie Huscher spent her childhood learning the ins and outs of boating safety on Lake Michigan and the Chain O’Lakes. Nowadays, she spends her summers cruising Lake Michigan on her powerboat Blue Watercolors that she docks at Burnham Harbor.
In 2017, she received her 100-ton United States Coast Guard Master's License, enabling her to captain a Wendella tour boat and Water Taxi, both on the Chicago River and the lakefront.
“I really enjoy the opportunity to show off Chicago’s waterways to so many people,” she says, “Unheralded gems like the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse really surprise and amaze people. I’ve always been charmed by the beauty of Great Lakes lighthouses, so of course, I jumped at the opportunity to help save and preserve our own iconic structure.”
A Chicagoland native, Marie attended Northern Illinois University, where she graduated with a B.F.A. in Interior Architecture followed by her master’s in Business Administration. She has enjoyed a long and successful career in corporate real estate, design, and facilities operations for such organizations as Motorola, Baxter, Nielsen, Diageo, and the Alzheimer’s Association.
An ardent preservationist, Marie turned her passion into a residential property investment business called Studio M Investments & Design, Inc. In this role, she has rebuilt and repurposed a wide range of buildings including Greystones, bungalows, and riverfront cottages, substantially increasing their value along the way. In 2016, Marie received Best Interior Rehabilitation Honorable Mention for her renovation of a North Side bungalow from the Chicago Bungalow Association.
Marie will chair the Construction Working Group for Friends of the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse.
Steve has sailed on Lake Michigan each summer since his teens. During the summer months, he lives on his current, 38-foot sailboat, Escapade with husband CJ in Burnham Harbor. Having sailed past the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse countless times, always with a sense of awe and curiosity, Steve understands the significance of the lighthouse to Chicago more than most.
“When one thinks about Chicago’s history, the importance of our location, where the Chicago River and the Great Lakes meet, can’t be underestimated. The commercial traffic that made Chicago Harbor such a busy place and put Chicago on the map wouldn’t have been possible without the evolution of lighthouses that have existed on our lakefront. The 1893 Chicago Harbor Lighthouse has an important story to tell about that history,” says Steve. “When I learned of Kurt’s desire to preserve this fading beauty, I was immediately on board.”
Passionate about historic preservation, Steve sensitively adapted a well-preserved 1870 schoolhouse in the quaint town of La Fox, Illinois where he lived for nearly twenty years before moving back to Chicago. While living in La Fox, he successfully worked with local and state officials to form Kane County’s first historic district in La Fox and gained landmark status for his home.
A software product marketing and business development executive, Steve designs professional learning solutions for educators in school districts nationwide. Districts can now better serve students with disabilities through his work with Infinitec, a program of UCP Seguin of Greater Chicago.
Steve will head the Community Outreach Working Group for Friends of the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse and conduct historical research.
A native of Indiana and an Accounting major from Indiana University, Michael was
drawn to Chicago for its rich and diverse architecture and its beautiful lakefront. H joined the Chicago accounting firm of ORBA in 1986 and was named partner in 2000. A lifelong sailor, Michael is a member of the Chicago Yacht Club and served as their treasurer from 2021-2022.
Michael lives in a high-rise across from Belmont Harbor, where he docks his Jeaneau 379 sailboat named Cigany (the Hungarian name for gypsy – and yes, Michael is Hungarian). At certain angles, he can see the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse from his 11th-floor condominium.
“The Chicago Harbor Lighthouse is a signature piece of history in a world-class city,” says Michael. “As a sailor, I pass this iconic structure often, and think of its significance to Chicago’s maritime past, guiding thousands of commercial ships to land. I’m eager to lend my professional expertise to help preserve this beautiful lighthouse,”.
An ardent building preservationist, Michael and his partner lovingly restored an Italianate-style manor house built in 1848 in Tiskilwa, Illinois, that now serves as a popular bed and breakfast.
At ORBA, Michael provides accounting, tax and business consulting services to mid-size companies in a variety of industries, including, marina, real estate, manufacturing and financial services.
Michael will chair the Fundraising Working Group for Friends of the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse.