Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, Fish Creek, is one of the rare Door County beacons accessible to the public. The lighthouse was built in 1868 and automated in 1926. Located inside Peninsula State Park, the lighthouse is open for guided tours mid-May through mid-October.
The lighthouse actually opened its doors to visitors for the first time on Sept. 1, 1963. And this year Eagle Bluff Lighthouse staff and volunteers are celebrating 50 years of welcoming visitors from around the world to the yellow brick lighthouse.
We recently caught up with Patti Podgers, the lighthouse's curator, on what is unique about this lighthouse and plans for the upcoming season.
Q. There are so many lighthouses in Door County. What makes Eagle Bluff Lighthouse unique?
Patti: Eagle Bluff Lighthouse is the only lighthouse in Door County that features a docent-led tour. Our docents are knowledgeable and very animated and enthusiastic.
Secondly, we continue to operate as a lighthouse under the U.S. Coast Guard.
Thirdly, as of this year, the lighthouse has been completely restored. Although initial work was completed 50 years ago, the lighthouse required constant upkeep. Much needed work was completed in the past two years-thanks in great part to Kelli Burns, Peninsula State Park superintendent. Today, the lighthouse appears just as it would have when Peter Coughlin (lightkeeper from 1918 to 1926) left in 1926.
Q. Tell us some highlights of Eagle Bluff Lighthouse history
Patti: The first lightkeeper was Henry Stanley, who served from 1868 to 1883. Originally, the lighthouse was fueled by kerosene. But in 1916 the lighthouse lamp was automated with a form of gas. Today, Eagle Bluff Lighthouse continues to guide ships-both commercial and recreational-through the Strawberry Islands with a solar lamp.
When the lighthouse was automated in 1926, Peter Coughlin's lightkeeper position was eliminated as there was no need for a residential keeper. The lighthouse--save for the lamp which continued to function--was dark until 1960. In that year, the Door County Historical Society was granted a lease to restore the lighthouse and open it to visitors. For three years volunteers donated their time and energy to bringing the lighthouse back to life. And on Sept. 1, 1963, the lighthouse doors were opened to visitors for the first time.
Although there is no firm documentation, it is thought that Eagle Bluff Lighthouse is the first restored, open to the public lighthouse in the United States.
Q. What is the anniversary celebration about?
Patti: This season we are celebrating 50 years of welcoming visitors from around the world to our little yellow brick lighthouse. And we will be featuring many special events. Guests will include plein air artists painting on-site, members of the local quilt guild, storytellers, Civil War re-enactors and musicians.
Theme tours will be featured throughout the season focusing on the quality life at the lighthouse, children in the lighthouse, the woman's role in the lighthouse and the operation of the lamp. A special tour will also highlight Door County and the Civil War, as well as the story of William Duclon (lightkeeper from 1883 to 1918).
Q. Why is William Duclon's story important?
Patti: William Duclon served for a remarkable 35 years. And because he served so long, we have significant documentation of what life was like at the lighthouse. Also, William's son, Walter, was living when the lighthouse was restored and contributed to the history and family stories that we share today.
Q. How can people tour and learn more?
Patti: The lighthouse will be open for weekends Friday, May 17 to Monday, May 27. The lighthouse will open daily on Friday, May 31. Docent-led tours are available from 10 a.m. through 3:30 p.m. The lighthouse closes daily at 4 p.m.
Admission is adults $5; students age 13 to 18 $2; youth age 6 to 12 $1; and children age 5 and under free.