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Milwaukee Gateway Icon has a new Owner

The Milwaukee Breakwater Lighthouse has a new owner and caretaker. After a two year process, Optima Enrichment has been given notification that they have met the stringent federal requirements of the National Park Service, the Secretary of Interior and the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act in obtaining the deed for what some feel is the icon of the Milwaukee Harbor.

This 1926 constructed Light has been without a resident keeper since 1966 and now needs funding and community partners to restore it to its original iconic presence. The goal of Optima Enrichment is to bring together many local entities to make the Lighthouse accessible and enjoyable for people of all ages, whether tourists, students or volunteer groups looking for a project. Until now, the spectacular views of the Milwaukee skyline have only been enjoyed by Lake Michigan boaters.

Optima Enrichment is a non profit 501c3 organization founded in 2003 by Brookfield Optometrist Randall Melchert and several others, and has been involved in philanthropic missions, like funding low income students to visit college campuses or helping with transportation of Honor Flight recipients. Their intent is to use volunteer help on relatively low safety risk projects inside the lighthouse, thus giving those volunteers purpose and a sense of giving back to their community. “Restoration” has many meanings in the lighthouse project.

“It’s been 47 years since the lighthouse has been inhabited and we’re excited to partner with community organizations to be able to open the Light to the public and help others experience our rich maritime history” said Randall Melchert.

The Milwaukee Breakwater lighthouse sits on the far south end of a detached mile long break wall that protects the Summerfest Grounds and Pier Wisconsin, and is a half-mile directly east of the Hoan Bridge Harbor opening. It is constructed from riveted steel and sits on a large concrete base in 35’ of water. It has been painted white since 1936. Inside it originally had a Living Room, Dining Room, Kitchen, and four keepers quarters.

The Fourth order Fresnel Lens that once stood in the tower is now on display in the Manitowoc Maritime Museum, but ideally would be returned for a future museum display component built into the lighthouse restoration project. The lighthouse now uses automated light and signaling equipment for navigation.

For more information or to donate online visit MilwaukeeBreakwaterLighthouse.org

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