Lightship 57 (1891)
Lightship 57
By The Numbers
Lives Lost
Depth (ft)
Service History

The wooden two masted propeller Lightship No. 57, also known as LV57,was built in Toledo, Ohio by Blythe Craig Shipbuilding Company in 1891 at a cost of $14,225. She was one of three federal vessels designed for use during the navigational season as an experiment to avoid the high cost of a permanent lighthouse. The vessel was moored in place using a 5 ton sinker and 2 inch chain.

Her design description is as follows: "Wood framed & planked; white oak fastened with 5/8" square iron spikes; 2 masts, daymark on fore; spencer mast aft of main for riding sail; stack on deckhouse amidships. She was illuminated by a cluster of 3 oil-burning lens lanterns hoisted to each masthead. Fog Signal: 6" steam whistle, hand operated bell. The vessels maximum speed was8 knots." Over the years, constructional defects were corrected and fog and submarine bells added.

She was stationed from 1891 to 1923 at Gray's Reef in northeastern Lake Michigan about 18 miles west of the Mackinac Bridge. Grays Reef itself is a ridge of rock and with increasing ship traffic it was deemed necessary to place Lightship 57 nearby to make the area safer.
Final Voyage

The Lightship 57 was retired from lightship duty in 1923 at the age of 32 years. The vessel was sold in 1924 and was no longer in the federal government's records.
"In 1924 she was condemned and dismantled and brought to Milwaukee and lay in Norwegian Alley several years. She was marked Gray's Reef on sides. Later taken to South Shore Beach, Milwaukee, south of Russell Avenue, where she was used as a clubhouse (starting in 1928) several years and then wrecked by a storm. The wreck ...was seen against the 1913 seawall by Russ Sommer, Ray Glischand and others of South Shore Yacht Club. The bow is to the north and the stern to the south."

The Milwaukee Journal of 11/28/1926 reported her to have been bought by a junk dealer who "removed the pig iron and sold it with all else removable and salable."

Lightship 57 is the only known example of a light ship left in Wisconsin waters.

" Underwater divers discovered the Lightship 57 about 600 feet south of South Shore Park's northern tip right along the shore. Cooper said the ship, parts of which were found poking through the lake's floor, was buried under sand and silt in 6 to 12 foot deep water."
Confirmed Location     Unconfirmed location
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