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Fresnel lens debuts at Kewaunee Historical Society

The fresnel lens from the Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse has a new home about two blocks from where it lit the harbor for almost a hundred years. The lens is now the centerpiece of the Kewaunee Historical Society collection. At the public unveiling, filmmaker Jake Heffernan gave an hour-long presentation on the process of decommissioning a fresnel lens. A special US Coast Guard team must be on hand with a lampist to move a lens. Heffernan notes there are fewer than a handful of lampists in the United States.


Fresnel lenses are brittle. They flake easy and do not take exposure to the elements well. With lighthouses now almost exclusively unmanned, to find lenses that are in good shape is extremely rare. They are highly sought after by museums across the country. Algoma and Kewaunee lighthouses saw their fresnel lenses removed on the same day in June. Algoma's lens is now down at a Milwaukee museum. Kewaunee is lucky to have retained theirs, on display at the History Center at 217 Ellis Street.


Jake Heffernan presenting


Audience at Kewaunee Historical Center September 7, 2019


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