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Photo, Print, Drawing Cana Island Light Station, Cana Island Road, Baileys Harbor, Door County, WI

[ Drawings from Survey HABS WI-376  ]

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[ Data Pages from Survey HABS WI-376  ]

About this Item


  • Cana Island Light Station, Cana Island Road, Baileys Harbor, Door County, WI


  • Historic American Buildings Survey, creator
  • U.S. Lighthouse Service
  • U.S. Coast Guard
  • Sanderson, Keith
  • Knudsen, Oscar
  • Pecor, Louis
  • Sanderson, C W
  • Grosskoff
  • Crockett, T J
  • Janda, Louis
  • Janda, Rosie
  • Door County Museum & Lighthouse Preservation Society
  • Door County Maritime Museum, sponsor
  • The Kubala Washatko Architects, Inc., contractor
  • Weiss, Donna, project manager

Created / Published

  • Documentation compiled after 1933


  • -  maritime
  • -  light stations
  • -  navigation
  • -  aids to navigation
  • -  lighthouses
  • -  Fresnel lenses
  • -  keeper's houses
  • -  oil houses
  • -  privies
  • -  sheds
  • -  Wisconsin--Door County--Baileys Harbor


  • -  Significance: The location of this island on the Lake Michigan coastline was a strategic position for the navigation of ships; consequently the Cana Island Light Station was constructed there in 1869. The collection of light station structures that reside on this island are modest and utilitarian, yet they still embody a distinctive character produced by the culmination of the breathtaking surroundings, as well as the craftsmanship and materials that went into these buildings. The light tower has been in ongoing use as a navigational aid for its entire one hundred and forty years, and is currently operated by the U.S. Coast Guard. The original French Third-Order Fresnel lens is still in places, although the lamp itself has had multiple equipment iterations. Also still in existence is the Keeper's residence, an oil house, a privy, and a storage shed, as well as a perimeter stone rubble wall. Through the years there have been a series of structures that have come and gone for various reasons, including a boathouse, a large barn (or garage), a small barn, an ice house, a summer kitchen, and stone wall archways. Keepers, Assistant Keepers, and their respective families resided at Cana Island during the shipping season, which usually occurred from April to December. during the winter months the families would go to live in town and the light station would be closed until the next spring. The Cana Island Light Station played an important role in the safe expansion of shipping and passenger travel on the Great Lakes. Its construction and association with regional events contributed to broad patterns of Wisconsin's history. The light tower is distinctive in style and characteristic of a type and period of construction important to the development of navigational aids situated on the Great Lakes. Cana Island Light Station serves as a testament to the years of service and moments of bravery exhibited by the men of the Lighthouse Service and the U.S. Coast Guard. While a great deal of their time was spent maintaining the light station and grounds, an enormous amount of time and energy went into keeping the beacon lit. First lit with lard oil, later with sperm whale oil, then mineral oil, the lights required the constant attention of the Keeper and his assistant. Life was made a little bit easier with the installation of oil vapor lights in 1910, acetylene lights in the 1920s, and finally electric automation in the 1940s. Life at a light station was neither easy nor glamorous; particularly in as remote a location as Cana Island was in the late 19th century. Constant watch was kept to assure that passenger and cargo craft passed by without incident. Two navigation disasters of note happened within the range of the Cana Island light. The first of these was in October 1919 when Keeper Oscar Knudsen and Assistant Keeper Louis Pecor, together with the Coast Guard crew at Baileys Harbor, provided assistance to the burning steamer, the Frank O'Connor. The second was the famed wreck of the steamer M.J. Bartelme, which became stranded just off Cana Island in the fall of 1928. A letter dated November 22, 1929 from T.J. Crockett, captain of the Bartelme, to the District Lighthouse Office in Milwaukee thanked the Keeper, Mr. C.W. Sanderson, his good wife Mrs. Sanderson, and Assistant Keeper Mr. Grosskoff for their assistance to saving the crew, and later helped while the Bartelme's crew salvaged what they could of the wreck after being ordered to abandon it. The fact that the Cana Island light tower and Keeper's residence remain largely intact and maintains high physical integrity is due mainly to the efforts of those civilians who occupied the property during the summer months and protected it from irreparable decay. Although little is known about the years during which the McCarthy family occupied the lighthouse, we have had first-hand accounts of the tireless work undertaken by the Janda family, volunteers of the Door County Maritime Museum & Lighthouse Preservation Society.
  • -  Survey number: HABS WI-376
  • -  Building/structure dates: 1869 Initial Construction
  • -  National Register of Historic Places NRIS Number: 76000201


  • Measured Drawing(s): 2

Call Number/Physical Location

  • HABS WI-376

Source Collection

  • Historic American Buildings Survey (Library of Congress)


  • Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Control Number

  • wi0720

Rights Advisory

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Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Historic American Buildings Survey, Creator, U.S. Lighthouse Service, U.S. Coast Guard, Keith Sanderson, Oscar Knudsen, Louis Pecor, C W Sanderson, et al. Cana Island Light Station, Cana Island Road, Baileys Harbor, Door County, WI. Wisconsin Door County Baileys Harbor, 1933. Documentation Compiled After. Photograph.

APA citation style:

Historic American Buildings Survey, C., U.S. Lighthouse Service, U.S. Coast Guard, Sanderson, K., Knudsen, O., Pecor, L. [...] Weiss, D. (1933) Cana Island Light Station, Cana Island Road, Baileys Harbor, Door County, WI. Wisconsin Door County Baileys Harbor, 1933. Documentation Compiled After. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Historic American Buildings Survey, Creator, et al. Cana Island Light Station, Cana Island Road, Baileys Harbor, Door County, WI. Documentation Compiled After. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.