Pierhead Lighthouse Fresnel lens removed, preserved at Kewaunee County Historical Center

KEWAUNEE, Wis. (WBAY) -- A piece of Kewaunee's history will now be accessible to everyone.

On Thursday, the Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse Fresnel Lens was removed and taken to the Kewaunee County Historical Center.

“We are figuring it dates back to 1890-1895, sometime in there, and it began as our distal range light in our community,” said Robin Nelson, Chairperson of the Kewaunee Lighthouse Committee.

“The Fresnel Lenses are very historical because they were the first source of illumination here on the Great Lakes,” said Lampist, Kurt Fosburg.

“The lighting for lighthouses, invented in 1822 by Augustin Fresnel in France, he came up with the system of focusing the beam of light. It's worked beautifully and wonderfully until technology caught up with it. Now it's essentially an obsolete technology.”

Fosburg is specially trained to take down and clean these fragile lenses.

The fixed fifth Fresnel lens is valued to be between $150-300,000.

“It's a thin bore slate glass, it's very brittle, it can break really easily, it can chip really easily, so that's why I'm here.”

The U.S. Coast Guard helped with the removal and replaced the lens with a much more efficient LED light

“The elements themselves are the worst thing for a Fresnel lens, ironically they used to be in a lighthouse forever and ever,but that's the worst place for them now,” said Fosburg.

After it’s cleaned, the lens will be on display at the Kewaunee County Historical Center, free from harmful UV rays and in a place where everyone can enjoy it.

“Our economic development was based off of all the maritime activity here, so we would like to keep that, preserve that, and remember those things,” said Nelson.

Nelson has been working on decommissioning the lens for four years.

The Historical Center will have an ice cream social on Saturday, June 8 to celebrate the addition of the lens.