STURGEON BAY, Wis. (WFRV) — Saturday morning, The James F. Kress Maritime Lighthouse Tower was officially christened with a bottle of champagne.
“When they christen ships, there’s still a lot of work to be done,” Kevin Osgood, Executive Director of the Door County Maritime Museum said. “They launch the hull into the water, it floats, it can do a basic thing, but it is not ready to do its complete and total mission yet, and that’s our tower.”
The latest addition to the museum is still a work in progress.
“This is a ten chapter story, and over the course of the next year, we’re going to build more exhibits and add more exhibits to the building,” Osgood explained.
Eight exhibits are in the works for the second through ninth floors of the tower.
Saturday, the crowning jewel of the structure opened to the public: the view.
“The tenth floor is our working waterfront,” Osgood said. “That’s where everyone gets an image of what’s going on, you can see everything from fishing boats to Great Lakes freighters and recreational boating.”
Ground broke on the project in November 2019, but the tower has been in the works for much longer than that.
“First time I think I saw some drawings for it were about 2001,” former Executive Director Jon Gast said. “So we’re looking at about 20 years from the original concept of it.”
“We needed more exhibit space,” Bob Desh, another former Executive Director said. “We have all kinds of things in the collection that we could never display, and we have a pretty small footprint here, so the only way to go is up.”
The museum has reached new heights, but it is still in need of a leg up: $1.4 million is needed to pay for the tower.
An anonymous donor has set up a challenge grant: matching donations under $1,000 up to $50,000.
“This is a community project, and this represents the heartbeat of this community, the shipbuilding and the maritime legacy, so having something set up like this with small donations is just the perfect way to top off the day,” Osgood said.
All 10 floors of the tower are expected to be ready for viewing in Spring 2022.
The Maritime Museum plans to hold a Grand Opening to mark that milestone.