Coast Guard Station Milwaukee History

Coast Guard Station Milwaukee has been a vital asset and established presence for the Milwaukee lakefront even before Congress' declaration of the Coast Guard on January 15, 1915. Station Milwaukee has undergone a name change and multiple relocations since its inception in 1878.

Station Milwaukee originated as "Life Saving Station No. 10." It was created for the volunteers of the Life Saving Service and was established in 1878. Life Saving Station No. 10 was located at the mouth of the Milwaukee River entrance. At the time, it was the fourth largest station in the District. In 1886, Life Saving Station No. 10 was relocated to Jones island. This new Shingle style station lasted for nearly 30 years. However, rising water levels mixed with the sewage treatment facility and caused health issues for the crew. The Milwaukee Sentinel illustrated the health concerns for the unsanitary waters in an article published May 13, 1915. The federal government intervened as plans for the creation of the Coast Guard were being established. The search for prospective land along the lakefront proved fruitful and construction began on the new station in July 1915.

On April 17, 1916, a new station was completed and ready for occupation in McKinley park. The new station was designated as Coast Guard Station Milwaukee after Congress' creation of the Coast Guard. Station Milwaukee was a three-story, rectangular, prairie style building; a style made famous by Frank Lloyd Wright and was distinguished by emphasis on the horizontal, low-pitched roof and cantilevered overhangs. A five-story tower and large boathouse accompanied the main building. The station underwent a couple remodeling projects over the years, including the demolition and creation of a new boathouse and metal signal tower. It also survived a small fire. Despite its successes, the station was abandoned sometime between 1970 and 1971, after yet another station was built. This new station was constructed and co-located with Sector Lake Michigan, where it currently operates.

After the station at McKinley park was abandoned, the building was inhabited by the Indian Community School. The school lasted from 1971-1980, but the building deteriorated over the years to the point of being condemned. Many attempts were made to restore and preserve the historic building. It was even designated a national landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. Unfortunately, all the attempts to save the building fell short and in late March 2008, the Coast Guard station at McKinley Park was demolished. A pavilion now stands in the place where the station was once located.