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Port Washington 1835 to 1985

A community is founded,   pp. 4-21

Page 8

Once a commercial harbor, with
limited recreational uses, the Port
Washington harbor today has one
of the best marinas on Lake
Michigan while still catering to
commercial uses. The west slip,
lower left, and the north slip,
center, were built before the turn
of the century, the outer
breakwaters in the 1930s, and the
small boat harbor in 1980s.
Photo by Vern Arendt
Fishing for Fun and Profit
Eventually three commercial piers were built off
the shore at Port Washington to serve the set-
tlements thriving shipping interests. The first pier,
located at the foot of Jackson Street, was built by
either Wooster Harrison or Solon Johnson around
1843, and was known as the North Pier or Old Pier.
Blake's Pier was constructed sometime between
1848 and 1856 at the foot of Pier Street by Barnum
Blake, a lumberman who also commissioned the
construction of a small cargo schooner which
was built on the city shores. The schooner lost at
sea in 1898. The third, the South Pier was located
at the site of the present south breakwater, and
was owned by Lyon Silverman, who also served as
an early sheriff.
The community was a bustling lake port from
the mid ninteenth century untif the early twentieth
century. Many of the early settlers of the area
disembarked from the schooners which docked at
the piers, where the ships were loaded with local
products for delivery elsewhere. Logs of ships' ar-
rivals and departures were not kept until 1876, but
in that year, 350 steamers and 460 sailing vessels
were recorded as being frequenters of the Port
Washington harbor. Passenger ships docked on a
regular schedule. The ships were one of the
primary means of transportation until the arrival
of the railroad and the electric railway. For many
years the lake was the town's main link with the
outside world.
Efforts to create a protected harbor were begun
when the Federal Government, concerned about
the 60 mile distance separating the deep water
ports of Milwaukee and Sheboygan, authorized
funds for the development of an artificial harbor
at Port Washington in 1870. Upon the completion
of the dredging of what is now the west slip,
residents were hopeful of creating even greater
water born commerce. However, it soon became
apparent that the harbor was still not safe from
the roiling torrents of waves and water every time
Lake Michigan was overtaken by a storm. Each
time there was a strong northeast wind, high seas
would wash out portions of the harbor and its
Attempting to correct the problem, the Federal
Government agreed to finance construction of the
north slip, designed to dispel damaging wave ac-
tion. But this effort also failed. Many times, after
serious storms, the harbor had to be rebuilt,
dismaying both the designers and the townspeo-
Lack of any harbor basin and natural land pro-
tection prevented Port Washington from ever
becoming a major port of call. Regardless of that
fact, a steady commerce was maintained at its
piers for many years.
In 1929, Federal funds were again made

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