SHEBOYGAN — Sheboygan Breakwater Lighthouse is a well-known staple in the community, but what many don’t know is the seemingly pristine, bright-red landmark is a canvas for graffiti.
Robert Grunwald, First Class Petty Officer at the Two Rivers station of the U.S. Coast Guard, which owns and maintains the Sheboygan lighthouse, said the station had no idea there was graffiti covering the back and no records indicate anyone repainting the front.
“Whoever did, took it upon themselves to throw some paint up for us, which we appreciate,” Grunwald said. “But there’s only so much a person can do.”
Grunwald said every three years the station sends people to check the lighthouses they own. Because the station has fewer than a dozen people, random checks aren’t completed outside of the three-year rotation.
Grunwald made the trip to Sheboygan in 2021 and has no record of any graffiti needing to be covered.
While the graffiti itself occurred in the last two years, the mysterious repainting is only months old.
Clayton and Adison Spray, who walk their dogs out to the lighthouse almost every day, said they noticed the fresh coat of paint in late July. Adison said she remembered thinking the fresh coat looked nice, then looking around the back and being surprised to see the graffiti still covering the metal.
“It looks nicer when it’s painted and not graffitied,” she said. “Although not a ton of the graffiti is super vulgar, so it’s not that bad.”
Clayton added there are some vulgar sections, and Adison agreed.
Overlapping the large graffiti designs are messages including, “get therapy, kids” with the answer “I dont wanna” accompanied by a smiley face; “Mama Jay estan Aqui;” a crossed-out heart containing “A + M” with “nvm she ghosted me LOL” beside it; and “Trump for prison 2024.”
Among the messages are also genitalia and curse words like a large “f—” spray painted in large, green letters along the top.
“It’s not uncommon for structures like that to create some attention from some-less-than-nicer people and throw some graffiti up onto our lighthouse,” Grunwald said.
When Clayton heard the Coast Guard had no idea who covered the graffiti on the front of the lighthouse, he said whoever it was is a “community fixer.” People are out by the lighthouse a lot, he said, so he’s glad someone is cleaning it up.
“I think that’s really interesting,” he said. “Sort of like vigilante community upkeep.”
Despite only planning on visiting the lighthouse every few years, Grunwald said if they receive word something needs immediate attention, it can be remedied. He encourages people to reach out to the Two Rivers station if they notice destruction or defacement of the lighthouse. The station can be reached at 920-793-2260.
The Coast Guard isn’t the only group to be unaware of the graffiti. While those who brave the climb around the lighthouse can see the paint, community members like lifelong Sheboygan resident Eileen Simenz, owner of Salon Sasé, never knew there was graffiti on the back of the structure.
“I am so surprised,” she said. “I never knew it. … It looks beautiful this way”
Sheboygan Breakwater Lighthouse has been a staple of the Sheboygan view of Lake Michigan for more than a century, with various iterations built since 1839 and the current metal tower built in 1904, according to Lighthouse Friends. It was moved from North Pier to its currently location in 1915.
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