As of May 18, Racine, Wisc., will shine a little brighter, and it’s all thanks to Ed Chiasson, owner of Selbyville-based Sea-Lites.
In recent days, Chiasson and his crew have been putting the finishing touches on their biggest project ever. His company has created 75 5-foot lighthouses and one 20-foot lighthouse modeled after the Wind Point Lighthouse located in Racine, along Lake Michigan.
The city, well-known for its artistic contribution will host “Lighten Up! In Downtown Racine,” a public art event wherein talented artists from the area will contribute their time and aptitude to decorate Chiasson’s many masterpieces. They will then be displayed around the Wisconsin city before being auctioned off in September. The larger 20-foot replica will be presented in the center of the city.
Although he’s never faced a project this size, Chiasson said he was thrilled when he was contracted in mid-January to take on this task. “We’ve been working nonstop,” he said, “but it’s been pretty amazing.”
His business has been crafting customized lighthouses since 1989, with replicates spanning all of North America. He’s fashioned immaculate models of Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse in Nova Scotia, Canada; the Barnegat Light Station in New Jersey; and the Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout lighthouses of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. And, of course, Assateague Island, Cape Henlopen and Fenwick Island lighthouses have been among favorites in this area.
“We build and ship lighthouses all over the country,” Chiasson said, “various models and sizes and styles from all over, from the Great Lakes, from the East Coast to the West Coast. I’ve even made a lighthouse from the Outer Banks for somebody in Kansas.”
A lot of preparation and research went into all the lighthouses that Chiasson has created, from basics such as patterns and colors, to miniscule details, such as the decorative corbels, doors and windows. “We put all the detail on there as close to the real thing as possible,” he said. Every lighthouse, which is powered by an electrical cord, is equipped with a working, revolving beacon up top, as well.
Every creation of Chiasson’s is hand crafted from fiberglass and masonry over a solid form core, including a waterproof exterior, grounded electric wiring and the highest quality paints and finishes, guaranteeing a creation that will last a lifetime, he said.
Sea-Lites has dealt with customers in both residential and commercial locations, from miniature versions as small as 3 feet, 5 inches, and some at 20 feet tall. Homeowners have requested Chiasson’s products to adorn gardens, yards and decks. Business owners have made purchases for restaurants, marinas, nautical stores and golf courses, designed to encourage customers to stop in.
Many models have even been personalized with an original color scheme or lettering, depending on the buyer’s preference. Chiasson works with many dealers across the country and oftentimes encounters repeat customers. But the large-scale project could result in a range of designs he’s never previously contemplated.
“There are going to be 75 individuals using their own style and flair on each one of these,” Chiasson said. “Each one will be unique. I expect people will really run wild with their imaginations.”
He added that the vast tastes would bring an array of elegance. “I anticipate all sorts of things,” he said. “Artists could cover them in paint for a nautical scene or tile. They might use glass, or hang flags from them. You can cover them up however you want, but you’ll still have the essence of the lighthouse. Whatever they do, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Since he first began almost two decades ago, Chiasson said he’s loved his business. “Lighthouses are so romantic and adventurous,” he said. “There’s a lot of mystery and stories behind them, and that’s why I’ve always liked them. They really make a statement, and they’re a lot of fun for people.”