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AMID CURTAINS of rain and fog, a modern-day version of a classic sailing ship scuds past the Chicago Harbor Light. It’s a scene reminiscent of the 19th century, when the lighthouse, just offshore, began guiding ships into the city’s harbor.

When the weather is clear, the lighthouse’s backdrop is the soaring skyscrapers of downtown Chicago and the Navy Pier, a tourist-beloved complex of restaurants and shops complete with a Ferris wheel.

The lighthouse sits serenely across the harbor from all the hubbub, perched at the end of a long breakwater. Built in 1893, its light still signals mariners as it flashes out into Lake Michigan.

The Chicago Harbor Light isn’t open to visitors, but tour boats putter past it and sightseers snap countless photos — when the scene isn’t hidden in the drear.

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Kristin R. Jackson is The Seattle Times NWTraveler editor. Contact her at