The Grosse Point lighthouse played a significant role in the development of maritime commerce on the Great Lakes. Located in Evanston, Illinois, it was the leading historic navigational aid into the port of Chicago, helping make it one of the most important inland cities to the shipping industry. In 1870, with more ship traffic annually than New York and San Francisco combined, Chicago was the largest center of export for agricultural products in the U.S. and a major distribution center for industrial products from the East. With the increase in maritime traffic, the natural hazards of Chicago's shoreline made docking large ships at the port a risky venture. Larger vessels had difficulty getting into harbor and it was not unusual for cargo and passengers to be ferried to the main land in small boots. While on untold number of ships had been lost or damaged on the Great Lakes, it was ultimately the loss of the Lady Elgin in waters near Grosse Point that signaled a need for change in how ships approached Chicago's port. In September of 1860, heading to Milwaukee, the overcrowded ship attempted to navigate Lake Michigan through thick fog and strong winds. As the ship passed north of Grosse Point, the steamer collided with the schooner Augusta. Approximately three hundred lives were lost in the accident. By morning, bodies and ship debris littered the Evanston shoreline, heightening public outcry for a navigational·aid. Construction of Grosse Point Light Station began in 1872 and was completed in 1873, though the lighthouse did not begin operation until March of 1874.