In Search of Lighthouses: Are there any in your area?

Cedar Point Lighthouse
Unknown to most Cedar Point visitors, a lighthouse was established at the amusement park in 1839 to mark the eastern approach to Sandusky Bay and Sandusky Harbor. The lighthouse standing today at the tip of the Cedar Point Peninsula, was built in 1862. The light, which was used for navigation until 1909, is located atop the lighthouse keeper’s 6-room limestone home. After the lights were discontinued, the Lighthouse Service and later the Coast Guard continued to maintain a presence at the site which then served as a buoy depot, a radio beacon station, and later a search and rescue boat station. A large red brick duplex was built in the 1920’s to house the families of the Commander and Executive Officers. This building remains intact, as does the boathouse/buoy shed. The old lighthouse was used as quarters and galley for enlisted personnel. The boat station was finally closed in 1975 and duties were transferred to the Marblehead Coast Guard station across the bay. In 1990, Cedar Point Amusement Park purchased the northwest corner of the peninsula from the United States Coast Guard. The lighthouse was restored in 2001 when Cedar Point introduced the cottages and cabins of Lighthouse Point.

Huron Harbor Lighthouse
The modern white steel light marks the entrance to the Huron Harbor. Its 72-foot-tall tower was built in 1936 on a pier that extends from the shore. F.P. Dillon and W.G. Will built two similar lighthouses the same year. Huron’s “sister” lighthouse stands in Conneaut. The light was formerly operated by remote control from a brick station on shore, and it had a lantern at the top. It was automated in 1972. The Huron Lighthouse is maintained by the United States Coast Guard. Although the lighthouse is not open for tours, the mile long pier is open to the public and is also a great fishing spot!

Marblehead Lighthouse
Built in 1821, the Marblehead Lighthouse is the oldest continuously operating light on the Great Lakes. The base of the tower was 25 feet in diameter, with walls five feet thick. It narrows to 12 feet at the top with walls that are two feet thick. Each night, the lighthouse keeper lit 13 whale oil lamps that were the original light fixture. The whale oil lamps were eventually replaced in 1858 by the light from a single kerosene lantern magnified by a Fresnel lens, which created a highly visible, fixed white light. With the turn of the century, new technology arose as well as structural changes including an additional 15 feet to the height of the tower. A clock-like mechanism was installed to rotate the lantern, creating the appearance of a brilliant flash of light every 10 seconds. In order to keep the lantern rotating, the lighthouse keeper was required to crank the weights every three hours through the night. An improved Fresnel lens with prism surfaces created an even more brilliant beacon. In 1923, an electric light replaced the kerosene lantern, improving the intensity of the signal. The lighthouse was automated in 1958.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has maintained the property surrounding the lighthouse since 1972 and accepted ownership of the Marblehead Lighthouse tower in 1998. The U.S. Coast Guard continues to operate and maintain the lighthouse beacon.
The lighthouse is open for tours Monday – Friday (1 – 4:45 pm), May – September. Tours are also given the second Saturday of the month, May – October.

Old Port Clinton Lighthouse
The small wooden lighthouse that stands at Brands Marina on the Portage River in Port Clinton is the top portion of a taller lighthouse that once guarded the west breakwater of the Portage River entrance between 1874 and 1964. It contained a single kerosene lamp that was visible for six miles. The lighthouse was removed from the breakwater in 1964 and relocated to its present location at Brands Marina, across from the Jet Express. The lighthouse was replaced with the now-familiar flashing red and green entrance lights. If you wish to visit the lighthouse, stop by Brands Marina located on the north side of the river and ask for directions. It can be viewed during regular hours of operation at the marina.

South Bass Island Lighthouse
Plans to build a lighthouse on the southwestern tip of South Bass Island were approved in 1892. In 1897, construction of the lighthouse was completed. In contrast to the typical lighthouse with a huge tower and small detached keeper’s house, the South Bass Island Lighthouse contained two and a half stories of living space, a full basement and a 60-foot attached tower. It was in operatation until 1962, guiding boats and ships that sailed along Lake Erie’s waters. The U.S. Coast Guard decided to automate the lighthouse and a steel tower with an electronic light was built on the property. The house was acquired by The Ohio State University and is currently used to conduct reserach. Although the lighthouse grounds are not open to the public, it is visible while approaching the island by ferry or boat and the University does host an annual open house. The original 1892 Fourth Order Fresnel Lens is displayed at the Lake Erie Islands Historical Society Museum on South Bass Island. The lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.

Vermilion Lighthouse
The first Vermilion Lighthouse was a wooden structure that was built in 1847. The lighthouse, not sturdy enough for long-term use, was rebuilt in 1859. A whale lamp was added. The lamp’s flame was surrounded by red glass, resulting in a red beam that, with the help of a Sixth Order Fresnel Lens, was visible from Lake Erie. The lighthouse was once again rebuilt in 1877. The new lighthouse stood 34 feet tall and had an oil lantern with a Fifth Order Fresnel Lens. In 1919, the oil lantern was replaced with an acetylene lamp. In 1929, it was discovered that the lighthouse was leaning toward the river and was considered unstable. Not long after the lighthouse had been dismantled, a steep-sided 18-foot steel pyramidal tower was erected. The new structure, called a “functional disgrace,” continued to shine a red light, but was automated. In 1992 the lighthouse was finally brought back to Vermilion. It serves not only as part of the Inland Seas Maritime Museum, but also as an active aid to navigation. Visitors are able to walk up to it to get a closer view.

The remains of other lighthouses can be seen on Turtle Island and West Sister Island. For more information or for a complete lighthouse brochure, contact our office (Lake Erie Shores & Islands Welcome Center) or Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Inc.

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