Marblehead Lighthouse   Save
Marblehead Lighthouse
Description: Marblehead Lighthouse in Marblehead, Ohio, United States, is the oldest lighthouse in continuous operation on the United States side of the Great Lakes. It has guided sailors safely along the rocky shores of Marblehead Peninsula since 1822, and is an active aid to navigation. In 1819, the fifteenth U. S. Congress recognized the need for navigational aides along the Great Lakes, and set aside $5,000 for construction of a light tower at the entrance to Sandusky Bay. Contractor William Kelly built the 50 foot (15 m) tower of native limestone on the tip of the Marblehead Peninsula. The base of the tower is 25 feet (7.6 m) in diameter, with walls five feet (1.5 m) thick. It narrows to 12 feet (4 m) at the top with two-foot (0.6 m) thick walls. The turn of the century ushered in new technology as well as structural changes including the addition of another 15 feet (4.6 m) to the tower’s height. A clock-like mechanism was installed to rotate the lantern, creating the appearance of a brilliant flash of light every 10 seconds. This system required that the lighthouse keeper crank the weights every three hours through the night to keep the lantern turning. An improved Fresnel lens with prism surfaces created an even more brilliant beacon. An electric light finally replaced the kerosene lantern in 1923, dramatically increasing the intensity of the signal. During World War II, the lighthouse became strategically important for national defense. The last civilian lighthouse keeper resigned, and the United States Coast Guard assumed responsibility for the beacon in 1946. The beacon was automated in 1958. With its original finish tattered by time and harsh weather, the exterior of the lighthouse tower was given a fresh coat of new stucco the same year. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has maintained the property surrounding the lighthouse since 1972 and accepted ownership of the Marblehead Lighthouse tower in May 1998. The U.S. Coast Guard continues to operate and maintain the lighthouse beacon. Today’s 300 mm lens projects a green signal that flashes every six seconds and is visible for 11 nautical miles (20 km). The distinctive green distinguishes the lighthouse signal from white lights coming from air beacons. In 2001-2002 the state renovated the tower and keeper's house at a cost of $500,000. In 2004 the Fresnel lens was returned to the light station from the Marblehead Coast Guard Station, where it was previously on display. The Ottawa County Historical Society owns the original 1-story fieldstone keeper's house (3 miles (5 km) from the light on OH 163 in Marblehead. The lighthouse is now part of the 9 acre Marblehead Lighthouse State Park. The park features picnic tables and offers views of Lake Erie, Sandusky Bay, Kelleys Island and South Bass Island. The Marblehead Lighthouse Historical Society operates the Marblehead Lighthouse Museum in the old keeper's house View on Ohio Memory.
Image ID: SA1039AV_B08F08_036_001
Subjects: Lighthouses Ohio; Erie, Lake, Coast (Ohio); Marblehead Lighthouse (Ohio); National Register of Historic Places
Places: Marblehead (Ohio); Ottawa County (Ohio)