The Marblehead Lighthouse is the oldest active light tower on the Great Lakes. It has guided sailors along the rocky shores of the Marblehead Peninsula and through Lake Erie’s unpredictable waters since 1822.
In 1819, 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. Constructed in 1821 by contractor William Kelly, the 50-foot tower of native limestone on the tip of the Marblehead Peninsula has changed very little throughout the years. The original whale oil lamps were replaced in 1858 by the light from a single kerosene lantern magnified by a fourth-order Fresnel lens (which is now on display at the Marblehead Coast Guard Station). In 1897, fifteen feet of brick construction was added to the top of the tower, increasing its height to sixty-five feet. Also, a mechanism was installed to rotate the light, giving it an intermittent signal. An electric light replaced the kerosene lantern in 1923, dramatically increasing the candlepower of the signal.
After World War II, the last civilian lighthouse keeper resigned, and the U. S. Coast Guard assumed responsibility for the beacon. The light was automated in 1958.
During the Civil War, more than 10,000 Confederate soldiers were imprisoned on nearby Johnson's Island. Diaries kept during that time indicate that many of them gazed upon Marblehead's light, and dreamed of escaping to their homes in the South.
More recently, it had the distinction of representing Lake Erie in the U.S. Postage Stamp series of Great Lakes Lighthouses.
The Crib Lights - Toledo Shipping Channel - from the 1950's
Turtle Island Lighthouse in Maumee Bay / pictures, information & history page
Toledo Harbor Light in Maumee BayGo back to the Ohio Lighthouses index page