Port Clinton’s ‘new’ lighthouse is 121 years old

The newest attraction on Ohio’s North Shore is 121 years old.

The fully restored Port Clinton Lighthouse, built in 1896, is now open to public tours Friday through Sunday between Memorial Day and Labor Day in Waterworks Park at 52 E. Perry St.

A group of local volunteers finished restoring the lighthouse in August 2016.

While not as eye-catching or as often-photographed as its big cousin, the Marblehead Lighthouse, Port Clinton’s 26-foot light has plenty of historic and maritime significance. It is the last remaining timber frame light on Lake Erie and only one of four remaining on the Great Lakes.

From noon to 4 p.m. on tour days, visitors pay a modest fee to climb the stairs and hear volunteer docents explain the importance of the light to local shipping and living. They can also step out on the galley deck for a spectacular view of Lake Erie.

The Fresnel lens that once guided ships in and out of the nearby Portage River remains in working order in the lantern room.

The current lighthouse is actually the second Port Clinton harbor light. The first dated from 1833 and was located at the corner of Adams and Perry streets. That original light was made of stone and towered 40 feet high. A stone-keepers’ house was just steps away. The original lighthouse was decommissioned in 1870 and demolished in 1899. The nearby keepers’ house was razed two years later.

For many years, a kerosene lantern with a ruby lens lit the “new” Port Clinton lighthouse. Electricity took over that job in 1926. The government decommissioned the lighthouse a few years later.

A local marina owner obtained the lighthouse and moved it to his business in 1952. It remained there until 2010, when a new marina owner transferred the aging structure to the non-profit Port Clinton Lighthouse Conservancy for rehabilitation and relocation to the waterfront.

Community activists took up the job of restoration. Using private donations and grants, the conservancy completed that work in 2014 and eventually moved the lighthouse to Waterworks Park.

A festival celebrating the history and rebirth of the Port Clinton Lighthouse is set for 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5 at the park.

Information is available at portclintonlighthouse.org

Categories: Ohio – Jane Beathard

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