Never underestimate the power of the Fairport Harbor citizens of 1869. Their combined efforts took on The U.S. Secretary of Commerce with a writing campaign of determination and strength. Their main goal was to save their Lighthouse.
The original 1825 thirty foot tower was destined to be demolished in 1869 by the Coast Guard. The land underneath the tower had settled, damaging the structure and leaving it unstable and unsafe to tend. This would have left just the keeper’s quarters for the Coast Guard personnel to use. With the Secretary of Commerce’s reconsideration to allow the light to remain lit, a new structure would be built with the appropriated sum of $30,000 for a new tower and keeper’s quarters.
With the settling of the land underneath the old tower, new engineers were brought in by the newly appointed contractors to determine the best foundation for the structure.
With the settling of the land underneath the old tower, new engineers were brought in by the newly appointed contractors to determine the best foundation for the structure. They did not want to repeat the same mistake the original builder had made. By December 10, 1869, the light was removed and exhibited from a temporary tower, allowing the old structure to be demolished and a new foundation to begin.
The foundation itself was built by driving piles into the ground with their heads capped with a foot thick concrete slab. On top was a grillage of two courses of twelve inch timbers, followed by a limestone foundation extending ten feet into the ground and four feet above ground level. Construction would be suspended at this point. An Act passed July 10, 1870, would force the remaining balance of the appropriated funds, roughly in the amount of $9,000, to be transferred back to the Treasury. At that time, twenty nine courses of Berea sandstone had already been set in the tower. Then on March 3, 1871, Congress provided $10,000 for the completion of the project.
The new lighthouse, built of Berea sandstone, is gray-brown in color with four arched windows making their way to the top of the narrow rising tower. You will travel up sixty-nine steps to the top, and here you will find the parapet surrounded by an iron fence.
The new lighthouse, built of Berea sandstone, is gray-brown in color with four arched windows making their way to the top of the narrow rising tower. You will travel up sixty-nine steps to the top, and here you will find the parapet surrounded by an iron fence. The original third-order Fresnel lens was transferred back to the new sixty-eight foot tower March 10, 1871, and lit. Minor repairs were made to the lighthouse over the next 20 years, but the deterioration continued to affect the lighthouse structure which had now become an eyesore, yet The U.S. Secretary of Commerce consented to allow the lighthouse to remain standing. This lighthouse played a vital role in the commerce and freedom surrounding the area and deserved to stay. This lighthouse remained in use until 1925 when a new lighthouse was built on the west breakwater.
Today, the lighthouse still stands, and thanks to the people of Fairport Harbor along with the Fairport Harbor Historical Society, it is preserved as the country’s First Maritime Museum in Ohio and the United States. It is filled with sextants, compasses, pieces of old vessels, logbooks, photographs, ships wheels, ghost stories and more. Visit the museum, and you can take a journey through the same area that runaway slaves once hid in before claiming their freedom.
In June 1917, with an appropriation of $42,000, a new construction of a combination light and foghorn station would begin and placement would be at the west breakwater pier head.
In June 1917, with an appropriation of $42,000, a new construction of a combination light and foghorn station would begin and placement would be at the west breakwater pier head. With the beginning of WWI, delays took place in 1922 and 1923 with the construction. The structure soon began construction in Buffalo N.Y. Here, an iron frame of steel studding, floor joists, rafter, cornices, side and roof plating were built 28 foot square and held together permanently by rivets and bolts.
The prefabricated structure traveled 147 miles secured by steel cables aboard the steamer Woton to its current location at the mouth of the Grand River in Fairport Harbor. The interior and mason finish work would be completed with the lens and lantern room installed at the harbor site. This lighthouse station has a forty-two foot tower with an attached two-story keeper’s quarters. The tower stretches above the structure’s reddish-brown metal roof just above the house’s peak. A square parapet with railing sits on top of the tower’s small windowed room. This picturesque structure along the breakwater was first lit on June 9, 1925.
The lighthouse went up for auction in 2005, 2009, and finally in 2011 since all previous offers went into default. The third auction, June 17, 2011, began with an opening bid of $32,000 and ended with a final bid of $72,010 on July 17. The third auction finally awarded ownership three weeks later to Sheila Consual, the second highest bidder, with the winning bidder backing out.
Today, the structure is undergoing renovations by Sheila Consual from top to bottom with repair to windows, walls, and flooring. Modern electricity and plumbing are to be installed along with a fully equipped kitchen, a casual living area, and three bedrooms. Sheila Consual is making it her summer lake house.
Because of the National Historic Preservation Act of 2000, the lighthouse would continue to be used as an active vital aid to navigation in and out of the harbor. Today, the lighthouse is now fully automated; the original Fresnel lens has been replaced with a modern optic.
You can visit the West Breakwater Lighthouse with a journey on the breakwater.
Next we travel to Marblehead where a Revolutionary War Veteran hero would be appointed its first keeper.