The Ohio Toledo Harbor Lighthouse is an active lighthouse that is helping boats navigate between Lake Erie and the Maumee River. It marks the entrance to the Toledo, Ohio harbor. It sits on a stone crib which is 20 feet deep that was completed in 1904 by the United States Army Corps of Engineers as a tiny island base for the lighthouse. It is about seven miles north of Maumee Bay State Park.
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Ohio Toledo Harbor Lighthouse History
The tower is a three story building of buff brick in the Romanesque style and is unique among the lighthouses of the Great Lakes. Some call the building a gingerbread house. The frame is steel and there is an attached fog signal annex of one story. The total height to the top of the tower is 85 feet. On May 23, 1904, the light was turned on for the first time.
Ohio Toledo Harbor Lighthouse Goes Electric
The light rotated because of a weighted clockwork mechanism. In 1966, when an electric motor was connected to rotate the light, there was little need for human involvement. As a security measure, a mannequin was stationed in an upper window of the dwelling. It stands motionless facing the lake and has inspired stories of mariners seeing it beckon to them. This is considered the origin of the legend of the phantom light keeper. The original Fresnel lens, which was made in France and put into place in 1904, was removed in 1995 and can be seen today at COSI which is a science museum for children in Toledo.
Originally maintained by the U.S. Lighthouse Service, it is today maintained by the Coast Guard. The living quarters where the keeper and his assistant, along with their families, is empty. The only resident is Sarah, a mannequin with a blond wig who sits in a second story window. When new officers are posted at Toledo, they make it a point to visit Sarah and sign her shirt.
The site was closed to the public and still used as an aid to navigation. There is a 300 mm lens that is fed by solar cells. Twice every year, Coast Guardsmen clean the lens and make sure it is in good condition along with the solar panels and backup batteries.
As part of its 2004 centenary celebration, the Ohio Toledo Harbor Lighthouse was renovated and opened for tours when the weather permits. The construction is so sound, that even the maintenance log book inside the building has remained completely dry for decades. Large stones have been placed around the original crib to protect against the storms for which western Lake Erie is famous. It is considered such a unique and attractive building on its tiny island that it is the subject for many artists and photographers.