Thursday, June 9, 2011

Fairport Harbor - Northeastern Ohio's Best Kept Secret

Surveyed in 1812 as Grandon and incorporated as Fairport Harbor in 1836, this little village situated on the corner of the Grand River and Lake Erie may be NE Ohio's least known hidden gem.  Two museums, a 21 acre pristine beach, a village port authority, the only lakefront restaurant outside of Cleveland for over twenty miles, and many tourism / community sponsored cultural events make Fairport a destination not to be missed.

The iconic Fairport Lighthouse and Marine Museum is located at 129 Second St on the Lake bluff.  Built in 1825 by reknown Western Reserve architect Jonathan Goldsmith, the lighthouse stood witness to much of Ohio's early history.  The lighthouse was rebuilt in 1871 and stands today as a reminder to days past.  Since 1945, the volunteers of the Fairport Harbor Historical Society have maintained the tower, keeper's dwelling and outdoor structures.  The foremast of the US Michigan (1843), a working foghorn, the original third order lens,  and USLSS/USCG artifacts are on display.  Primary sources from the village history and nautical relics of the Great Lakes also await visitors.  On any Wednesday, Saturday, or Sunday from 1-6pm one may even climb the 69 steps of the tower and view the freighters that still stop in weekly.

What began as an idea in 2002 became a reality just five years later when the Finnish Heritage Museum opened its doors to the public.  Housed in the 1922 building that originally served as a Police Station, volunteer Fire Department and most recently a Senior Citizen Center, the museum is located at 301 High Street and is open Saturdays 10-3pm.  Monthly programming, outstanding cultural displays and genial volunteers help immerse visitors into a unique Finnish experience.  Recent acquisitions to the museum include cultural family costumes and the Tuuri Bakery master kantele maker.

At the base of the lighthouse hill on Huntington Avenue ( named after local resident and Ohio Governor Sam Huntington) is the Lake Metroparks Fairport Harbor Beach.  Twenty one acres of pristine beach and a beachfront boating harbor await visitors by land or lake.  Metroparks beach programming include a Spirit of America boating program for teenagers, public kayak, sailing, jetski/PWC (classes and experiences) as well as beach adventure camps for children.

From a village tourism and community programming aspect, Fairport has much to offer year in and year out.  The annual Mardi Gras on July 4th weekend features a slice of Americana.  The village parade and the beachfront festival should not be missed.  Village concerts, Pirate's Day, Perch Fest, a Lenten Masquerade Ball, a Library Yard Sale, September Community Days, December's Harbor Holidays and Grinch visit, and this weekend's Village Valuables Garage Sale ( lighthouse, village park, neighborhood streets) all offer visitors a distinctive taste of village life.

Fairport Harbor- another hidden gem as you travel the roadways of Lake County!

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