Monday, June 2, 2014

Remarkable Lake County -- 2nd Annual Dual Lighthouses Tour this week

Two of our county's best kept secrets are approximately .8 miles apart on the banks of the Grand River.  One historical structure was built in 1825 and shone for 100 years, the other arrived via steamer in 1921, was commissioned in 1925, became a private residence just two years ago and celebrates its 89th birthday this coming weekend.  The brief history of each historical structure follows.

The Grandon Lighthouse on the Grand River  ( Fairport Lighthouse)  1825-1925

The Great Lakes were traversed by the aborigines for a long period prior to the arrival of the Europeans.  Native America tribes dotted the coastlines of Lake Erie for many centuries.  It is indeed somewhat remarkable that Lake Erie was the last of the five to come under the rule of the white man.  Grandon (1812) located midway between Cleveland and Ashtabula was once the gateway to the Western Reseerve.  Grandon's importance to Great Lakes shipping increased in 1803 when the new state of Ohio was formed from land relinquished by Connecticut and Virginia.  The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 doubled its importance as a refueling and commercial hub.  Grandon's lighthouse era was at hand.

Jonathan Goldsmith, noted architect and Hiram Wood were awarded the contract in 1825 for a lighthouse to be located on the east bank of the Grand River.  The original brick tower was 30' high with 3' thick supporting walls at the base.  A two story keeper's dwelling was included.  A 1871 award by Congress totaling $30,000 provided for a replacement build.  That lighthouse, keeper dwelling and third-order fresnel lens remained in service thru 1925. The tower and dwelling were the first to be saved from the wrecking ball in the U.S.  Both were also part of the first maritime museum to be on a lighthouse reservation in the country.  Since 1945 the site has been maintained by volunteers of the Fairport Harbor Historical Society as a marine museum.  The lens, lifesaving car, USLSS / USCG artifacts and much more are on display to the public.  Additionally, Fairport histories of the UGRR, Civil War, Mormon Migration and its place in the 19-20th c. Industrial Era are shared.

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The Fairport West Breakwater Lighthouse  1925-

The Fairport Harbor West Breakwater Light was finished in June 1925.  It is situated at the mouth of the Grand River and was constructed as a replacement to the original Grandon / Fairport Harbor Lighthouse.  In June 1917, Congress appropriated $42,000 for the construction of a new breakwater combination light and fog signal station.  The outbreak of WWI delayed the construction for several years.  During that time the citizens of Fairport rallied to save their lighthouse from the funding monies allocated for its destruction.  On June 21, 1921 the steamer Wotan arrived in Fairport with the prefabricated iron frame, steel studding, floor beams, rafters, roof plating, cornices and such.  Constructed in Buffalo, NY as were two other Lake Erie lighthouses of the era, the 147 mile journey was phase one of the project.  Interior masonry and lantern room finish work took another four years to complete.  On June 9, 1925 the West Breakwater Lighthouse was illuminated for the first time.  The lighthouse station was maintained by the nearby USCG Station Fairport crew until 2012 when it was sold to a private owner.  The 42' dwelling is now a private residence while the third story lantern room remains an active navigational aid and is still under federal / USCG possession.

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A private showing of both lighthouses is scheduled for June 6, 2014...information may be found on the Fairport Harbor Lighthouse and Marine Museum website.  Deadline for sign-up will be 5pm this Wednesday.  You may call the museum at 440-354-4825 on Wednesday from 1-5pm too.

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