2016 marks the 226rd birthday of the United States Coast Guard. In 1790 our young government had many unpaid bills, most a result of the Revolutionary War. Established in that same year was the Revenue Cutter Service- charged with the mission of collecting tariffs and customs fees. A secondary mission was to assist ships in distress. 1848 saw the formation of the United States Life Saving Service. Comprised essentially of volunteer crews the organization merged with the Cutter Service as a means to protect and serve the interests of the East Coast ports. The USLSS was a disorganized conglomeration of life saving stations until 1871 when Sumner Kimball came to office. By 1874 stations where added in Maine, North Carolina, Texas and by 1876 even the Great Lakes. Once again, Ohio’s smallest county played a major role in American History. This time it was Fairport that assumed a leading role in maritime history.
Station Fairport was completed in May 1876 on the east bank of the Grand River. George Francis Babcock was appointed and remained for the next 22 years. Babcock was part of nearly 300 rescues on Lake Erie. He even took the initiative to move the station to the west bank of the Grand River when local impediments hindered launching and rescue duties. Station Fairport has remained there ever since. Capt. N. Rasmussen succeeded Babcock at the time of his death in 1899 and remained in charge until the formation of the USCG in 1915. The boat ramp and launch was added to Station Fairport in 1901. Improvements were made in 1921. Channel widening in 1938 necessitated another shifting of the footprint. The station served as a training center during WWII. A last footprint change occurred in the 1950’s.
One final change at the west bank of the Grand River began in 2013. USCG Station Fairport had served for nearly one hundred years with minimal changes. However soaring costs mandated replacing the historic station with a new station. Conceived in 2008, it took nearly five years before a complete remodel was begun. Between 11-16 million dollars was allocated to the new station which serves as a major maintenance / repair hub for the Ninth District. Demolition of the former station was begun in May of 2013. The frame of the new boathouse and the USCG quarters took a year to finish. The current station was dedicated in August 2014 completion date. The USCG missions of search and rescue, law enforcement, aiding in navigation, and marine safety remain in full vigor as change dots the former station landscape.
Views of the new station construction are easily possible from the government pier on the east bank or from Headlands State Park. USLSS / USCG artifacts, station histories, archival photos, and USCG displays are found at the Fairport Harbor Lighthouse and Marine Museum. For those wishing to view the station first-hand, Saturday, May 21st will be an open house. This free event will run from 10 am to 2 pm and include tours of the new station and both rapid response boats as well as various site specific demonstrations. The station is located at 2 Coast Guard Road - St. Rt. 44 N - right of Headlands State Park entrance.