South Bass Light Station overlooks western Lake Erie
on South Bass Island. It operated from 1897 to 1962.
BASS ISLAND, Ohio ó Most visitors to party-happy
Put-in-Bay donít realize that there is an old lighthouse
on the island, one with its own ghosts.
South Bass Light Station is tucked on the islandís
southwest corner. Itís not far from the Miller Boat Line
Ferry dock. But most ferry passengers head the other way,
into town for fun at one of Ohioís top travel
red-brick lighthouse with its 60-foot-high tower operated
from July 1897 to October 1962 at a site called Parkerís
Point off Langram Road in Put-in-Bay Township. For those
65 years, it operated from early March through late
December, the Lake Erie shipping season.
lens could produce a fixed red signal visible for up to 13
miles from its bluff-top location. It never had a fog
signal or horn.
is located between the lighthouse on Green Island to the
west and the Marblehead Lighthouse to the east. It helped
guide boats on the southern passage through the Lake Erie
islands between Sandusky and Port Clinton.
10-sided lantern reportedly came from Gibraltar, Mich.,
and the Fresnel lens from France. It was originally fueled
with oil, later converted to electricity.
is owned by Ohio State University and is listed on the
prestigious National Register of Historic Places. The
university acquired the lighthouse, outbuildings and three
acres of land in 1967 from the federal government. It has
used the property with nearly 900 feet of shoreline in
support of academic programs at Stone Laboratory on
Gibraltar Island at Put-in-Bay.
lighthouse was replaced in 1962 by the U.S. Coast Guard
with an automated light in a scaffolding-like tower next
to the old lighthouse. The lens was removed and is now
found in the Lake Erie Islands Historical Society Museum
South Bass Light Station is different from your typical
lighthouse; itís attached to a stylish 2 1/2-story Queen
Anne-style house with red bricks and a slate roof. There
are three bedrooms, a full basement and antiques from the
Cooke Mansion on Gibraltar Island.
Cooke was President Abraham Lincolnís Civil War
financier. He built his 15-room mansion on Gibraltar
Island in 1865. Today it is slowly being refurbished.
South Bass Light Station looks the same as it always has,
except for the addition of screened-in porches.
of the historical records associated with the lighthouse
were lost in a fire at a storage facility in Washington,
Erie is eroding the bluffs and inching its way toward the
old lighthouse, where reports of ghosts frequently pop up.
The most likely candidate for the wayward spirit is
reportedly Harry Riley, the first lighthouse keeper, who
went insane and died in a state hospital in 1899.
possibility is island visitor Harry Anderson, who was
quarantined because of an outbreak of smallpox and
committed suicide by jumping from a dock into Lake Erie in
South Bass Lighthouse is one of only three Lake Erie
lighthouses open to visitors. There are 19 old lighthouses
on the lake in Ohio.
has been open to the public since 2007. It is 42 steps to
the top, and the last eight are not easy as you maneuver
through the opening in the wooden deck.
best views from atop the lighthouse are to the south:
three miles across the lake to Catawba Island. Port
Clinton is to the west and Marblehead to the east.
are available from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays
from June to August. You can also arrange a tour from
April through November. Admission is $3 for adults and $1
for children 6 to 12. The grounds are open from dawn to
dusk for free.
markers are stone slabs with the letters: USLHE for United
States Light House Establishment, a federal agency created
in 1789 by the first Congress. It later became the U.S.
Lighthouse Board and later the Bureau of Lighthouses.
allocated $8,600 to build the lighthouse. The federal
government bought the land from Mary and Alfred Parker.
more information, contact Kelly Dress at Ohio Stateís
Stone Lab at 419-285-1800.
is another Lake Erie lighthouse open to visitors:
Marblehead Lighthouse State Park on the northeast corner
of the Marblehead Peninsula.
is the oldest lighthouse in continuous use on the Great
Lakes. It is 182 years old and is a Lake Erie icon. The
limestone tower has appeared on postage stamps and on Ohio
license plates. It is on the National Register of Historic
was originally 50 feet tall, later raised to 67 feet. Its
base is 25 feet in diameter with walls that are five feet
thick. It narrows to 12 feet at the top with
two-foot-thick walls. Youíll walk 77 steps to the top.
light at the mouth of Sandusky Bay in Ottawa County began
operations on Rocky Point in 1822 fueled by whale oil. It
was converted to kerosene and later to electricity, and
automated in 1958. It had 15 keepers, including two women.
now produces a green signal that flashes every six seconds
and is visible for 11 miles. The state of Ohio took
ownership of the lighthouse in 1972, and it became Ohioís
73rd state park in May 1998.
1998, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has
invested more than $3 million to rehabilitate the
lighthouse and the keeperís house. There is a small
museum in the old keeperís house at the base, operated
by the Marblehead Lighthouse Historical Society. It
features the original Fresnel lens which magnified the
light of whale oil lamps. The specialized, curved glass
lens created a highly visible fixed white light.
first keeper was Benajah Wolcott, a Revolutionary War
veteran and an early settler of Marblehead. He was paid
$350 a year. Nightly, he would light 13 whale oil lamps.
Metal reflectors helped project the light across the lake.
built a limestone house 3 miles away at 9999 Bayshore
Road. It is the oldest house in Ottawa County and is
managed by the Ottawa County Historical Society. For
information, call 419-798-5832 or see