A close-up view of the Toledo Harbor Lighthouse
By Dominique King

A close-up view of the Toledo Harbor Lighthouse

It can be tough to get a great photo of the Toledo Harbor Lighthouse because it sits five miles north of the Lake Erie shore at Maumee Bay State Park, so I was thrilled when I recently got the opportunity to cruise out to the lighthouse via boat and take photos.

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Few people had the opportunity to view the lighthouse from such a close vantage point until the Toledo Harbor Lighthouse Preservation Society began offering public tours to the lighthouse just last summer.

Periodic tours help finance the Society’s ambitious preservation and restoration plans for the lighthouse, as well as answering the dreams Great Lakes lighthouse fans like me who longed for a great view of the light station.

Our tour launched on a sunny morning from the marina at the Maumee Bay State Park Resort, and we arrived at the light after a leisurely 30-minute boat ride.

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This architecturally interesting Romanesque-style lighthouse, built in 1904, replaced an earlier lighthouse on nearby Turtle Bay Island. Keepers manned the lighthouse until its automation in 1966.

The Toledo Harbor Lighthouse Preservation Society formed with the approach of the lighthouse’s centennial year in 2004. Ideas about honoring the centennial year turned into a comprehensive restoration plan for the site after the transfer of the lighthouse ownership from the U.S. government to the Society in 2006.

This lighthouse’s artificial island-location makes preservation efforts particularly challenging.

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The cost estimate for the restoration is $1.5 million, and the Society split the job into three phases.

Phase One, funded by a $638,000 in grants and matching funds raised largely through a My Lighthouse Window “adoption” program, will fund window, door and shutter repair and replacement, as well as tucking the brickwork, with work starting in 2013 or 2014.

Phase Two will concentrate on installation of solar power and wastewater systems and infrastructure restoration. Finishing and furnishing the lighthouse is the focus for Phase Three of the restoration plan.

When the last Coast Guard keepers moved out of the lighthouse, they left behind a clothed mannequin in one of the lighthouse’s upper windows to discourage vandals by making it appear someone was still living at the lighthouse.

The mannequin’s presence conjured up stories about a lighthouse “ghost”, but the blond wig-wearing figure known as “Sarah” fell victim to apparent vandalism in late 2009 and the Society president Sandy Bihn ingeniously erected a shirt-wearing scarecrow dubbed “Frank” to take her place as a ghostly presence in the window.

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Even as the clear day made for some great photo opportunities during our boat tour, the prevailing north wind made landing at the lighthouse to safely disembark and tour the building impossible. Still, I got some lighthouse images and an excuse to return to check on the progress of the lighthouse restoration at a later date.

Can’t get out to the lighthouse during your visit to Maumee Bay? You can check out the lighthouse’s original Fresnel lens, displayed in the lobby of Maumee Bay State Park Lodge.

Thanks to Xanterra Parks and Resorts and Maumee Bay State Park Lodge, which provided lodging, meals and the lighthouse tour for my review, with no further compensation. I was free to express my own opinion about my stay and experiences, and the opinions expressed here are mine.

About the Author

Dominique King is a metro Detroit writer, hockey fan and frequent visitor to Ohio. She began her writing career as a freelance writer for local newspapers, covering business, art and regional travel topics for the Mirror Newspapers, the Daily Tribune and Hour Detroit Magazine. She has a degree in Communications (M.A.) from Detroit's Wayne State University and an interest in history. You can find Dominique writing about Midwest travel at https://www.midwestguest.com or connect with her on Twitter @midwestguest.