New York is known for the Statue of Liberty, and California claims the Golden Gate Bridge, but Ohio is home to Perry’s Memorial. To me, nothing compares to the lofty, obelisk-shaped landmark that punctuates Lake Erie as its enormous exclamation point. It rises grandly from a slender isthmus on South Bass Island; is practically a place of pilgrimage for summer vacationers; has appeared in countless selfies and family photos; serves as beacon for boaters and pilots; and ironically enough symbolizes both an extraordinary act of war and a remarkably long period of peace.
Officially known as Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial, the monument is listed on the National Register of Histic Places. It commemorates the War of 1812’s Battle of Lake Erie and the subsequent peace negotiations that resulted in 200+ years of friendly relations among the United States, Great Britain, and Canada. The Battle of Lake Erie took place near South Bass Island, and its hero was Oliver Hazard Perry, a young American Navy officer who for the first time in history managed to capture an entire British fleet. His victory gave the United States control of Lake Erie and enabled the future president, William Henry Harrison, to invade Canada and ultimately defeat the British. Today, Perry’s Memorial flys a trio of flags, the Stars and Stripes, Union Jack, and Maple Leaf, on its grounds as a reminder that ending hostilities was a turning point for three nations.
I have always been fascinated by the fact that Perry’s Memorial is one of the tallest monuments in the United States. Made of more than 2,000 granite blocks, it’s a classic Doric column that towers 352 feet above Lake Erie. The memorial soars 47 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty, and its observation decks are 12 feet higher than Liberty’s torch.
Although the memorial is closed for cleaning until 2018, the site’s visitors center remains open. It is well worth stopping by just to see the historic, larger-than-life statue of Oliver Hazard Perry.
Dedicated in 1860, the marble statue is Ohio’s oldest public monument. After decades as a focal point of first Cleveland and then Perrysburg, it now stands in front of floor-to-ceiling windows that beautifully showcase Perry’s Memorial.
Also in the Visitor Center are museum-quality exhibits and memorabilia.
A scale model of the Battle of Lake Erie shows how Perry took advantage of the collision of two British ships and boldly used his carronades (short-range canons) to seal his surprising victory. There is even a display of Perry’s blue battle flag with its now legendary words: “Don’t Give Up The Ship.”
The “Ranger Programs” at the memorial include musket demonstrations by reenacters in period uniforms, as well as special Carronade Weekends that boom with canon firings.
The Perry’s Memorial Fourth of July festivities feature an afternoon concert followed by evening fireworks, and every September, its Historic Weekend salutes the Battle of Lake Erie’s anniversary with a reenactors’ camp, crafts, music, and of course, muskets and carronades.
Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial, 93 Delaware Ave., Put-in-Bay, OH 43456. 419-285-2184; www.nps.gov/pevi/