The Marblehead Lighthouse

110 Lighthouse Dr.
Marblehead , OH 43440

419-734-4424   |
Open daily from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Memorial Day through Labor Day
Adult admission to climb the lighthouse: $3; museums are free.s

History of the Lighthouse

Marblehead Lighthouse is situated along the rocky shores of Lake Erie in Marblehead Lighthouse State Park. The historic landscape offers visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in the history of the peninsula and Lake Erie’s shipping industry, while providing an unforgettable view.

During the early nineteenth century, the need for lighthouses on the Great Lakes arose. Following the War of 1812, settlement along Lake Erie boomed and the lake became central to Ohio’s trade and transportation industry. During the early nineteenth century, the first two lighthouses on Lake Erie were constructed: the Erie Land Lighthouse on Presque Isle and the Buffalo Lighthouse in Buffalo, NY. The following year, in 1819, Congress set aside funds to build Marblehead Lighthouse and a keeper’s house. Construction of the tower began in 1821, and by 1822 Benajah Wolcott was appointed the Marblehead Lighthouse’s first keeper. Both the lighthouse tower and keeper’s house were constructed form native Columbus limestone, known for its durability; these structures can attribute their continued existence, in part, to the peninsula’s limestone. Wolcott served as the lighthouse keeper for ten years until his death in 1832. His successor made history as the first female lighthouse keeper on the Great Lakes. Appointed by the government that same year, Wolcott’s wife Rachel served as the lighthouse’s second keeper for two years. Over the course of its history, evolving technology continually changed how the lighthouse operated, and dictated the job of the keeper. When the lighthouse first opened, the keeper would be tasked with climbing the tower and lighting thirteen whale oil lamps every day during shipping season. Eventually kerosene replaced whale oil, and by the early twentieth century an electric light powered the beacon, increasing the reach of its signal. In 1958 the last civilian lighthouse keeper resigned, and the responsibility was given to the United States Coast Guard. At the turn of the twentieth century a watch room was added to the tower, which increased its height by fifteen feet. Today, visitors can see where the original tower meets the addition and enjoy the view from what is considered to be the most photographed lighthouse in the United States.

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Notes for Travelers

Marblehead Lighthouse is the oldest continually operating lighthouse on the Great Lakes, and it is part of a cultural landscape that strives to educate and enrich the lives of the public by offering programing and historical exhibits focused on the region and its role on Lake Erie. In 1998, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources assumed ownership of the lighthouse and turned the surrounding land into a park. Historical structures on the grounds serve as the Marblehead Lighthouse Historical Society’s museum of the Marblehead Peninsula. Travelers can visit the Lifesaving Station Educational Center, a replica of lifesaving stations that were built along the south shore of Lake Erie in the late nineteenth century. The educational center opened in 2016 to showcase the history of shipping and the responsibility of the Coast Guard on the Great Lakes.

Additional Resources

The Ohio Frontier: An Anthology of Early Writings, edited by Emily Foster.

The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830, Douglas Hurt.

Marblehead Lighthouse on Lake Erie: Ohio’s Historic Beacon, James Proffitt.