Scenic USA - Ohio

South Bass Island Lighthouse

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South Bass Island Light - Put-in-Bay, Ohio

Photos by Gregory S. Hamilton
Greg Hamilton Photography

     Just off the coast from Port Clinton and Sandusky, South Bass Island is one of a cluster of islands that spill out into Lake Erie. Here in Lake Erie's shallow western basin, Native tribes of Erie, Shawnee, Ottawa, and Iroquois all used South Bass Island as a refuge from sudden squalls. The town of Put-in-Bay most likely received its name from early lake-going fur traders also seeking shelter. By the mid 1800s South Bass Island and Put-in-Bay became popular tourist destinations. Thriving during the Victorian Era, thousands of visitors arrived at South Bass Island by steamship.
     During the late 1800s, the Lighthouse Board recognized the need to mark the southern channel from Sandusky to Toledo, Ohio. One of a string of lighthouse to mark this steamship route, South Bass Island Light was built on Parker Point in 1895. The large two and a half story keeper's quarters incorporated a three story brick light tower. South Bass Island Lighthouse - Put-in-Bay, Ohio The Queen Ann designed structure was eventually closed in 1962, and finally added to a list of surplus property. The Fresnel lens remains on the island at the Lake Erie Island Historical Museum.
     Today, the light station, property of Ohio State University, is used to house university staff. The exterior remains in good condition, and appears much like it had during its heyday. Lighthouse tours are available occasionally, and remain part of the lure at this famous vacation destination. Guests today arrive either by plane or ferry, and enjoy the island's fun and relaxing atmosphere.
     History buffs will enjoy Put-in-Bay's section of the 500 mile Heritage Trail, a salute to the War of 1812's Commodore Perry. Built as a symbol to lasting peace between Great Britain and the United States, Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial was opened to the public in 1915. During the summer months, Put-in-Bay hosts bi-weekly symphony concerts at the Peace Memorial. With something to celebrate nearly every day, Put-in-Bay has remained a top tourist destination for the last century and a half.

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