|Huron Harbor, OH|
Description: The mouth of the Huron River on Lake Erie was one of the first ports of Ohio to be settled. As early as 1749, a French trading post operated from this port, but it did not survive the Revolutionary War.
Around the beginning of the nineteenth century, another trading post was opened along the river, this time by a Canadian Frenchman. Areas along both the Huron River and Lake Erie continued to grow, and soon Huron, east of Sandusky, had become a large settlement. By 1824, a small boarding house and several logs cabins had been built, one of them being the home of Huron’s first shipbuilder. Other shipbuilders followed, and the steamboat Delaware was completed at Huron in 1834. Two years later it would be lost during a violent summer storm on Lake Michigan. Though its passengers and crew would survive, the boat itself suffered irreparable damages.
Huron beacon is lighted with eight lamps, and as many bright reflectors, fixed, and all in good order. The beacon stands on the west pier, which extends 900 feet into the lake. This is an excellent harbor, having from 14 to 18 feet of water for more than six miles up the river. The entrance between the piers is 175 feet in width, which is the average breadth of the river as far as navigable. Between the piers, however, we find but 11 feet of water.A keeper's dwelling was built for the keeper, but it was later washed away by waves along with half of the lot on which it stood. The lighthouse, a pyramidal tower constructed of wood, was not durable enough to withstand the wind and weather of Lake Erie, and it too met an unfortunate end during a fierce storm in May 1854. Three years later, a new light was built. This time it was constructed of iron and stood twenty-seven feet tall. An elevated walkway was built so the keeper could access the tower when waves swept over the pier.
The station was without a dwelling for several years. Congress finally appropriated the necessary funds on March 3, 1871, and after delays in obtaining title to a lot, the dwelling was finally occupied on February 1, 1873.
In 1900, the lower portion of the tower, which was formerly open, was covered with sheathing and metal shingles and painted white below the lantern room. An 1878 Light List described the tower as being painted black on its lower part and red on its upper portion. An oil house was erected adjacent to the tower in 1903.
Huron Harbor Lighthouse had numerous keepers through the years with most serving just a year or two. Richard Mansell was an exception. A veteran of the Civil War, Mansell was keeper of the light for forty years, from 1870 to 1909. An article in the Sandusky Daily Register in 1890 detailed Keeper Mansell's dedication during a storm that was called "the most severe that has visited Huron for a long time."
It was now growing quite dark and Mr. Richard Mansell, in spite of the gale, started out to light the lamp in the Huron light house. Mr. Mansell is not a large man and people who watched his departure along the narrow, winding pathway thought he would scarcely reach his destination at all. Richard is not easily daunted, however, and holding onto the light hand-rail when the gusts came the hardest, he managed to work his way out to the open space on the extreme end of the pathway. There was no railing there and his figure was scarcely visible as he made a dive for the iron stairway leading up to the light house. He had scarcely grasped the banister when a wave dashed over the ends of the pier, washing it clear of all obstacles and dashing its spray over the light house forty feet in the air. Richard was safe, however, and in a moment more the bright light of the great Parisian lamp gave evidence that he was safe from all the storm.
The Lighthouse Board requested $3,800 in 1909 to relocate the pierhead tower to the outer end of the west pier extension when it was completed and to establish a second light on the pier to form a range for entering the harbor. Congress finally responded to the request on June 12, 1917, appropriating $4,500 for the project. The rear light was placed at a bend in the west pier, roughly 400 yards from the pierhead light, and consisted of a square, pyramidal, skeletal, steel tower surmounted by a railed platform holding duplicate fourteen-inch headlight reflectors. The fixed red rear range light went into operation on August 29, 1919, and a fog bell, which was also included in the appropriation, was established in the tower at the end of the pier on April 9, 1923.
A project was begun in May 1934 to create a 1,200-foot, rubble-mound extension to the west pier and remove 300 feet from the outer end of the east breakwater to widen the entrance to the harbor and create a larger turning basin in the Huron River. This work was completed the following year, and a fifty-foot-square crib was built at the outer end of the west pier to serve as the foundation for a steel lighthouse of a new design.
A reflection of the artistic style of the 1930s, the Art Deco lighthouse was fabricated by F. P. Dillon and W. G. Will and consists of a square, cylindrical tower on a square fog signal building. The lighthouse stands seventy-two feet high and was placed in commission on April 8, 1936. Its “sister” at Conneaut, approximately 120 miles to the northeast, was also built by Dillon and Will that same year.
Huron Harbor Lighthouse was originally surmounted by a lantern room and lit by commercial power supplied by a submarine cable. The lighthouse was controlled from shore, where there was a standby electric generator in the event commercial power failed, and was one of Lake Erie's first electrically powered beacons.
The light was automated in 1972. The lantern room was removed, and a modern beacon consisting of a solar-powered 375mm lens was installed. Still in use today, the light has a focal plane of eighty feet, can be seen over a twelve-mile radius, and flashes a red light with a characteristic of three seconds on followed by three seconds off. Its fog signal horn is now electrical.
At the mouth of the Huron River, two slips capable of accommodating large lake freighters have been constructed. Huron Harbor Lighthouse guides the mighty freighters into the safe confines of the breakwaters where their cargoes of coal, iron ore, and grain can be safely loaded and unloaded.
The Huron Harbor breakwater is frequently used as a fishing pier, and the dredge spoil adjacent to it is being transformed by the Army Corps of Engineers into a sixty-four-acre island that will be a town park. The square cement foundation, which was formerly home to pierhead light for many years, is still clearly evident as you stroll out to the modern light.
Head Keepers: Morris Jackson (1835 - 1837), George Patterson (1837 - 1841), Joseph Barnes (1841 - 1842), M. Ledyard (1842 - 1843), Emmanuel Fisher (1843 - 1844), Alexander Lesley (1844 - 1846), Reuben Smith (1846 - 1849), Zeb Montague (1849 - 1851), Alrathas Strickland (1851 - 1852), Redi Webber (1852 - 1853), Charles Bently (1853), Abel White (1853), Solomon Squire (1853 - 1856), Rosewell Steele (1856 - 1857), Henry Steele (1857), Solomon Squire (1856 - 1861), W. Shirley (1861 - 1863), John Packer (1863 - 1864), Charles Chapman (1864 - 1865), Jacobs Collins (1865 - 1869), William Ryan (1869 - 1870), Richard Mansell (1870 - 1909), Joseph Crawford (1910 - 1923), Richard Tonge (1923 - 1933), Daniel Hill (1933 - 1942), Robert Siggen (1955 - 1958).
Located at the end of the pier on the west
side of the entrance to the Huron River near
Huron. The lighthouse is owned by the Coast Guard. Grounds open, tower closed.
The lighthouse is owned by the Coast Guard. Grounds open, tower closed.
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.