Built in 1986 as a project of the local Rotary Club, this forty-foot lighthouse is functional, but acts more as an observation tower than a navigational aid. On occasion, however, mariners trying to reach the small marina located near the lighthouse do take advantage of the tower’s private aid to navigation that is exhibited at a focal plane of fifty feet. The conical tower sits on a circular stone base, which functions as an observation platform. A wrought iron staircase curls around the base and a banister circles the observation deck. Simple in appearance, this lighthouse does not have as rich a history as others in the state, but it provides a beautiful view of its historic surroundings.
The area in and around Grand Lake St. Marys played an important role in developing the Northwest Territory, and consequently, the state of Ohio. In 1825, the Ohio Legislature approved funding for the construction of the Miami-Erie Canal, a 250-mile waterway that linked Lake Erie near Toledo to Cincinnati. Work on the canal was carried out over a twenty-year span from 1825 to 1845, and laborers were paid a whopping thirty cents a day, plus food, shelter, and whiskey. Grand Lake St. Marys, along with two other reservoirs, was constructed to help maintain the required five-foot depth of the canal, to which it was connected by a three-mile feeder. The advent of the railroad brought an end to the canal system, and the last section was closed in 1929.
Oil was discovered near Grand Lake St. Marys in the 1890s, and the lake was soon home to the world’s first offshore oil well. The lake was dotted with oil derricks while the black gold was plentiful, but the only reminder of that era is a pile of rocks near the lake’s center, which marks the spot of the last producing well.
At its completion in 1845, Grand Lake St. Marys was the largest man-made reservoir in the world, and it remained so until the construction of Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. Along with other canal feeder lakes in the state, this 13,500-acre reservoir was one of the first areas to be dedicated as an Ohio state park in 1949.
The lake remains a popular attraction for fishermen, boaters, swimmers, and campers. Many species of wildlife can be found on and around the reservoir and its wildlife refuge, including water birds, fox squirrel, mink, raccoon, beaver, coyote, white-tailed deer, and the long-absent bald eagle.
A second light, the Northwood Lighthouse, or “Eddystone Lighthouse,” is also found on the banks of Grand Lake St. Marys, on the north side. Celina Rotary Lighthouse is apparently part of Ohio’s haunted history as the Spiritseekers of Ohio has listed it in the Haunted Ohio Index.