South Bass Island Light

Coordinates: 41°37′44″N 82°50′29″W / 41.6290°N 82.8415°W / 41.6290; -82.8415
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South Bass Island Light
South Bass Island Light (USCG)
LocationSouth Bass Island in Lake Erie
Coordinates41°37′44″N 82°50′29″W / 41.6290°N 82.8415°W / 41.6290; -82.8415
Constructed1895 Edit this on Wikidata
Height60 feet (18 m)
ShapeTwo-story house with square tower at corner
HeritageNational Register of Historic Places listed place Edit this on Wikidata
First lit1897
Focal height22.5 m (74 ft) Edit this on Wikidata
LensFourth-order Fresnel lens
Range13 nautical miles; 24 kilometres (15 mi)
Characteristicfixed red
South Bass Island Light
ArchitectSmith, Lt. Col. Jared A.; Corps of Engineers
Architectural styleQueen Anne
MPSLight Stations of Ohio MPS
NRHP reference No.90000473[1]
Added to NRHPApril 05, 1990

South Bass Island Light is a lighthouse on the southern end of its eponymous island in Lake Erie. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on April 5, 1990[1] and is thought to be the only lighthouse in the United States owned by a university - Ohio State.[2][3]


Increasing tourist traffic to the island in the late 1800s prompted the Lighthouse Board to approve construction of a light in 1893. The light was to help to mark the southern passage from Sandusky to Toledo, along with several other lights in the vicinity. The site chosen was Parker Point on the southwest corner of the island, and in 1895 a two-acre plot was purchased. Construction was protracted due to the failure of the original contractors to secure proper bonds, and the light was not brought into service until 1897. It is an atypical structure for its era, a large 2+12-story brick Queen Anne house with a 3-story tower built into one corner. It was fitted with a fourth order Fresnel lens, originally lit by oil, but eventually converted to electricity.[4][5]

The tenure of the first keeper, Harry Riley, and his assistant, Sam Anderson, was brief. Concerns about a smallpox outbreak on the island were realized in August 1898, though as it happened the cases were mild and there were no deaths. Nevertheless, a newspaper report on September 1 told of Anderson, who had been hired just the previous month, drinking heavily out of fear of the disease and hiding himself in the lighthouse's basement, where he kept a number of snakes. He then emerged and threw himself into the lake, shouting, "God save them all." His body was recovered the following day. On the same day that this report appeared, Riley was picked up by the police in Sandusky, apparently insane. He was committed to the state mental hospital and died there the following March.[6] Tragedy struck again in 1925, when the keeper, Charles B. Duggan, was killed in a fall from a cliff on the west side of the island.[4]

In 1962 the light was deactivated, replaced by a steel tower standing adjacent to the old house.[7] The lens was transferred to the Lake Erie Island Historical Museum, where it can still be seen.[5] Five years later, the property was declared surplus. Ohio State, which maintains the Stone Laboratory on Gibraltar Island at nearby Put-in-Bay, saw an opportunity for expanded facilities; eventually a thirty-year quit claim deed was negotiated, and when this expired in 1997, the university took permanent possession, save for the replacement light tower.[4] An automated NOAA meteorological station was placed on the property in 1983.[4] The lighthouse is used to house university researchers and staff; beginning in the summer of 2007 it was also made available for occasional tours. The exterior of the house is almost unaltered, and in 1990 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.[8]


  1. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. April 15, 2008.
  2. ^ Wobser, Dave. "South Bass Island Light: A lighthouse with a distinction". Archived from the original on July 25, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-17.
  3. ^ Reutter, Jeffrey M. (January 2016). "Stone Laboratory Report, 2006-2014" (PDF). FRANZ THEODORE STONE LABORATORY, Ohio State University.[dead link]
  4. ^ a b c d "South Bass Island Lighthouse". Anderson, Kraig, Retrieved 2008-10-12.
  5. ^ a b "Inventory of Historic Light Stations: Ohio Lighthouses: South Bass Island Light". National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-10-12.
  6. ^ "South Bass Island Lighthouse: Ghost Stories". Ohio State University. Archived from the original on 2008-10-12. Retrieved 2008-10-17.
  7. ^ "Historic Light Station Information and Photography: Ohio". United States Coast Guard Historian's Office. Archived from the original on 2017-05-01. Retrieved 2008-10-12.
  8. ^ "South Bass Island Lighthouse". Ohio State University. Archived from the original on 2009-01-07. Retrieved 2008-10-12.

Further reading[edit]

  • Oleszewski, Wes. Great Lakes Lighthouses, American and Canadian: A Comprehensive Directory/Guide to Great Lakes Lighthouses, (Gwinn, Michigan: Avery Color Studios, Inc., 1998) ISBN 0-932212-98-0.
  • U.S. Coast Guard. Historically Famous Lighthouses (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1957).
  • Wright, Larry and Wright, Patricia. Great Lakes Lighthouses Encyclopedia Hardback (Erin: Boston Mills Press, 2006) ISBN 1-55046-399-3

External links[edit]