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US Lifesaving Service Lifesaving boat

Lifesaving Station Museum

The construction of a replica of the 1876 U.S. Lifesaving Station was completed in 2016.  The original Lifesaving Station was built on the site of the present U.S. Coast Guard Station, about a mile from the Lighthouse. The lifesaving station museum is located near the Lighthouse on the State Park property and features a variety of exhibits and an authentically restored 27-foot Coast Guard rescue boat complete with launching railway. Exhibits describe boating safety, the history of the U.S. Lifesaving Service and its evolution into the U.S. Coast Guard in 1915, and expanded information about the history of shipping on the Great Lakes


History of Lifesaving Museum
Photo of original Lifesaving Station

History of Marblehead's Lifesaving Station

In 1834, a newly-arrived pioneer named Alexander Clemons began to quarry and ship limestone from the 133 acres he had purchased near the Marblehead Lighthouse.  Clemons was not only a commercial leader in the area but is credited as being one of the founders of Lakeside.

On May 1, 1875, Alexander's three sons Lucien, Hubbard, and A.J. Clemons witnessed the capsizing and sinking of the 102 foot schooner Consuelo as it left Kelleys Island loaded with stone blocks.  A southwest gale had been blowing, but the three brothers commandeered a twelve foot skiff and rowed out to the wreck, finally managing to save two of the six crewmen aboard.  They were in danger of sinking themselves and were finally assisted by the tugboat Winslow.  For their “extreme heroic action”, Lucien and his brothers were awarded the first Gold Lifesaving Medals ever awarded by Congress.  

Postcard of the original Lifesaving Station
Lifesaving boat being launched

In 1876, the U.S. government extended its series of lifesaving stations to the south shore of Lake Erie by building a facility in Marblehead on the site of the present U.S. Coast Guard Station at the base of Frances Street.  Lucien Clemons was appointed “keeper” of the Marblehead Lifesaving Station and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1897. The U.S. Lifesaving Service ultimately consisted of 376 stations with 77 on the Great Lakes with six of those in Ohio at Ashtabula, Cleveland, Fairport, Lorain, Marblehead and Toledo.  These stations were crewed by six “surfmen” and the keeper and were capable of affecting rescues from land, using the breeches buoy and cannon-fired line, or from the water using a rowed surf boat.   The stations used a ramp from the station to the water with a rail system for launching and retrieving the boat.  The boats were typically about 26 feet in length.

In 1915, the U.S. government combined the U.S. Lifesaving Service and the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service to form the Coast Guard, and the Marblehead station became a Coast Guard facility.  The building stood until 1921 when it was replaced by a two story white wooden structure.  This building was ultimately replaced in 1982 by the present brick station.   In 1939, the U.S. Lighthouse Service was added to the Coast Guard, and they assumed responsibility for the Marblehead Lighthouse.  Thus, Marblehead had two of the main agencies which made up the modern Coast Guard.  Today, Station Marblehead is one of the largest and busiest Coast Guard stations on the Great Lakes.

Lifesaving Service drills on the beach
Lifesaving Service Equipment

The Marblehead Lighthouse Historical Society, which operates the lifesaving station and keeper's house at the Marblehead Lighthouse State Park on a volunteer basis, constructed a replica of the 1876 Lifesaving Station. The facility is complete with a restored 26 foot surf boat, beach apparatus cart, and exhibits. The building was financed with private funds and donated to the State of Ohio as part of the park

For children to learn more about the Coast Guard today


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