The Keeper's House Museum
History of the Marblehead Lighthouse Historical Society
The Marblehead Lighthouse Historical Society is a non-profit organization formed to establish a museum for the preservation of the history of this unique village on the shores of Lake Erie and Sandusky Bay, with a special interest in its historic Marblehead Lighthouse.
The Marblehead Lighthouse was built in 1821 and is the oldest continuously operating lighthouse on the Great Lakes. The present Keeper’s House was constructed in 1880 and was home to 16 keepers and their families, plus numerous assistant keepers who lived on the second floor of the house.
Beginning in 1947, the U.S. Coast Guard maintained the Lighthouse, and the State of Ohio, Division of Parks and Recreation, used the Keeper's House as a dormitory. In 1968, the Ottawa County Historic Society, with the support of 5th District Congressman Delbert Latta, began to work with local, state and federal officials to save the Lighthouse and Keeper’s House. On the eve of the burning of the Keeper's House, with straw already laid around the house in preparation for the controlled burn the next day, approval was given for the State of Ohio to assume ownership of the property. It was declared a State Park on June 9, 1998. In 2000, the Marblehead Lighthouse Historical Society opened the museum, and in the two years that followed, extensive renovations to the house were completed by the State of Ohio. An agreement continues to exist with the State of Ohio to use space in the Keeper's House at Marblehead Lighthouse State Park for historic displays and as a tourist information center.
Over the last 19 years, the museum has continued to grow as a result of the efforts of the Marblehead Lighthouse Historical Society. It continues to provide information about the Lighthouse and the surrounding area to the thousands of visitors who come to the State Park each summer.
The museum displays artifacts, historical photos, and other materials which represent the rich and colorful history of the Lighthouse and the Marblehead area. All items on exhibit are authentic originals or professional replicas. (A professional replica is displayed when size, the need to preserve from further deterioration, or past destruction prevents displaying the original.) Artifacts have been donated or loaned to the museum by the original owners, their surviving families, supporting organizations, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the State of Ohio.
The museum is operated by an all-volunteer staff. If you would like to join our volunteer staff or the Historical Society, please contact us.
The building is wheelchair accessible, and museum docents are available to assist visitors with the electronic wheelchair lift.
Marblehead Lighthouse Historical Society Founding Members
Mrs. Leroy L. (Peg) Belt
Gordon and Betty Wahlers
Neil T. Allen
Scott C. Doty
Mary Ann Laubner
R. Neil and Rosemary Merckens
Anna Mae Bell
James and Maureen Carpenter
The Keeper's House
The building which houses the museum has its own unique history. The Lighthouse Keeper's House rests on the site of the original keeper's house which was built of native limestone in 1821. The original house was very small and was used primarily during the months of navigation when the lighthouse was lit. The first Keeper, Benajah Wolcott, maintained a personal family home about two miles from the Lighthouse, on the bay side of the Marblehead Peninsula. Today, known as the Wolcott House, the home is open to the public for tours.
The Wolcott House
(sometimes also referred to as the Keeper's House)
9999 E. Bayshore R d.
Marblehead, OH 43440
located 2.7 miles west of the Lighthouse
The present keeper's house was built in 1880 and was designed larger to accommodate both the Keeper and the Assistant Keeper and their families. There were 16 keepers who cared for the Lighthouse throughout the years, beginning in 1822 and ending in 1943 when responsibility for the Lighthouse was assumed by the U.S. Coast Guard
Inside the Keeper's House Museum
The Lighthouse Room
This room showcases the last Fresnel lens to operate in the Marblehead Lighthouse. It is a 3 1/2 order lens which was installed after it was exhibited at the 1904 Saint Louis World Fair. It was in use at the Lighthouse until it was removed in 1969. The U.S. Coast Guard was instrumental in bringing it back home to the Marblehead Lighthouse Museum where it has been on display since the Spring of 2004.
LED light replaced incandescent light
In June of 2013, the U. S. Coast Guard removed the old 150-watt incandescent light mechanism and green plastic Fresnel lens from the Marblehead Lighthouse and replaced it with a new 20-watt green LED fixture. This change will reduce annual maintenance and electrical operating expenses. A far cry from the 13 original whale oil burning lamps which were used when the Lighthouse was built in 1821, these New Zealand-made LED sources are replacing older lighting on lighthouses and buoys throughout the United States. In its 200-year history, the Marblehead Lighthouse has seen the use of whale oil, kerosene, incandescent electric and now solid-state light emitting diodes to produce its reassuring night time presence for mariners in the Lake Erie islands.
The Marblehead Room
This room depicts community life and industry of the area, with major focus on limestone quarrying, which was the primary industry during the 1800's. Artifacts representing fishing and the early practice of medicine in the community are also featured in this room.
The Gift Shop
Our gift shop is filled with a wide variety of lighthouse themed items. Stop by to find that special reminder of the lighthouse and the lifesaving station.