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 which replaced the original stone keeper’s dwelling, was constructed in 1880 and was the home to four principal keepers and four assistant keepers and their families. The house became a duplex in 1903 with the keepers living downstairs and the assistants living upstairs.
Marblehead Light Keepers:
Jeremiah Van Benschoten
John Roderick Williston
Charles Ferris Drake
Lodrick Colly Brown
Jared Bradley Keyes
David L. Dayton
Thomas Julius Keyes
George H. McGee
Johanna H. McGee
Charles A. Hunter
Assistants- D. Clinton Egelton, Charles E. Perry, O. Earl Mapes, Andrew Turinsky, Edward M. Herman
Edward Martin Herman
Keepers by the Numbers:
Oldest-Dyer at age 72
Youngest- Turinsky at age 15
Longest serving- Hunter, 30 years
Shortest serving-Turinsky, 2 months
Babies born while lightkeeper-16
Had the most children Van Benschoten-14
Had no children-Hunter and Herman
Served in the military-7
Wolcott, Drake, T. Keyes, Egelton, Perry, Turinsky, Herman
Born in: New York-5 Ohio-5, Connecticut-2, 1 each from Massachusetts, New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania
and Kansas. Not in United States- 2, Douglas Canada and Wolcott, Connecticut British Colony.
Died while keeper-3
Wolcott, Dyer, G. McGee
Ever since the last keeper retired in 1943, the U.S. Coast guard has maintained the Lighthouse. Since then some guardsmen and their families lived in the Keeper’s House and kept the light. The Keeper’s House was later used by the State of Ohio, Division of Parks and Recreation as a dormitory. In 1968, a Lt. Irish of the Coast Guard told the newspaper that the Keeper’s House was not fit to live in and should be demolished. 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. Approval was given for the State of Ohio to assume ownership of the property and the lighthouse grounds were declared Ohio’s 73rd State Park on June 9, 1998. In 2000, the Marblehead Lighthouse Historical Society opened a museum in the Keeper’s House 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 and Marblehead Lighthouse State Park for historic displays and as a tourist information center.
Over the last 20 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 Marlene 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 Rd.
Marblehead, OH 43440
located 2.7 miles west of the Lighthouse
For more information: https://ottawacountyhistory.org/keepers-house/
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 19 keepers and assistant 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. The 3 ½ order lens was in used at the Lighthouse until it was removed in 1969 and placed in storage in Detroit. The U.S. Coast Guard and some local citizens were instrumental in bringing it back to Marblehead. It was displayed at the town hall and then the Coast Guard Station. Since the spring of 2004, it has been on display at the Marblehead Lighthouse Museum.
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. Merchandise can also be purchased online through our eBay store. As a charity, eBay waives many fees so all of the net proceeds can go back into improvements for the park.