Cleveland and other Northern Ohio cities located along the southern shores of Lake Erie have a rich maritime past. One place to celebrate that history and to learn more about the area’s nautical past is at the Fairport Harbor Marine Museum and Lighthouse now open for the season in Fairport Harbor, Ohio. Fairport Harbor is located 30 miles east of Cleveland and it is approximately a 39 minute drive.
The Fairport Harbor Marine Museum and Lighthouse Located in the former home of Fairport Harbor lightkeepers, the museum has several rooms filled with maritime artifacts including navigational instruments, paintings, models, ships carpenter’s tools, log books, lanterns and historic photos for visitors to view. It is the first Great Lakes Lighthouse Marine Museum in the state of Ohio and in the United States.
A Bit of Lighthouse and Museum History Situated on the site of a previous lighthouse that was built in 1825, the current lighthouse is a conical 69 foot tower constructed of gray Berea sandstone that was built in 1871. Inside the tower is a 69 step spiral staircase that leads to an observation deck. The lighthouse is no longer operational. The attached brick lightkeeper’s house was turned into a museum in 1945.
A high point inside the museum is the display of the original, large 3rd order Fresnel lens used to power the lighthouse. The light could be seen from 18 – 20 miles away.
Among some of the other items that visitors can view are United States Coast Guard uniforms and the uniform of a lightkeeper from 1923, the lantern buoy tender from the West Breakwall, salt mine samples, taconite and iron ore samples from the Great Lakes, half hulls of Lake ships and local Native American artifacts like arrowheads and tools.
Did you know that the Museum is rumored to be haunted — by a cat? Sentinel, the Ghost Cat is said to have made numerous appearances at the museum. Sentinel was one of several cats belonging to Captain Joseph Babcock (Head Keeper of the lighthouse in 1871) who were companions to Babcock’s bedridden wife.
Several years ago the mummified remains of a cat were discovered at the museum and are believed to be those of Sentinel. The remains are on display in the museum. So if you see a gray cat scurrying by you during your visit, you just may have had an encounter with the Sentinel, the Ghost Cat. By the way, The Ghost Cat’s story has been featured on programs on Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel.
The other highlight at the museum is a visit to the attached actual Pilot House of the steamer “Frontenac,” the first steam boat in the Great Lakes.
Attractions outside the museum include the main mast of the USS Michigan (the first iron hulled ship of the US Navy), covered lifecars used by the US Coast Guard Fairport Harbor Station for life-saving situations and various anchors from freighters.
Summer hours for the Fairport Harbor Marine Museum and Lighthouse are 1 p.m. – 6 p.m. on Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays. Tours are available from May 26 through the 3rd weekend in September.
For more information about the museum and lighthouse and for pricing call 440-354-4825 or get online at www.ncweb.com/org/fhlh.
The Fairport Harbor Marine Museum and Lighthouse is located at 129 Second St. in Fairport Harbor, Ohio. It is approximately a 39 minute drive from Cleveland.