Tourists are to arrive Saturday and Sunday at the Toledo Harbor Lighthouse, home to Frank, a uniformed “phantom” officer who has become part of the rich history of the beacon on the bay.
The weekend event marks the first time in more than 50 years that the lighthouse will be open for tours, said Sandy Bihn of Oregon, president of the Toledo Harbor Lighthouse Preservation Society. “I think it’s exciting,” she said.
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Boats will ferry visitors from the marina at Maumee Bay State Park to the towering buff-brick structure at the entrance to the Toledo shipping channel where Lake Erie and Maumee Bay meet.
Tours will be from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. Tickets cost $40, and can be obtained at this weekend’s Toledo Antique & Classic Boat Show at the Toledo Maritime Center or by visiting the preservation society’s Web site.
Visitors, who should plan to spend about 80 minutes altogether on the boat and at the lighthouse, will climb a rung ladder to the lighthouse deck. There are 76 steps to the top of the lighthouse. Tours will be conducted in groups of 6 or 10.
“It will be fun,” Mrs. Bihn said, noting tours will take place weather permitting.
If the weekend tours are successful, additional tours could be offered in September, she said.
Preservation society member Robert Nixon, 81, of Fremont would love to explore the lighthouse, but said his health will keep him home.
Tour participants will see where Mr. Nixon, who served in the Coast Guard, lived during his years as keeper of the lighthouse, including the second-floor living area where he was seated near a TV on Nov. 22, 1963.
“We were flabbergasted when it came out on TV about President Kennedy being assassinated,” he said. “Wasn’t much we could do. We just kept doing our job. We did our mourning there at the lighthouse.”
Tourists will see where Mr. Nixon and other lighthouse keepers dropped fishing lines to catch perch or white bass for supper. During his shift he would stand watch, and would turn the light on at dusk and off at dawn.
“If visibility was bad we had to make sure the foghorn was on.” You quickly learned to stand behind the foghorn when it was turned on. Otherwise, the blare rattled your teeth, Mr. Nixon said.
“We did a lot of painting and cleaning and cooking. We had to make sure all the glass prisms on the lens were nice and clean so the light would work the way it was supposed to,” he said.
Later, an automated system was installed, and lighthouse keepers became a thing of the past.
Weekend tours will provide a chance to visit the lighthouse before a $1.5 million restoration project gets under way, Mrs. Bihn said.
Overall, the lighthouse is “in very good condition. We want it to stay that way,” Mrs. Bihn said.
Restoration is to begin in 2013, she said.
Phase two would focus on solar power, electrical, plumbing, and waste water systems. Interior improvements and finishing work would be tackled in the final phase.
The Toledo Harbor Lighthouse Preservation Society, which applied for ownership of the lighthouse under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000, has owned the deed since 2007.
In an effort to prevent vandalism, mannequins were positioned at windows in the lighthouse where today the uniformed “phantom” officer known as Frank keeps watch. Ghost stories swirl from sightings of his shadowy figure.
Frank arrived in October, 2009, after Sarah, a mannequin with a blonde wig, was found ripped apart, an apparent victim of a vandal.
Mrs. Bihn fashioned Frank from a wooden frame of a scarecrow, dressing it in an official-looking shirt.
For now, Frank stands at what is known as Sarah’s window. She is to return to her post as the lighthouse is restored.
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