John Smothers, left, and Bill Moon work on the Port Clinton Lighthouse. The conservancy in charge of restoration hopes to have the lighthouse installed at Water Works Park by late summer or early fall.
The Blade/Lori King
PORT CLINTON — A restored 1896 lighthouse will soon return to the Port Clinton waterfront as a beacon for visitors and history lovers.
The roughly 26 foot-tall wooden lighthouse stood on the Portage River’s west pier until 1952, when it was removed and taken to a local marina.
PHOTO GALLERY: Port Clinton lighthouse
For the last couple years, a volunteer crew worked to replace rotten boards, install a new copper roof, and repaint the winding, interior gray steps, green accents, and white tower.
The job is nearly complete. A few finishing touches — such as straightening the vent ball atop the octogonal lantern house and hanging the door— remain.
The Port Clinton Lighthouse Conservancy, the group in charge of the restoration, hopes to have the lighthouse installed on the north side of Derby Pond at Water Works Park by late summer or early fall.
“These old breakwater lights are almost nonexistent,” said Rich Norgard, conservancy president. “The old, wooden lights either burned or just rotted away. … We are just very fortunate.”
The picturesque structure is woven into Port Clinton’s history and appears on the city seal. It is the Lake Erie community’s second lighthouse; an 1833-vintage stone lighthouse was demolished a few years after the wooden one was built.
A kerosene lantern provided its beacon before it switched to electric power and was eventually decommissioned.
Eventually the lighthouse will have non-navigational illumination, but the group will need Coast Guard approval, Mr. Norgard said.
In 1952, a local marina owner was hired to remove the lighthouse from the pier and it was taken to what is now Brands’ Marina. It remained there until recent restoration efforts, work currently taking place in a boat storage facility where the ceilings are high enough to accommodate the tall structure.
The lighthouse’s owner, Darrell Brand, plans to give it to the conservancy, which will enter into an agreement with the city to place it along the waterfront, Mr. Norgard said.
Visitors sought out the lighthouse while it was displayed on marina property.
“It’s amazing how many people are running around this country looking for lighthouses,” said Mr. Brand, who wanted the lighthouse placed in a publicly accessible spot near the water.
He regularly stops by to check on the restoration’s progress, as a volunteer crew carefully works to complete the project. They examined layers of paint to determine the original color scheme, and devised a way to pick up the structure and move it using a crane.
Volunteers saved everything they could as they paid close attention to historic details. John Smothers, who helped lead the restoration efforts, pointed out a few of the many features preserved in the restoration.
“The engineering is incredible … and the workmanship. These joints here, this is original, we didn’t touch these,” he said.
They searched for a window lock that best fit the original hardware and kept the latches that secure cabinet doors on the first floor. They even made special tools to clean out the tongue and groove areas.
Donations funded the work, estimated at $40,000 to $50,000, and the conservancy is accepting money to help with ongoing maintenance and other needs, Mr. Norgard said.
The conservancy’s plan is to build a foundation at the waterfront, where the lighthouse will sit on four piers.
In late May, the city applied to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for a submerged-lands lease of about four acres along the shoreline, according to ODNR spokesman Eileen Corson. The review process typically takes about three months.
The conservancy, which is awaiting federal nonprofit status, would seek to sublease a 25-by-30-foot rectangle of that land near the pond for the lighthouse, Mr. Norgard said. Its location was a previous topic of debate between the city and conservancy.
Port Clinton Mayor Vincent Leone could not be reached for comment.
Those who have dedicated themselves to restoring the lighthouse believe it will attract visitors to Port Clinton.
“This is part of the character of the city, so this is something the city should sort of latch onto. This is our lighthouse, this is part of our identity as a coastal community,” Mr. Norgard said.