Northwest Ohio Tourism
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Vermilion LighthouseVermilion Lighthouse

Ground was broken for the new lighthouse on July 24, 1991. The 25,000-pound base of the replica 8-sided lighthouse, measuring 15' in diameter, was brought to Vermilion on a flatbed truck. Cranes placed it onto the foundation. According to rumors, before the base was attached to the foundation, an 1877 gold piece was placed under the vertex of the octahedron that would point true north. It seems only fitting that a piece of 1877 be part of the new lighthouse’s foundation. The new lighthouse is located on the grounds of the Inland Seas Maritime Museum.

The previous lighthouse was dismantled in 1929, and transported to Buffalo, New York, where it was renovated and in 1935, the lighthouse was given a new home on Lake Ontario off Cape Vincent at the entrance to the Saint Lawrence Seaway.

Prior to that, Vermilion had several navigational aids. Before 1847, Vermilion residents would hang lanterns at the mouth of the Vermilion River to guide boaters. With a greatly increased amount of shipping traffic in the port, Congress appropriated $3,000 to build a lighthouse. But this was a short-lived, hap-hazard affair that had to be replaced in 1859. The new lighthouse was made of wood with a whale oil lamp. But once again, this structure was not sturdy enough to stand up to Lake Erie's harsh weather and the light had to again be replaced.

This time the light was built of iron and placed on the west pier at Vermilion in 1877. This iron lighthouse was assembled in Buffalo to make sure all the pieces fit, then taken apart and shipped to Vermilion and reassembled.

The new tower measured 34' high and stood at the end of the pier with a long 400' long catwalk running above it. This allowed the lighthouse keeper to travel between the light and the mainland when large waves crested over the pier.

In 1929, it was noticed that the lighthouse was beginning to lean and had to be dismantled. In its place an 18' steel tower was put in its place with an automated electric light. The previous lighthouse was sold for scap metal (although Commodore Wakefield who lived in Vermilion offered to purchase the old lighthouse, his offer was refused).

The Iron Lighthouse

The original 1877 cast iron lighthouse at Vermilion was made from melted down cannons from Fort Sumter, the spot where fighting erupted into the Civil War. The 1877 lighthouse now shines on the shores of Lake Ontario off Cape Vincent at the entrance to the Saint Lawrence Seaway.

See also:

Inland Seas Maritime Museum

Vermilion's Festival of Fish