Visiting Lake Erie? Visit the Historical South Bass Island Lighthouse!

From July 1897 to October 1962, the South Bass Island Light Station provided guidance to ships on Lake Erie. Situated between lighthouses at Green Island to the west and Marblehead to the east, the South Bass Island Station was a navigation point on the lake’s south passage. The tour allows you to climb the stairs to take in a great view of Put-in-Bay from the top of the tower, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Increasing tourist traffic to the island prompted the construction of the lighthouse. The light was to help to mark the southern passage from Sandusky to Toledo, along with several other lights in the vicinity. The site chosen was Parker Point on the southwest corner of the island, and in 1895 a two-acre plot was purchased. Construction was protracted due to the failure of the original contractors to secure proper bonds, and the light was not brought into service until 1897. It is an atypical structure for its era, a large  two and one half story brick Queen Anne house with a two story tower built into one corner. It was fitted with a fourth order Fresnel lens, originally lit by oil, but eventually converted to electricity.

In 1962 the light was deactivated, replaced by a steel tower standing adjacent to the old house. The lens was transferred to the Lake Erie Island Historical Museum, where it can still be seen. Five years later, the property was declared surplus. Ohio State, which maintains the Stone Laboratory on Gibraltar Island at nearby Put-in-Bay, saw an opportunity for expanded facilities; eventually a thirty-year quit claim deed was negotiated, and when this expired in 1997, the university took permanent possession, save for the replacement light tower. An automated NOAA meteorological station was placed on the property in 1983. The lighthouse is used to house university researchers and staff; beginning in the summer of 2007 it was also made available for tours. The exterior of the house is almost unaltered.