Toledo Harbor Light
By Dave Wobser

Located at the mouth of the Maumee River, in Lake Erie, off Toledo, to mark the entrance to the Maumee River channel. The Toledo Harbor light was first exhibited May 23, 1904, and had been constructed to serve the increased traffic that resulted from the Toledo Harbor being dredged and enlarged in 1897. The Harbor Light replaced the nearby Turtle Island Light (1831-1904) that had previously marked the river entrance.

Toledo Harbor Light Celebrates 100 Years
By Dave Wobser

Parts of this article originally appeared in Great Laker magazine.

The Toledo Harbor Light, which was first lighted on May 23, 1904, 1s 100 years old and the Toledo Harbor Light Society (THLS) has embarked on an ambitious program. THLS was formed in 2003 for the purpose of preserving the 100 year old light station. The non-profit group meets the fourth Thursday of each month in the lodge lobby at Maumee Bay State Park, which provides a view of the flashing red light.

Preservation and renovation plans for the light station have been estimated to cost as much as $2.5 million. The group recently attempted to gain a US Department of Energy grant that would have provided a wind turbine to supplement the solar panels that presently provide electric power to the light. The additional power could provide for heating, cooling and interior lighting. An increase in the size of the island would also have been funded, to provide space for the wind turbine and a small boat harbor. The grant funds were awarded to the Lucas County Port Authority which will build a wind turbine demonstration project at the Port Authority’s docks.

The loss of the grant has not deterred the preservationists who are continuing their fund raising efforts, according to THLS President Sandy Bihn, who states "the group has just begun and we anticipate that the 100 Year Festival will boost our membership and interest in the light". "The society does not want to own the light, we want to shepard a future for the light and be a repository for its history."

The light is presently owned by the US Department of the Interior, and the beacon is maintained by the Coast Guard. The Society believes the Interior Department is looking for someone to take ownership of the light.

Toledo Harbor Light is a one-of-a-kind architectural structure in the lighthouse world. Described as ‘Romanesque’, the main structure is a three-story, steel-framed, buff-colored brick building, with a rolled edge metal roof topped by a lantern room with helical barred windows. The cylindrical tower is 13-feet in diameter and the lantern is 8'-6" in diameter with helical bar windows.

Construction started in 1901, and was not completed until 1904. The concrete base is set on a submarine crib filled with stones.

The building provided living space for a keeper and two assistants. Attached to the main building is a one-story matching brick building that housed fog signal equipment. For many years a mannequin dressed in a Coast Guard uniform has stood in a second window to ward off vandals.

The original light was shown with a 3-1/2 order Fresnel lens that has since been replaced by a 300-mm modern plastic optic. The Third-and-a-Half Order Fresnel lens, made by Barbier & Benard of Paris, consists of a large bull's-eye of 180 degrees, with a half cylinder of ruby glass, and two smaller bull's-eyes of 60 degrees each. The lens produced two white flashes followed by a red flash, and is 72-feet above normal water level. The original lens is on display at COSI a children’s science museum in downtown Toledo.

The light replaced the Turtle Island Light that had marked the entrance to the Maumee River since 1831. At the time the Turtle Island Light was established only about 200 vessels were operating on the Great Lakes, and less than a dozen of those were steamers. As marine commerce, and the size of the vessels increased, the shallow delta (average 5 foot) of the Maumee River required improvement. In 1897, the Corps of Engineers dredged a shipping channel through Maumee Bay. The new Toledo Harbor Light actually marks the entrance to that shipping channel.

The station sits on a man-made island created by the original crib that supports the light buildings and additional large rocks which have been piled around the crib to protect it from the storms for which western Lake Erie is know. The station is about eight miles from the closest land.

Support Preservation
Lighthouse enthusiasts can support the preservation of the Toledo Harbor Light by joining THLS for as little as $15.00 per year. Information is available from Toledo Harbor Light Society, c/o Maumee Bay Resort, 1750 Park Road #2, Oregon, OH 43618, on the web at Hopefully the future will bring tours of the light station which now can only be viewed by private boat, and persons are not allowed on the deck.

More information about Maumee State Park and Resort can be found on the web at


Click on image to enlarge

Photograph by Dave Wobser

Location: Toledo, Ohio
Date Built: 1904
Active: Yes

Open to public:

Directions - Can be viewed by boat.
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