West Sister Island Light Tower
By Dave Wobser & Al Hart
Located on West Sister Island in western Lake
Erie, between Toledo and Put-In-Bay. The light marks the west end of the South Passage
through the Bass Islands. It is 8 miles off the Ohio shoreline.
Originally built in 1847, the
tower was renovated and raised in 1868, when a new keepers dwelling was
built. The 55-foot white stucco conical tower originally contained a Fourth
Order Fresnel Lens with a white light. The light was automated in 1937 and
the following year the island was designated a National Wildlife Preserve.
The keeper's dwelling was
destroyed during World War II when the U.S. Army used the island for
artillery practice. Only the tower remains without a lantern, equipped with
a 300 mm plastic lens and solar power cell. All other buildings have been
destroyed. The island now serves as a national wildlife refuge, and the
formerly lush foliage has been destroyed by cormorants.
Boaters who get close to the island can see
remnants of the tramway that once was used by the light keepers to transfer supplies from
the lighthouse tender to the station.
The historical photographs and text are displayed
courtesy of the Great Lakes Historical Society, Vermilion, Ohio. They were
taken from the Society's 2003 Calendar and were edited by Al Hart. Image may
not be reproduced with the expressed permission of GLHS.
From the Toledo Blade - April 17, 1912
Capt. Charles Fitzmorris, keeper of West Sister light, was in
Toledo this week, stepping upon the mainland for the first time since Lake
Erie froze over in December. Capt. and Mrs. Fitzmorris were the only persons
on the island during the winter, practically imprisoned in mid-Lake Erie for
nearly four months, during which time they had no possible means of
communication with another human being.
West Sister Island, 13 miles eastward of Toledo harbor light, lies about a
mile and a half north of the course of the Toledo Put-In-Bay steamers. About
85 acres in area, it is owned by the government. A favorite stopping point
for Toledo yachts during the summer, it is isolated during the remainder of
the year. Several tragic events in previous years have been the result of
this imprisonment by the elements. One keeper died on the island and his son
nearly perished making his way over the ice to the mainland for assistance.
Capt. Fitzsimmons provides against emergencies so thoroughly as possible,
keeping several cows and beef cattle as well as large flocks of poultry over
winter, and laying in a liberal stock of other provisions before the ice
forms. This year, he says, the ice around the island averaged 32 inches in
thickness and on the bluff east shore was piled up far above the land level.
1867 Rebuilt Tower
Click on images to
by Dave Wobser
||West Sister Island, Ohio
Can be viewed by boat.
here for map