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 enlarge

Photograph by Dave Wobser

Location: West Sister Island, Ohio
Date Built: 1847
Active: Yes

Open to public:

Directions - Can be viewed by boat.
Click here for map
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