The Start of Construction on a New Lighthouse in the Great Lakes Region

July 24, 1991

Work began on the current Vermilion Lighthouse on the shores of Lake Erie in Ohio. The 34-foot (10.4-meter) structure is specifically located at the Inland Seas Maritime Museum in the city of Vermilion and in the vicinity of where the Vermilion River empties into Lake Erie. This version of the Vermilion Lighthouse is the fifth navigational aid to stand guard over that section of the Great Lakes.

The original Vermilion Lighthouse was a wooden structure that had been erected in 1847. It was rebuilt a dozen years later. That structure, in turn, was replaced by a lighthouse made from iron and completed in 1877. The iron used for this lighthouse had been recycled from U.S. military cannons. The oil lantern used for this lighthouse was replaced with an acetylene light in 1919.

A decade later, though, that lighthouse was taken out of service when it started leaning to one side due to damage from an ice storm. The structure was replaced with an 18-foot (5.5-meter) steel tower and eventually transported to Buffalo, New York, for renovations. Since 1935, this version of the Vermilion Lighthouse has served as the East Charity Shoal Light on a portion of Lake Ontario that is located in Jefferson County, New York, and near the U.S.-Canada border.

Several decades after that lighthouse had been removed from the coast of Lake Erie in Ohio, a multi-year fundraising campaign was spearheaded by historian Theodore Wakefield to construct a new Vermilion Lighthouse. As a result of this campaign, the Great Lakes Historical Society was able to use $55,000 in public contributions to build a replacement lighthouse. This new structure was designed by architect Robert Lee Tracht..

Three months after the groundbreaking for it had taken place, the present-day Vermilion Lighthouse was completed. This lighthouse was officially dedicated in June of the following year. The structure is illuminated by a 200-watt (0.27-metric horsepower) incandescent light bulb with a 5th order Fresnel lens.

Photo Credit: Dustin M. Ramsey (licensed under Creative Commons)

For more information on the current Vermilion Lighthouse and its predecessors, please check out

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