Conneaut Lighthouse History
1834 - 1894



In July of 1834, the U.S. Treasury authorized $2,700 for the construction of a lighthouse at the mouth of Conneaut Creek. New lighthouses at Huron, Ashtabula and Conneaut would be built on or adjacent to eastern piers because "At Cleveland and at the mouth of Grand River, beacons have already been located on the eastern piers to produce uniformity and to prevent mistakes and confusion, which might otherwise ensue."

On May 19, 1835, the first lighthouse was completed in Conneaut Harbor. On August 2, 1835, Walter W. Woodward became the first lighthouse keeper, receiving $20 per month to perform his duties. An artist's rendering of the lighthouse appears below.

An 1838 report stated "This beacon, situated on the outer end of the piers forming the entrance to the harbor, is built of wood, and is lighted with four plain lamps. These are not deemed sufficient; Winslow Lewis's patent lamps are therfore recommended to be substituted in their stead."

The "Lewis Lamp" as it came to be known in its application in Great Lakes lighthouses actually refers to a combination of two technologies. Swiss physicist and chemist Aimé Argand designed a type of lamp in which a single wick was able to emit as much light as seven candles. Argand's design featured the incorporation of hollow cylinder within the circular wick, which allowed air to flow both inside and outside the flame at the upper edge of the fuel-soaked wick. The addition of a cylindrical glass chimney created greater draft, promoting steadiness in the flame by preventing side draughts. The later incorporation of Argand's lamp technology with parabolic reflectors in US lighthouses is attributed to Winslow Lewis. The fuel used in these lamps was whale oil or kerosene.

Lewis Lamp

The 1838 report further states that the keeper has been renting a "tenement" for $75 per year. A recommendation was made that a one and one half story brick or stone keeper's dwelling "with a good cellar" on a one quarter acre lot could be built for $1400, including well, outbuilding and fences.

By 1842, the keeper's house required painting inside and the fence was in a "much decayed and dilapidated" condition.

An 1852 report stated "The tower is forty-feet from base to center of light, and sixty-six feet from level of lake and is built of wood, in it are six reflectors 13 inches in diameter. The lantern is six feet square, and made of iron, size of glass twelve by fourteen inches. The present condition of the tower is very bad, doubtful about its lasting through the storm. Apparatus not very good."

The following chart, dated September 30, 1854 shows the location of the lighthouse (highlighted in yellow) outside the east pier.

An 1859 report stated, Conneaut lighthouse has been rebuilt, but by 1869, the keepers dwelling no longer existed.

In 1873, a new keepers house was built on Harbor Street (unmarked on this chart).where it intersects diagonally with "Old Road". The 1835 lighthouse crib had deteriorated to such an extent that the repairs would have cost nearly as much as a new lighthouse at the head of the west pier.

In June of 1874, $4,000 was appropriated for a new lighthouse on the west pier. The lighthouse and an elevated walkway were built and the light went into operation in April of 1875. The old beacon at the east pier was taken down.

In November of 1885, the west pier had deteriorated to such an extent that the beacon was moved from the west pier to the site of the keeper's dwelling on Harbor Street.

In November of 1892 a new fixed white light shown from a white structure. The west pier was extended in 1894 and the light was moved to the outer end of the west pier. The light consisted "of a lens lantern, protected by a wooden housing or hood with a glass front at a height of 20 feet above water level, and supported upon 2 oak timbers braced by iron rods."

In 1894, it was determined that beacon on the hill next to the keepers dwelling was of little use as a guide to the harbor or as a coast light. It had become so far decayed that it was unfit to be moved to the pierhead. A recommendation was made for a $2,500 appropriation was made for the construction a pair of range lights on the west pier.


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