In a discussion amongst historians about Ashtabula, it is highly unlikely that the Ashtabula Lighthouse would even be mentioned. It is more likely that the discussion would center on the city’s role in the Underground Railroad during the middle of the 19th century. If there were some railroad buffs in the group, they would test each other’s knowledge of the nation’s notorious Ashtabula River Railroad Bridge Disaster of 1876, which plunged a locomotive and eleven passenger cars 150 feet to a frozen river bed below. Even though they probably wouldn’t know the words to it, some might even recall poet Carl Sandburg’s poem “Crossing Ohio when Poppies Bloom in Ashtabula.” Cold War historians would certainly remember that Ashtabula was on the Soviet Unions list of expected primary nuclear targets because of the facility where the extrusion of depleted and enriched uranium was once processed.
Located about an hour between Cleveland, Ohio and Erie, Pennsylvania, with access to 30 miles of Lake Erie shoreline, Ashtabula became a major shipping and commercial center and, thanks to its lighthouses, has become a city that is rich in maritime and lighthouse history.
Today that history is being kept alive in Ashtabula thanks to dedicated volunteers of the Great Lakes Marine and U.S. Coast Guard Memorial Museum (Ashtabula Maritime Museum) that is housed in the former Ashtabula Lighthouse keeper’s house, and to the members of the Ashtabula Lighthouse Restoration and Preservation Society that was formed 10 years ago to obtain ownership of the lighthouse and restore it for future generations. The group now has over 150 dedicated members.
As with any lighthouse preservation project, the preservation group experienced its share of obstacles in securing ownership of and liability insurance for the lighthouse, and of course conducting fund raising, which is always a difficult process. However, as we all know, lighthouse enthusiasts are persistent; perhaps even more so with a structure such as the Ashtabula Lighthouse, where getting supplies and people to it is not an easy task.
However, through some clever fundraising, such as their Lighthouse Festival and the annual Fish Fry, along with diligent grant writing, things have moved ahead for the group. Last year saw the installation of a floating dock and major repairs to the concrete deck of the historic building. The group purchased their own 18-foot motor boat and made an arrangement with charter boat Captain Randy Ankrom and his vessel Coastal Critter for tours to the lighthouse.
For additional stories about the Ashtabula Lighthouse refer to “109-year-old Ashtabula Lens Restored by Lampist Jim Woodward”
in the March 2006 edition of Lighthouse Digest and “The Fearless Four” that appeared in the November 2009 edition of Lighthouse Digest.
This story appeared in the
March 2010 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
All contents copyright © 1995-2024 by Lighthouse Digest®, Inc. No story, photograph, or any other item on this website may be reprinted or reproduced without the express permission of Lighthouse Digest. For contact information, click here.