Did you know that there is an historic lighthouse on the grounds of Ohio's Cedar Point Amusement Park?
Most people, including those that frequently visit the park or live in the area, don't seem to know about this lighthouse. I found it online and put it on my list of things I needed to see when I recently visited Cedar Point, but I found that finding it in real life a was little more difficult than expected!
But I kept asking questions until I found someone who knew where to find it.
I'm not surprised that few people know about this lighthouse as it is tucked away in a collection of guest cottages and luxury RV sites at the park and well away from Cedar Point's midway, theaters and thrill rides, but it's worth noting that the amusement park pretty much rescued the Cedar Point lighthouse from complete oblivion by repairing, renovating and restoring it as the centerpiece of their Lighthouse Point development in the early 2000s.
A lighthouse first occupied this spot on the Cedar Point peninsula at the east side of the entrance to Sandusky Bay in 1839. The original 28-foot-tall lighthouse was a small rectangular stone building covered by stucco adorned with saw-tooth-style gables and a short octagonal tower placed at the center-front roof peak.
The Cedar Point lighthouse, along with the older Marblehead lighthouse, helped mark and illuminate Sandusky Bay's entrance.
A newer lighthouse replaced the original Cedar Point light in 1862, which still makes it the oldest structure in the amusement park today.
This 38-foot-tall version of the lighthouse was a six-room limestone keeper's cottage with the roof top tower from the original lighthouse mounted on top of it.
In 1909, the government deactivated the Cedar Point light as a navigational aid. The lighthouse lost its light and tower after its deactivation although it remained in service as a Coast Guard facility until 1975. The Coast Guard used the site as a buoy, radio beacon and life saving station over the years, and the house served as a galley and living quarters for enlisted men.
Things looked bleak for the Cedar Point lighthouse after that as it continued to fall into disrepair through the end of the 1970s and the 1980s.
In the late 1980s, the Cedar Point Amusement Park acquired the structure and considered how to best make use of it.
A story from 2000 in the Lighthouse Digest magazine detailed the writer's visit to the site, where he found the lighthouse, still lacking its tower and in very rough shape, languishing in a fenced-off maintenance area and storage area at the park.
Still, there was a ray of hope at that point as Cedar Point Amusement Park prepared to announce its plan to restore the lighthouse as part of a plan to develop a guest area with cabins at the site. Photos with this particular article show the sad state of the lighthouse then as it sat among trash and overgrown weeds.
The Lighthouse Point development, designed to resemble a nautical New England village, finally opened and accepted overnight visitors in 2001.
Simply visiting the lighthouse without going to the amusement park isn't the easiest thing to do, but it is possible.
The lighthouse grounds are open to the (parking-fee paying) public, but visitors cannot enter the lighthouse.
You will have to pay for parking at Cedar Point and drive to Lighthouse Point, following the road to the left and around to the back of the amusement park.
One site suggests that renting one of the cottages may be the best way to see the lighthouse and enjoy some nice views of the Marblehead Lighthouse across the bay, although that's an admittedly extravagant option and the popular cottages fill up quickly during the summer. Someone also told me that visitors could pay the amusement park parking fee, visit the lighthouse and then eat at one of the restaurants in the park to receive a rebate for most of the $15 parking fee.
(A note about dates used in this story: There are disparities among online sources about the dates of the original lighthouse. Several sources that I suspect simply regurgitated information from each other claim the present lighthouse is a replica of the 1862 structure. I opted to use the dates and facts from a publication issued by the Ohio Lake Erie Commission, and distributed by the Ohio State University Sea Grant site, and information from the sign in front of the lighthouse for this story).
Want to learn more about lighthouses in Ohio? Check out Ohio Lighthouses (Images of America) by Will O'Connell and Pat O'Connell.
Thanks to the Lake Erie Shores & Islands Visitors Bureau for sponsoring my visit to Sandusky, providing lodging at Cedar Point's Castaway Bay, meals, and help arranging visits to area attractions for my review, with no further compensation. I was free to express my own opinions about the stay and experiences, and the opinions expressed here are mine.
© Dominique King 2014 All rights reserved