Wouldn’t you like to be a lighthouse keeper, if only for a few days?
The Toledo Harbor Lighthouse Society plans to have that opportunity available once a $1.5-2 million renovation project is complete.
“Once it’s restored, we’re hoping in two to three years, people will be able to stay out there three to four days a week,” THLS President Sandy Bihn said. “It would be about four people, two pairs in each room that obviously know each other and apply together.
“They would pay some amount to stay there. They would be the keepers at the lighthouse so that when boaters and the school children will hopefully come out and tour it, it will be manned from spring until fall. So it will be a long period of time. We are giving priority to becoming a keeper to members, so the longer you’ve been a member, you get first and then second and whatever. A lot of people are enthused about the project and we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback.”
The Toledo Harbor Lighthouse is located about five miles north of Maumee Bay State Park's shores. The lighthouse marks the entrance to the Toledo shipping channel where Lake Erie and Maumee Bay meet. Boaters are generally destined for the Maumee River.
The Army Corps of Engineers designed the lighthouse and construction began in 1901. A 20-foot deep stone crib is at the base. The lighthouse is four stories high with a steel frame and an attached one-story fog signal annex building. Its original cost was $152,000.
|A view of Lake Erie from the top floor
of Toledo Harbor Lighthouse. (Photo
courtesy of THLS)
The idea of being a keeper is not new — lighthouse societies in other parts of the country also provide the opportunity. Applicants at other light houses often face a waiting list and Bihn expects the same to happen here.
“We’ve had people calling from all over the country. The Toledo lighthouse is really unique. If you look at a typical lighthouse a lot of them are beautiful lighthouses but there are others like it,” Bihn said. “This is a home, but it’s also got a steel roof and buff brick Romanesque design.
“If you see the Toledo lighthouse, you know it’s the Toledo lighthouse. You don’t confuse it with other lighthouses. People that like lighthouses recognize the uniqueness and the unique architecture and the unique features of the lighthouse are just incredible.”
Keepers should not expect to be treated like they are staying at a bed and breakfast. It’s not necessarily a vacation. They will be assigned responsibilities.
“Rather than a bed and breakfast, it will be just a few (people). They actually will be maintaining it, manning the dock, giving tours while they are there. You’re actually a keeper. You are going to be doing things to promote and share the lighthouse,” Bihn said.
“There are many clubs in the area — sailors in the area, boaters in the area — so obviously you’d have a phone there and you’d have a schedule for the dock and you’d be able to come in and tour the lighthouse. Groups could do it and there will be meetings there. It will be a lot of fun.”
As far as the price tag to stay at the lighthouse, it has not been determined yet.
“It will be something reasonable, but it will be a way to help to sustain the lighthouse,” Bihn said. “The other places do charge, so we’ll look at what they charge and what they are doing and we’ll take that as a recommendation.”
The THLS has grown to nearly 600 members, with many living as far away as California, New Jersey, and Florida, Bihn said.
“It’s amazing that we started in late 2003 of a group of five or ten and have grown to nearly 600,” Bihn said. “We really haven’t done membership recruitment — we don’t have anyone doing it. It happens at the (Toledo Harbor Lighthouse) festival, it happens in between, but people generally like our group.”
Membership dues are $15 per individual and $30 for a family. In return, you get a quarterly newsletter, added to the e-mail list, updates on a regular basis, and invited to organizational events, like the Christmas party held at Maumee Bay State Park last Thursday.
The TLHS has begun the first phase of restoration. The society is currently working on a grant for tucking the brick, refurbishing metal where needed and putting in shutters and doors.
It’s still fundraising, too.
“It’s a huge step forward,” Bihn said. “Right now we are starting a campaign for the restoration. We’re doing naming rights for windows. We’re putting together a capital program where if you make a contribution, the cost is between $500 and $2,500 per window — you can actually have your name permanently in the lighthouse on the window. It’s nice to have something that is permanent in the lighthouse. We’re just kicking off that campaign now.”