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Great Lakes Article:

Hope shines for lighthouse fix-up project
By Benjamin Alexander-Bloch
The Toledo Blade
Published July 5, 2006

A beam of hope has been cast on the Toledo Harbor Lighthouse.

The Toledo Harbor Lighthouse Preservation Society's application for ownership of the lighthouse has taken a significant step forward.

"Getting sent forward to the U.S. Department of Interior is a huge step - it's like winning the lottery or bingo," said Sandy Bihn, the society's chairman.

Once the lighthouse's deed is transferred from the U.S. Coast Guard to the nonprofit organization, the society can more aggressively begin its fund-raising campaign for a lighthouse preservation and renovation project, she said.

Ms. Bihn estimates that the restoration project will cost about $1 million.

The final application was submitted to the National Park Service in February and soon will be sent to Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, according to Rebecca Kumar, an architectural historian for the park service and the lead person on this particular application.

"I'm sure it will be approved," Ms. Kumar said. "We feel that financially [the society] will be able to care for it, and they submitted an excellent application."

The National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000 provides a mechanism for the disposal of federally owned historic light stations.

"With the way the ships work today, they don't need lights to point them the way they need to go," said Brain Hoth, petty officer first class in the Coast Guard's external affairs department.

If the Coast Guard no longer has a use for a lighthouse, it transfers the lighthouse's deed to the General Services Administration, which disposes of a few lighthouses each year.

Through this preservation act, historic lighthouses are only conveyed to entities that will use them for educational, cultural, or historical purposes.

If the application is not approved, the GSA may then sell the property.

The Toledo Harbor Lighthouse is the first lighthouse in Ohio to be recommended for conveyance under the act.

While the society would be responsible for the building's restoration and maintenance, the Coast Guard would still maintain some control over its operation because the lighthouse is still an active aid to navigation.

The lighthouse is about seven miles off shore at the western end of Lake Erie at the entrance to Maumee Bay and the Toledo shipping channel.

The 69-foot tall, 4,000-square-foot lighthouse is steel framed and has cast-iron cornices. Its steel roof is designed like the hull of an upside down ship.

"It's a wonderful example of a Romanesque-style structure," said Steven Shrake, the project manager for Dicket Porter Associates, the architectural firm that has helped formulate design plans.

Under the planned renovation project, the society will replace the brick-filled windows with their original fixtures and it will paint the interior, replace doors, and update the structure's sewer, water, and electrical systems.

The first floor will house a museum; the second floor will be for education, research, and public outreach, and the third floor will focus on boater safety and emergency management.

The society received a $10,000 grant on June 7 from the Lake Erie Protection Fund to build an access dock and a ramp for the lighthouse.

The society will celebrate the lighthouse's 102nd year with a festival that starts at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday at Maumee Bay State Park.

Among the events will be sand-sculpting, photo, and clam chowder contests; magicians; a silent auction, and music. Fireworks are scheduled for 9:15 p.m. Saturday. The festival ends at 5 p.m. Sunday.

Admission is free. Boat rides around the lighthouse will cost $20.

Contact Benjamin Alexander-Bloch
or 419-724-6050.


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