The Service Level
I’ve had a lot of people tell me that it’s hard to visualize the inside of the lighthouse. Many are surprised to hear that there are actually 5 separate floors – from the basement all the way up to the Lantern Room. Moving from one floor to another requires climbing a flight of stairs of some type or another and they gradually get smaller the higher you go.
On what is technically the 4th floor (counting from the basement), there’s a funky little space in the lighthouse that measures only about 6’ x 6’ square. This space is located in the tower on the northeast side of the building and sits directly below the beacon or Lantern Room. Its official name is the “Service Room” because it was originally used to service the light directly above. Traditionally, the resident keepers would store cleaning equipment, spare parts, or needed tools there. And it was in the Service Room that the keeper cleaned the lamp chimneys and prepared the lantern for the coming night.
Nowadays, the Service Room at Fairport Harbor West functions much the same as it did in the past. Important equipment is housed there including that owned and maintained by both the US Coast Guard and the National Weather Service. The US Coast Guard has a large battery box, which stores the energy generated by the front solar panel that is used to run the beacon. Likewise, the National Weather Service -- part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) -- keeps its weather monitoring equipment there. The weather equipment takes readings from whirligigs mounted on the cupola as part of the Fairport Harbor weather station, FAIO1 (http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/station_page.php?station=faio1).
As expected, a small curved iron staircase leads from the Service Room to the Lantern Room where a door opens outside to the widow’s walk. One other unique feature in the Service Room is a large iron trap door hinged from the top that takes up a good portion of the north side. The exact purpose of this hinged trap door is unknown, but it may have been used to bring in the original 4th Order Fresnel light from below to the Service Room before hoisting it into place in the Lantern Room. Either way, the trap door is always a topic of conversation for visitors due to its imposing size.
Finally, there’s a small door in the southwest corner of the Service Room that provides access to the eaves. Once you squeeze through the approximately 36” x 36” square opening, you’re directly under the red metal roof with plenty of headroom and an expansive storage area. It is in here that 10 original interior storm windows were found along with other remnants of earlier days at the lighthouse.