What A Party!
It’s not every day that a lighthouse turns 90 years old. But when Fairport Harbor West observed that milestone on June 9, 2015, over 500 people come through the annual Open House to celebrate and share their best wishes. Those who came braved challenging conditions walking the break wall as strong northeast winds blew in and lake water splashed the rocks. But that didn’t deter the many hearty souls – young and, well, not-so-young – from making the ½ mile hike from Mentor Headlands State Park.
For a birthday party that was supposed to last from 12-4:00 pm, people started to arrive at 11:00 am and didn’t stop until the dinner hour at 6:30 pm. Some people carried small children while others maneuvered slowly and carefully using a walking stick or each other for support.
Once up the ladder to the platform and inside, there was plenty to see. Five full floors connected by four sets of stairs allowed visitors to see the renovations that have occurred as well as use their imaginations to visualize what life was like there 90 years ago.
Most enjoyed just peeking inside the long-closed, but well-recognized building, curious as to the history. Many commented on the original giant chain winch, the early fog horn now transformed into an end table, the amazing workmanship of things as basic as the iron stair case.
And there were questions…lots of questions. For those not able to make it, here is a quick snapshot of some common Q&As:
Q. Did people live here?
A. Yes, 3 keepers lived at the lighthouse from 1925 to 1948.
Q. How did they heat it in the winter?
A. There had been a coal furnace in the basement and they brought coal in by boat (hence the use of the giant chain winch), which was stored and used throughout the winter.
Q. How did the current kitchen cabinets, appliances and granite countertop get delivered?
A. By a special boat with a crane. The crane lifted everything over the chain link fence onto the platform. The Home Depot delivery team moved the kitchen items inside from there. Likewise for the large pieces of furniture (sofa, dining table, mattresses, armoires etc.)…a moving company loaded the furniture onto the boat and they unloaded it onto the platform and into the house.
Q. How did you repair the walls?
A. New repair plaster was used in the spots that were really bad but mostly it was paint that repaired the walls – lots and lots of paint. More than 80 gallons has been used just on the interior so far.
Q. Are you going to have another Open House?
A. Yes, I have an Open House every June to honor the lighthouse’s birthday. Individual tours can also be arranged otherwise if you contact me via the lighthouse’s Facebook page or email account: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s to another 90 years and an even bigger Birthday Party next time!