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Historic lens returns to Marblehead light

The Marblehead (Ohio) Light Fresnel lens returned May 25 to an Ottawa County state park.

In a dedication ceremony the Coast Guard lent the 5-foot, 300-plus-pound lens to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Recreation. The lens is on display in the keepers’ quarters at Marblehead Lighthouse State Park. About 1.3 million people visit the park each year to learn about the lighthouse’s role in Lake Erie history.

The lens was manufactured in France and displayed at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair before being installed in the Marblehead Lighthouse tower. It helped give the lighthouse beacon its powerful 330,000 candlepower signal, which was visible for up to 16 miles on a clear night. Use of the lens continued until 1969, when it was dismantled and shipped to Detroit. Enterprising Marblehead residents recovered the lens a few years later and returned it to the U.S. Coast Guard Station at Marblehead where it had been stored since.

“The Marblehead lens needed to assume its rightful place at the lighthouse,” said Senior Chief James Bordell of the U.S. Coast Guard Marblehead Station.

Marblehead Lighthouse, built in 1821, is the oldest lighthouse on the Great Lakes in continuous operation. It is located on the easternmost tip of Marblehead Peninsula at the entrance to Sandusky Bay. The lighthouse, on-site keepers’ house and surrounding grounds became a state park in 1998.