Side A: The Marblehead Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse in continuous operation on the Great Lakes. Originally known as the Sandusky Bay Light Station, the lighthouse was built here in 1821 to aid navigation and prevent shipwrecks. William Kelly (1779-1867) received the contract and, using local limestone, completed construction in eight weeks. The lighthouse was 50 feet high and had a diameter of 25 feet at the base and 12 feet at the top. When the lighthouse had a keeper, the beacon was updated with ever brighter lamps and more powerful lenses. At the turn of the 19th century, a watch room and new lantern room were added, increasing the lighthouse’s height 15 feet. Beacons were lit with whale oil, lard oil, kerosene, and then, in 1923, with electricity. As of 2018, the light is an LED that is visible up to eleven nautical miles.
Side B: Benajah Wolcott (1762-1832) was the first keeper of the Marblehead Lighthouse. President James Monroe appointed Wolcott on June 24, 1822 and he maintained the lighthouse until he and his son died of cholera. His widow, Rachel Miller Wolcott (1801-1860), succeeded him, making her the first female keeper on the Great Lakes. Rachel remarried in 1834 and her husband, Jeremiah Van Benschoten (1776-1856), was officially appointed the third keeper, although both tended the lighthouse until he resigned in 1841. The light has had 16 keepers, including Johanna McGee (1854-1915), the second female keeper, who replaced her husband, George (1851-1896) after his death and went on to serve until 1903. The last civilian keeper, Edward Herman (1878-1964) retired in 1943, after which the beacon became the Coast Guard’s responsibility. In 1998 the State of Ohio assumed ownership of the lighthouse. It has been on the National Register of Historical Places since 1969.