Fairport Harbor West
Public Education & Awareness Award
Many of Ohio’s 19th and early 20th century lighthouses, of which there are 17 remaining along Lake Erie, continue to this day to visually aid navigation. These structures were built to last and have far outlived their original lighting technology that required a live-in keeper. All of Ohio’s lighthouses have been decommissioned by the U.S. Coast Guard and purchased by local groups, or more unusually, by individuals. Some of them also still contain functioning beacons that are maintained by the Coast Guard.
After looking at lighthouses for several years, Sheila Consaul, who works in media relations and public affairs in Washington DC, purchased the 1925 Fairport Harbor West Lighthouse in 2011 from the U. S. General Services Administration through an auction process, to make it her summer home. Since becoming owner, she and a crew of contractors, as well as many friends and volunteers she’s met along the way, have been working to carefully rehabilitate the lighthouse inside and out with a dedication to preserving its historic integrity while making the nearly 3,000 square-foot structure livable once again.
Unoccupied since the late 1940s, the building fell into disrepair and was vandalized for many years. When Sheila took possession, there were no functioning utilities, windows were broken and boarded up, surfaces had mold, and plaster had fallen.
But Sheila was undeterred and got to work! Original windows that could be repaired were stripped, glass and ropes replaced and the brass hardware polished. Windows beyond repair were replaced with matching wood, double hung windows.
Sheila and a crew of volunteers used 80 gallons of paint on the interior. Volunteer, Phil VanTilburg, single-handedly painted the metal-clad exterior with 60 gallons of marine grade paint. Careful attention was given to saving as much original flooring as possible and replacing to match where needed.
For utilities, composting toilets have been installed, and rainwater is collected and treated for limited use. The lighthouse was re-plumbed in 2020, a generator was connected for power and a solar/wind system has been installed to add sustainable power.
Sheila and her crews have carried hundreds of pounds of supplies and equipment to the lighthouse and nearly an equal amount of trash back! Furniture and large equipment are transported by boat or barge and only when the weather cooperates. This project has truly been a labor of love! Our congratulations to Sheila Consaul and everyone who’s been involved for preserving this handsome landmark structure. And, mark your calendars for next June 9th to tour the lighthouse during Sheila’s annual Lighthouse Birthday Open House!