At Marblehead, You Can See a “Hall-And-Parlor House” and the Model for the Old Spice Aftershave Decanter

Lakeside’s neighboring village, Marblehead, is home to two historic destinations: the Marblehead Lighthouse and the Keeper’s House.

The Marblehead Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse in continuous service on the Great Lakes. It was built by a stonemason from Sandusky, Ohio in 1821 and is made of limestone from the Marblehead shoreline. In fact, the Old Spice aftershave decanter that was made from 1979 to 1990 was modeled after the Marblehead Lighthouse.

The Marblehead Lighthouse’s 1904 Fresnel lens

Thirteen reflecting lamps powered by whale oil served as the first lighting fixtures at the Marblehead Lighthouse. When whale oil became too scarce and expensive, a Fresnel lens requiring only one lamp was installed. After being exhibited at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, a new Fresnel lens arrived at the lighthouse; it was used until 1969, when the light was automated. Today, the 1904 Fresnel lens is on display at the Marblehead Lighthouse Historical Society Museum, in a home next door to the lighthouse that was built in 1880.

Benajah Wolcott was the first keeper of the Marblehead Lighthouse until he died from cholera in 1832. A number of keepers watched over the lighthouse until 1943, when the U.S. Coast Guard assumed responsibility for it.

The Keeper’s House

Three miles down the road from the lighthouse is the Keeper’s House, the oldest surviving home in Ottawa County. Benajah Wolcott and his family were the first to live in the home, which was built in 1822 by the same stonemason who built the Marblehead Lighthouse. Inside this charming “hall-and-parlor house,” an example of early domestic architecture of the Firelands territory, I admired cross-stitch silhouettes of George and Martha Washington dating from the time of Washington’s inauguration; a replica of a sampler worked by Benajah’s first wife, Elizabeth; and musical instruments typical of the time.

Inside the Keeper’s House, with the George and Martha Washington cross-stitch silhouettes

To raise funds for the preservation and maintenance of the Keeper’s House, local residents Karin Messner and Jodie McCallum wrote and illustrated a coloring and activity book about the house and the Wolcott family. Complete with a recipe for Johnny cakes, it’s a perfect souvenir of my visit.

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