How do you move a 12,000-pound, 120-year-old lighthouse across a river? Very slowly.
For 60 years, the Port Clinton Lighthouse sat in a private marina on the Portage River, moved from its original spot on Lake Erie. One of the only remaining wooden lighthouses on the Great Lakes, the structure deteriorated over the years.
But five years ago, a group of conservationists began to restore the lighthouse. And Tuesday, it moved back across the river.
Many people lined up in this Ohio town for hours to watch the lighthouse take its place on the lakefront.
“I’m glad to see it back, we can sit on our front porch and see it,” laughs Mike Elias.
Elias recalls his 1956 Port Clinton High class ring, which features the lighthouse, a symbol for Port Clinton.
John Smothers of The Port Clinton Lighthouse Conservancy orchestrated the move.
“It was lifted with crane onto a barge,” Smothers says. “Then the barge came down the river. The crane lifted it off of the barge. Then it came across on the trailer, then it lifted it onto the trailer onto this thing. In 20 miles-an-hour winds. “
Crossing the river itself only took about 10 minutes. It was the loading onto the trailer and its slow drive to the final site, however, that took the rest of the morning.
Port Clinton resident Ginger Goodfellow watched every second of it.
“My son Paul Monak is driving the barge — I’m very proud of him,” Goodfellow says. “This is a great day for Port Clinton, for all the people here — it’s just wonderful.”
Now that the lighthouse is restored, the Conservancy’s Richard Norgard hopes it will represent a new start for this town.
“Some of our people have been crying and hugging each other and it’s beyond my wildest dreams that we got this far,” Norgard says.
The conservationists hope to open the lighthouse as museum in the fall.