Digest>Archives> May 2002

Collectors’ Corner

History in the Making: Harbour Lights Remembers Cleveland Light

By Sharon Coartney


Lighthouse collectors know what to expect from Harbour Lights: authentic, meticulously detailed replicas of sentinels that are comparable only to the real thing. When you see a Harbour Lights sculpture, you know that it’s done right - artistically showing lighthouses as they appear now, or as they appeared at a certain time in history.

But how does Harbour Lights make a lighthouse figurine when the real structure no longer exists? What if photos are scarce and the archives are empty? The key to creating an accurate replica is research and Harbour Lights has a secret weapon: Harry Hine, head of Product Development.

Working studiously, Mr. Hine hunts down every lead, every blueprint and every folktale to get the whole picture of a lighthouse, whether it is still standing or not. It is up to Mr. Hine to provide the artists with detailed drawings, creative direction and even paint chip samples. To re-create the Cleveland Lighthouse, Harry dug up every piece of the puzzle, assembling a complete picture where none existed.

Harry Hine used his artistic talents to draw a detailed picture of Cleveland Light, integrating blueprints with photos. The drawings and photographs were then given to the sculptor for the commissioning of a model. Once completed, Harry fine-tuned the piece, requesting the addition of landscaping and other points of interest while maintaining historic integrity.

Then the painting artists were given their instructions, following Mr. Hine’s vision of Cleveland. Color photos of this lighthouse do not exist, so Harry used his experience in lighthouse architecture and photography to estimate colorations. He compared other archival photos to existing structures - determining the correct hues from the subtle tints that even a black and white picture reveals. The rest, as they say, is history!

Although each Harbour Lights lighthouse is subjected to this close attention to detail, Cleveland is special in that its creation was such a challenge. Harry Hine says, “Normally, we’ve got wonderful photos at our disposal. Bill Younger will literally hang out the door of an airplane to snap aerial photos of the lighthouse and grounds. He’ll take photos of the buildings from every angle possible. But with Cleveland, all we had were faded newspaper clippings. Still, the challenge was exhilarating and I was very pleased with the finished product. Cleveland Lighthouse is a truly beautiful structure!”

When you look at historic photographs of Cleveland Light, it’s easy to imagine a fairytale story unfolding within the manor walls. The regal tower, tall and stately in its magnificent design, could have easily housed a Sleeping Beauty, a longhaired Rapunzel or a newly wedded Cinderella. But there was no need for a fairytale ending here, for real heroes ascended the heights of Cleveland Light each day, lighting the lamps for passing ships.

The castle-like sentinel once stood as an American fortress, casting its light from atop a hill overlooking Lake Erie. The regal brickwork and ornate ironwork was a wondrous sight to mariners approaching the Cuyahoga River.

Illuminated in 1838, the beacon worked in tandem with a nearby pier light that stood six hundred feet out on the lake. Although the Cleveland Light itself was an impressive daymark, it was hard to spot at night and became less and less distinguishable from other land light sources.

With a new pier light in place, the lighthouse on the hill was permanently darkened. With the dismantling of Cleveland Light, the fairytale castle was lost forever, living only in the memory of lighthouse lovers and historians. Cleveland Light is gone, but certainly not forgotten.

This story appeared in the May 2002 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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