BY SHERI TRUSTY
Each year, thousands of people visit Marblehead Lighthouse State Park to tour the light and step inside the Keeper’s House Museum to learn about maritime history. Among them is Jim Brower, whose personal history is tied to the Keeper’s House.
Jim once lived there.
From 1977 to 1979, Jim served as campground manager at East Harbor State Park, and the Keeper’s House, which was built in 1880, was utilized for state park employee housing. Jim lived in the two-bedroom upstairs of the home, which was then a duplex, and Assistant Park Manager Steven Bennet and his wife, Karen, lived downstairs.
Before he could move in, Jim helped renovate the home, which had been uninhabited for about 15 years.
“It had been sitting empty and unheated,” Jim said. “We got the pipes functioning and put a new boiler in the basement. We didn’t redo everything, but we made it habitable. It looks pretty much the same now that it did when we renovated it.”
At the time, the Marblehead Lighthouse was owned and operated by the U.S. Coast Guard, so Jim never entered its door in the two years he lived just a few yards away, but he watched the flashing light daily from his living room window. The light lacked the esthetic appeal that later renovations brought to it, yet crowds still came, attracted by the history and beauty of the peninsula.
“The lighthouse was slowly degrading, and there were no tours, but it was still a popular place,” Jim said.
Although he worked at East Harbor State Park, he was always on duty as a park employee, so when he was home, he kept an eye on the visitors who came daily to see the lighthouse.
“I had no specific duties I had to do here. I just had to be a presence and watch over the grounds,” Jim said. “It was always enjoyable to have someone come up and ask questions about the lighthouse. It was something we were proud of.”
Jim was living in the Keeper’s House during the Blizzard of 1978. He remembers looking out the window, which usually provided a view that spanned miles across the lake, and seeing nothing but swirling snow. He was stuck in the house for days until the Marblehead quarry sent a front loader to dig him out.
On average days, the snow and cold provided beauty and recreation.
“I would watch people drive across the ice to Kelleys Island,” Jim said. “One of the unique things they did was, people stuck Christmas trees in the ice from Kelleys Island to Marblehead. If a blizzard set in, they could follow the trees and find their way home.”
While living at the Keeper’s House, Jim met his wife, Judy Brower, who was working as the head lifeguard at East Harbor State Park. One of their sons, Jeff Brower, interviewed his father about his experiences living in the Keeper’s House and posted a video of the interview on his YouTube page.
To hear the whole story of Jim Brower’s life at the Marblehead Lighthouse, watch the YouTube interview below.