Coast Guard Station Lorain History

It was the early 1900s and shipping was booming on the Great Lakes, especially lake Erie. With trucks and planes still on the drawing board, ships carried a lion share of the goods and people which kept the economy rolling, and Lake Erie was the connecting route. With growing traffic came the increase of accidents. The United States Life Saving Service (USLSS) was formed in 1876 to address the safety issue, at first with 11 stations on Lakes Erie, Ontario, and Huron.

As shipping increased at the turn of the century, so did the need for more stations. With a busy shipbuilding business cranking out boat after boat, the Black River serving inland Ohio communities, Lorain became one of the most important ports on Lake Erie. The USLSS had established a lighthouse at the harbor opening in the 1800s, and by the early 1900s it was decided a life saving station should be there, too. A lot on the east bank of the Black River was donated by the city, and prepping of the site, most of it swampland, began in 1905 at a cost of $14,000. In 1910, Station Lorain opened with an eight man crew. Built at a cost of $15,000-$20,000, the station was described as "the finest on the Great Lakes." It included a new "power lifeboat," which sported a 25 horsepower engine, three sails, and would hold 10 oarsmen.

In 1915, the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service and the USLSS were amalgamated to form the U.S. Coast Guard. Station Lorain served Lake Erie well for decades as the 10th busiest on the Great Lakes. More land was purchased and a boathouse and garage were added in the 1930s. The building was remodeled in 1938. After almost 80 years of service, the station, which once housed horse drawn wagons, was deemed to outdated to survive and was demolished.

In 1988, despite a drive by local historians to have it moved, a new station was on the drawing board. A Cleveland-based company started work on the new $2 million facility in November 1987. The construction took 14 months, with the station crew living and working out of trailers on the site while work was going on. In 1987, the new 12,961 square foot, two story brick station opened for business with double the space of its predecessor. It was designed to incorporate work, living, and recreation spaces for its crew, which was expanded from 16 men and women to 24.

Today, Station Lorain is still one of the busiest on Lake Erie during the summer months, assuring the safe passage of commercial and recreational boaters.