LAKE ERIE’S GREEN ISLAND
The Green Island Lighthouse as it appeared in 1894. Atop the
tower are members of the Jay Cooke family, who frequently held family picnics on
the island (from the Jay Cooke Collection).
Green Island lies only two miles across Lake Erie from Put-in-Bay, but Drake
knew that no one could possibly cross the raging, half-frozen waters in the dark
of night. Turning his efforts to saving his family, Drake raced into the burning
structure to retrieve blankets and mattresses – anything that would keep them
from freezing during the long night ahead. In subzero temperatures, the Drakes
huddled together in the island’s lone outbuilding.
Partygoers at the Doller Hotel at Put-in-Bay looked on in horror as massive
flames whipped by the winds lit up the night sky. Pitt Drake, the colonel’s son,
was among them. He was frantic to reach his family. Only by restraining him were
Pitt’s friends able to prevent a rescue attempt they knew would compound the
By July 1865, a square-towered, limestone lighthouse with attached two-story
keeper’s house awaited the family’s return. The structure is featured in this
1894 photograph. In 1926, the quarters were abandoned, but the light remained
active until 1939 when an automated light atop the tower took its place. The
Drakes’ second home survived for nearly a century, but in the 1960s it met a
similar fate as the first. Today, its burned-out shell lies hidden beneath
bushes and trees.
Green Island is a state-owned wildlife sanctuary managed by the Ohio
Department of Natural Resources and is closed to the public.