Rotary Lighthouse is a unique light, not because of its age or history, but because of its location. While lighthouses are usually constructed to provide aid to vessels navigating dangerous open waters or shores, Celina stands on the west bank of Grand Lake St. Marys, a man-made lake near the city of Celina, Ohio.
Built in 1986 as a project of the local Rotary Club, this forty-foot lighthouse is functional, but acts more as an observation tower than a navigational aid. On occasion, however, mariners trying to reach the small marina located near the lighthouse do take advantage of the tower’s private aid to navigation that is exhibited at a focal plane of fifty feet. The conical tower sits on a circular stone base, which functions as an observation platform. A wrought iron staircase curls around the base and a banister circles the observation deck. Simple in appearance, this lighthouse does not have as rich a history as others in the state, but it provides a beautiful view of its historic surroundings.
The area in and around Grand Lake St. Marys played an important role in developing the Northwest Territory, and consequently, the state of Ohio. In 1825, the Ohio Legislature approved funding for the construction of the Miami-Erie Canal, a 250-mile waterway that linked Lake Erie near Toledo to Cincinnati. Work on the canal was carried out over a twenty-year span from 1825 to 1845, and laborers were paid a whopping thirty cents a day, plus food, shelter, and whiskey. Grand Lake St. Marys, along with two other reservoirs, was constructed to help maintain the required five-foot depth of the canal, to which it was connected by a three-mile feeder. The advent of the railroad brought an end to the canal system, and the last section was closed in 1929.