Island time, Ohio style
Travels with Deb
With its mix of Victorian, early industrial, mid-century modern and nautically themed buildings, Put-in-Bay charms visitors.
But, this little village is more than a pretty face. History was made here during the War of 1812 in the Battle of Lake Erie, which marked the only time a British fleet had been defeated. You might recall the famed saying, “Don’t give up the ship,” a command written on the battle flag of the Niagara, the relief ship of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry. On September 10, 1813, nine small American ships, including the Niagara, defeated a British squadron of six vessels under Commodore Robert Heriot Barclay. Perry’s original flagship, the Lawrence, was completely disabled, with most of her crew wounded or killed. Perry then transferred by boat to the undamaged Niagara and hoisted the battle flag. He proceeded to break the British battle line, forcing Barclay to surrender. In the aftermath, Perry wrote in his report to General William Henry Harrison, “We have met the enemy and they are ours,” another memorable slogan that has made its way through the ages.
You’ll learn all about this pivotal battle and how it led to regaining Detroit, which was lost at the war’s outset, when you tour the U.S. Brig Niagara. The ship is a reconstruction of the original, a two-masted, square-rigged sailing vessel, which plies the Great Lakes preserving and interpreting the story of the Battle of Lake Erie. Put-in-Bay is the ship’s second home (the Erie Maritime Museum is its homeport) and she can often be seen docked at the island during the summer months.
The U.S. Brig Niagara is a Sailing School Vessel, with a crew of professionals and trainees that actively practice the skills of square-rig seamanship. From mid-May to mid-September, members of the general public (teens and adults) can live and sail aboard the ship as trainees. As you tour the ship, the crew provides information about the various stations and equipment, as well as shares their experiences of life on the vessel.
History enthusiasts will also enjoy Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, which commemorates the Battle of Lake Erie and Perry’s victory, as well as honors the subsequent peace that has existed between America, Great Britain and Canada. Managed by the National Park Service, the 352-feet, Greek Doric monument is made of 2,340 blocks of pink granite. The observation deck is accessed via a set of stairs, followed by an elevator ride to the top, where you’ll be rewarded by picturesque views of the lake and surrounding islands.
The site also includes a visitor’s center with exhibits and artifacts, as well as a series of interpretive programs with park rangers. During my visit, ranger Jeff Ashley, who was dressed as a U.S. Infantry soldier in a late war uniform, gave a black powder firing demonstration with a flintlock musket.
If you’re looking for outdoor adventure, Put-in-Bay has a multitude of options. You can rent a charter boat to fish, go parasailing, jet skiing, paddle boarding or kayaking on the lake. There are also beaches for swimming and numerous hiking trails. And then there’s golf, mini golf, an antique car museum, butterfly house and even caves to explore.