The reason why landlocked WV has a lighthouse
Usually lighthouses are reserved for helping boats navigate dangerous waters, avoid reefs or find entries to harbors. But, even without access to an ocean, West Virginia is home to one lighthouse.
The lighthouse stands 104 feet tall with a top elevation of 2,164 feet above sea level. The half-inch thick steel tower weighs 77,000 pounds, with a base diameter of 12 feet receding to eight feet at the top. Visitors who climb the 122 steps to the gallery deck are rewarded with a magnificent 360-degree view of Summersville Lake and the Gauley Ridge National Recreation Area.
The idea for the Summersville Lake Lighthouse came about in 2009 as the result of a joke and a happy coincidence. Summersville Lake Retreat owners Steve and Donna Keblesh were chatting with guest Rick Butler, who worked with a crew erecting wind towers at Beech Ridge Wind Farm in neighboring Greenbrier County. If he wanted to divert one of the tower sections to the retreat, the Kebleshes joked, they would keep it and disguise it as a lighthouse.
It just so happened that the wind farm had a turbine tower to spare, Butler told them. It had rolled off a truck and sustained some damage that rendered it unsuitable for wind production, but it could be repurposed for other uses. Buoyed by this stroke of luck, the Kebleshes made plans to purchase the wind turbine and arrange for its delivery.
The lighthouse project would become a community effort: Local wind farm contractors and engineers helped to deliver and erect the tower in October 2012. Instructors and students at Fayette Institute of Technology and Nicholas County Career & Technical Center pitched in to design and build the lighthouse’s lamp room and surrounding widow’s walk and the solid steel spiral staircase within. The crown piece — a vintage Westinghouse rotational beacon that casts a beam of light that can be seen from 30 miles away — was donated by Rader Airfield and restored by a local master electrician.
More than 2,000 people attended the official dedication and lighting ceremony on June 20, 2013 — West Virginia’s 150th birthday. The towering structure continues to draw large crowds every year for the Summersville Lake Lighthouse Festival and Car Show, held the fourth Saturday in August, and CarnEvil Haunted Hayrides every October.
If you go:
The lighthouse is open daily, April through October, and by reservation November through March. Tours are offered during the day and evening (weather permitting), with special sunset and full-moon tours. On the Fourth of July, you can even watch a spectacular fireworks display from the top.
Summersville Lake Retreat offers deluxe cabin lodging, RV and tent camping, and watercraft rentals including pontoon boats, canoes, kayaks and SUP boards. The resort also is pet friendly … just ask Otis McGee and Amos Monroe — the retreat’s resident Labrador retrievers!
Have you climbed to the top of the lighthouse?
This post was last updated on July 30, 2020