Put-in-Bay Early Years
There are several tales to the creative name Put-in-Bay that still holds to this day, the most common theory, is that of the sailors. The theory conveys that the unique name most likely originated from the sailors who would seek refuge on the bay, as it provides safe dockage. It is said when it was too rough to sail-they would “put in the bay”. Another rather odd theory is that the shape of South Bass Island resembles a pudding bag.
Put-in-Bay offered help to many newcomers. The Indians, the first people to the Lake Erie Islands, used Put-in-Bay for shelter when crossing Lake Erie. When the quick island storms would come about, Put-in-Bay was their protection. The Remains of pre-historic people have shown up all over the Lake Erie Islands. Pre-historic people were common throughout North America – and after the plowing and nurturing of the soil, their remnants were found. Of the main tribes visiting the Lake Erie Islands, the Senecas, Eries, Shawnee, Iroquois, Miamis, and Ottawas were among them.
The first large ship to sail the Great Lakes was the Griffon, sailed by Robert LaSalle in 1679. They sailed in from Queensland, Ontario to Green Bay, Wisconsin. Lasalle and Friar Hennepin, found many flowers while celebrating the First Mass in the Mid West, and the island was named Isle des Fleurs. It remained Isle des Fleurs for 200 years.
Pierpont Edwards bought a part of the Connecticut Western Reserve tract in 1893 that consisted of Middle Bass, South Bass, and the Sugar Islands. He later became a shareholder in the Connecticut Land Company and was rewarded with a tract covering Lorain County. The error in this was that the shoreline was uneven and did not provide the correct amount of land that was agreed upon. To correct the error, Edwards was also presented with the Lake Erie Islands, one of which is known as Put-in-Bay.
Edward’s kept the Lake Erie Islands in his family for over 50 years, he sent his agent to clear and improve the land of Put-in-Bay in 1811, but never saw the islands. Edward’s agent planted one hundred acres of wheat that was soon destroyed when the Indians, cleared with British support, ran them out in the War of 1812.
September 10, 1813
Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s victory in the Battle of Lake Erie on September 10, 1813 will be remembered forever. There is a 352 foot high Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial honoring the hard-fought victory against the British. The Doric column was constructed for the centennial celebration around 1913 and 1916 and is located in the heart of Put-in-Bay. Lying beneath the floor of the rotunda, are three British and three American officers that were killed during the battle.
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Along the lovely shores of South Bass Island (Put-in-Bay), five luxury hotels were built by 1888. One of the hotels, The Hotel Victory is referred to as a symbol of the peak of the lavish 1890s. Being the biggest summer resort in the U.S. at the time, with a massive dining room and the first co-ed swimming pool in America, the victorian-era Hotel Victory was operating 27 years prior to being ruined by a fire on August 14, 1919. Today, you can still see the remains of some of the foundation and its swimming pool at the South Bass Island State Park.
South Bass Island (Put-in-Bay) was once over-populated with Cedar trees, however, they are scarce today. In the early 1900s, excursion boats from Detroit, Toledo, and Port Clinton brought tourists for daily sprees of wine and sunshine. The Put-in-Bay steamer served Detroit, Put-in-Bay, and Cedar Point and operated from 1911 to 1950. It carried approximately 150,000 passengers a season and at one time twelve steamers stopped a day at Put-in-Bay.
Put-in-Bay, Ohio today is one of the best vacation destinations in the United States, recapturing the spirit of the Hotel Victory years, welcoming guests from all around the nation for summer fun! The downtown Put-in-Bay Harbor as well as the Miller Ferry Lime Kiln dock on the southern tip of South Bass Island act as the entry points, there taxis and golf cart rentals await to bring vacationers to all of the amazing attractions like DeRivera Park, Gibraltar Island, Perry’s Cave and more. Put-in-Bay history is vast, but it’s the present we are most excited about. There’s still winemaking, but now people can get here from Sandusky in an hour instead of a week. We no longer have one of the largest hotels in the world, but we do have a ton of different Put-in-Bay hotels and lodging options that will appeal to our guests’ needs. The Lake Erie Islands Historical Society keeps our history secure, and a block away there are 5 places to grab an ice cream! The history of Put-in-Bay is incredibly rich, and we are certain that South Bass Island’s future is just as rich!