One of the grandest war memorials in the Midwest is located on a small island in Lake Erie. The Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial dominates the skyline of Ohio’s South Bass island next to Put-in-Bay. The huge column commemorates Commodore Perry’s naval victory over the British during the War of 1812 and the lasting peace between the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada. A ferry ride to the island is well worth the journey to experience this monument and visitor center in person.
**Disclosure: I was provided with transportation to and around South Bass island by Lake Erie Shores & Islands visitor bureau, Miller Ferries, and E’s Golf Cart Rentals. As always, honest opinions are all my own.**
Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial
While approaching South Bass island, the Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial towers above the landscape. Standing 352 feet tall, the monument is the largest Greek Doric style column in the world. Construction began in 1912 and the monument opened to the public in 1915. It became part of the National Park Service 1936 and is still under their care today.
The monument commemorates the Battle of Lake Erie; a turning point in the region during the War of 1812. Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, of the United States Navy, set sail from Put-in-Bay with a fleet of nine ships and engaged a British squadron of six ships under the command of Captain Barclay. Perry’s flagship Lawrence was severely damaged in the opening engagement and he transferred to the Niagara, taking with him the famed flag emblazoned with “Don’t give up the ship!”
The American naval force was successful in defeating the British and capture all six ships. The victory gained control of Lake Erie for the United States and opened the region for American ground forces to move unimpeded. The Army of the Northwest under Major General William Henry Harrison advanced into Detroit and into Ontario where they defeated the British and Tecumseh’s Confederacy’s forces at the Battle of the Thames in Chatham-Kent.
Sitting only five miles from the international border, Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial stands in memory of the victory and also celebrates the lasting peace between the US, Britain, and Canada. The column’s impressive height is deceiving until you get close and realize you can’t crane your neck far enough back to see it all. There are two entries to the monument which lead to the rotunda at its base.
After entering the rotunda, look down. You’re standing on a tomb. Six American and Six British officers were buried in what is now DeRivera park in nearby Put-in-Bay (look for the cannonball pyramid). In 1913 the bodies where exhumed and interred in the base of the monument. It is an odd choice for the memorial and unnoticed unless one knows it is there. From here, continue up the stairway.
A narrow staircase winds around the column and leads to an elevator, which takes visitors to the observation deck. There is a fee of $10 for ages 16 and up. The deck, 317 feet above the lake, affords a spectacular view of the area. On a clear day it is said visitors can see Cleveland 60 miles away. The most important scene is from the northwest corner overlooking Put-in-Bay, the launching point for Perry’s fleet. From there, they sailed around the point and off to the west into battle. Informational signs are posted in the corners and Park Rangers are on duty to answer questions. Looking down you’ll also see the visitor center across the lawn.
Perry’s Victory Memorial Visitor Center
If you are unfamiliar with the history behind the Battle of Lake Erie, make the visitor center your first stop. There is an informative fifteen minute video as well as historical displays detailing the naval engagement. A large diorama of the ships fills the display area. In the central area, a statue of Commodore Perry stands tall with the monument column framed nicely through the high arched windows in the background. There is also a small gift shop and bathrooms available for guests and there is no fee for the visitor center.
Perry’s Victory Memorial Visitor Tips
The Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial is open from roughly May through October. The park is located on the waterfront at the eastern edge of Put-in-Bay. Parking is available next to both the column and visitor center. A sidewalk connects the two buildings.
Musket firing demonstrations take place during weekends. Some weekends also include a reproduction 32-pounder carronade, similar to the weapons on Perry’s two larger ships. Park Rangers give talks on select days covering historical topics and the monument. Visit the National Parks’ Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial website for the most current schedules and fees.
Perry Victory Memorial Accessibility Issues
The visitor center is fully accessible and there are paved sidewalks around the property. The monument itself poses several issues to to historic nature of building. There are steps down into the rotunda of the column and a narrow staircase must be ascended to reach the elevator to the observation deck.