The rich history of Gibraltar Island and Stone Laboratory can be traced back to the War of 1812, when the island was used as a lookout point for Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry to spot the approaching British fleet before the Battle of Lake Erie. Years later, it was purchased by Jay Cooke, the Civil War financier, who built now-historic Cooke Castle as his family’s summer home and a place to entertain dignitaries of the day, including President Rutherford B. Hayes, Salmon P. Chase, and General William Tecumseh Sherman.
In 1925, Cooke’s daughter, Laura Barney, sold the island to philanthropist and Ohio State University Board of Trustees member Julius Stone, who gave it to the University as a permanent home for the Lake Laboratory. Upon the Board’s unanimous acceptance of the gift, the name was changed to Franz Theodore Stone Laboratory in honor of Julius Stone’s father and construction began on the Laboratory Building, Dining Hall, Stone Cottage, and Gibraltar House.
Since that time, Stone Lab has established itself as the premier research facility on Lake Erie, leading the way with its educational programs and outreach to the community. Check out the timeline below to learn more about Stone Lab milestones.
Professor David S. Kellicott, Chairman of the Department of Zoology and Entomology at Ohio State University, proposes the establishment of a field station at Lake Erie. His intention is "to afford an opportunity and a stimulus to instructors and students of biology to spend their vacations investigating living problems in biology, especially such as are connected with important industries like the fisheries."
The project is approved and $350 is appropriated to construct a second floor on the State Fish Hatchery in Sandusky. The facility is called Lake Laboratory.
Fourteen students attend the first courses offered for credit at the Lake Laboratory.
Needing more laboratory space, Ohio State acquires a 50-year lease for property on Sandusky Bay at Cedar Point. Construction of this new Lake Laboratory building costs $3,376.
Lake Laboratory is relocated to the upper story of the State Fish Hatchery at Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island.
Mr. Julius F. Stone, Chairman of the University Board of Trustees, purchases Gibraltar Island from the family of Jay Cooke, who had owned the island since 1864. Stone presents the island to the university “as a permanent home for the Lake Laboratory,” requesting only that it “shall remain the property of the University, [and] that it be devoted to the purposes and uses of teaching and research.“
The University accepts the gift, changing the name of the laboratory to Franz Theodore Stone Laboratory in honor of Julius Stone’s father.
The Franz Theodore Stone Laboratory on Gibraltar Island is formally dedicated.
The University receives ownership of the Federal Fish Hatchery on Peach Point, South Bass Island. The facility becomes the Laboratory’s principal research building.
Cooke Castle is designated a Registered National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service.
South Bass Island Lighthouse becomes part of the University.
The Center for Lake Erie Area Research is established with facilities at Stone Laboratory.
The Ohio Sea Grant Program is created.
A group of alumni and supporters create the Friends of Stone Laboratory.
Ohio Sea Grant hosts its first Congressional Day on Lake Erie.
Ohio State is named a Sea Grant College by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.
First zebra mussel found in Lake Erie during a Stone Lab field trip. The first zebra mussel research project is funded within the year.
For the first time, Stone Lab enrollment surpasses 200 students.
Exterior renovations to Cooke Castle are approved and implemented.
The workshop program at Stone Lab hosts a record number 5,755 participants.
A record high $20,755 in scholarship funds are given to students with financial need and superior academic records.
Project to bring sewer and water from Put-in-Bay to Gibraltar is completed.
The Ohio Sea Grant College Program celebrates its 30th anniversary.
Solar electricity and solar thermal panels are installed on Gibraltar Island. The photovoltaic panels are expected to cover 10-25% of the Lab’s summer electricity needs, while the solar thermal set-up provides all of the hot water for the Dining Hall.