Meet Cleveland Harbor West Pierhead Lighthouse's New Owners

Heather Moore’s eponymous jewelry brand and artistic endeavors dovetail into the ultimate project — rehabilitating and reimagining the Cleveland lighthouse she acquired with partner Jim Brown.

When Heather Moore was 12, she began scavenging Cleveland garage sales for metalworking tools like cutters, presses, clamps and snips. Having grown up visiting her engineer father at work on weekends, she developed an early curiosity for materials, fabrication and functional design.

Moore, an artist with her own jewelry line known for its storytelling charms, recalls her very first big find. She was with her mom and spotted a $10 garage sale win. “It was a steel tooling stamp set,” she says, “and I carried it around for years.”

That same stamp set triggered inspiration when Moore began creating keepsake plaques with quotes from friends — pint-sized statement pieces framed in glass.

“I think I’ve always been an archivist,” Moore says.

Now, she’s embarked on her biggest preservation effort by far. Last fall, Moore and her partner, Jim Brown, purchased the Cleveland Harbor West Pierhead Lighthouse for $425,000 via an auction hosted by the U.S. government’s General Services Administration. Built in 1910 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the landmark is accessible only by boat and lacks heating, electrical and plumbing.

But while many might see only obstacles, Moore sees inspiration.

“Clevelanders are driven, innovative, solid people,” she says. “I like to say we are lit from within. The lighthouse is symbolic of that, and it’s important that it continues to be in the future.”

Moore and Brown are still mulling over the myriad possibilities for the property. Maybe they’ll host artists’ retreats or conservation programs, exhibitions or events. “I have so many ideas,” Moore says.

The one thing they know for sure is that the lighthouse will remain open to the public in some capacity. Their goal is to act as stewards, preserving its legacy and sharing its history.

At the same time, the lighthouse ties into Moore’s past.

The artist has always been intrigued by lighthouses and, especially, the Fresnel lens — a maritime safety innovation circa 1822 that uses hundreds of pieces of specially cut glass to intensify the glow from the lamp bulb.

“I am literally a junkie for these lenses,” Moore says. “They are just gorgeous.”

She studied the cooling cycles of glass and Fresnel lens construction in college for her glass concentration at the Cleveland Institute of Art. She then went on to study at the Corning Museum of Glass in Seattle under glass artist Dale Chihuly and, later, under large-scale glass artist Judy Pfaff. Moore has blown glass in Venice and — for a couple of summers during college — at Cedar Point.

Moore’s love of the lighthouse is also deeply personal.

In 1997, Moore’s sister, Wendy, died at age 29 after suffering a head injury while skiing. Their father, Dan Moore III, worked for decades to increase public access to Lake Erie, including a patch of land that Wendy, also an artist, liked to visit with her camera. He ultimately succeeded, creating Wendy Park.

When she looks out from the lighthouse, Moore can see the park — and it always brings back memories.

“Wendy was the classic big sister,” she says.

Just before launching her Heather B. Moore jewelry line, Moore remembers a conversation with Wendy in which they volleyed ideas for phrases to stamp on the small silver plaques she was creating at the time. Wendy’s suggestion didn’t make grammatical sense, but both sisters understood it perfectly: “Come, let’s play laughter together.”

The token Moore created with this stamped phrase is now a coveted personal piece she still carries in her wallet.

“All of this really sparked the personalization concept,” says Moore.

But she’s quick to point out that there’s a difference between jewelry with a pithy saying and jewelry that truly tells a story.

For Moore, customization is a calling, and she sees herself as a navigator in the process.

“I’m doing this so you can pass on your story,” she says, relating that her custom pieces are created after “sensitive, lovely conversations with people about their lives.”

For some, the story is family. For others, it’s study, travel, pets, commemorating a milestone or honoring a loss. “And in light of a loss, we want to hear a funny story,” Moore adds. “We want to know that, when you have your charm, you can tell your story and also laugh, smile.”

Once the design is finalized, Moore’s team of about 20 skilled artisans fabricate the brand’s own stamps and special tooling in its steel shop. When a customer orders a custom design, it requires an individualized stamp.

The result is little legacies captured in charms and pendants. And this is what matters most to Moore. While her work has been highlighted repeatedly in Town & Country, along with attention in Vogue and Architectural Digest, she humbly does not bring up the press, preferring to talk about the appreciation her clients show for her designs.

While Moore is usually the creator, she shares a story in which Brown turned the table on her.

“Jim gave me a piece stamped into gold, a picture of the lighthouse, and on the other side is inscribed ‘You are the Light of my Life,’” she says.

For now, the logistics of accessing the lighthouse and its renovations are a bit creaky. It’s basically an island. “We have to get there by boat, though I have friends who have paddleboarded over there,” says Moore.

Recently, Moore scaled the steps from the basement up into the tower. “There was a little bit of a lean,” she says, noting that some of the structure’s flaws are like historic beauty marks, while others will require major functional repairs.

When Brown told Moore he found a piano for the lighthouse, she brought up one such repair. “We need floors, too!”

The lighthouse could well be the masterpiece for which she’s been unknowingly training she was 12 years old.

“These things take time,” she says. “We want to be sure that this beautiful statement piece of Cleveland is preserved.”

Heather B. Moore Jewelry 

Heather B. Moore jewelry features handcrafted pieces ranging from $50 to more than $5,000.

  Moore’s personal charm necklace (above) includes a 14-karat white gold channel set I.D. tag bearing her children’s names and the lighthouse her partner Jim Brown designed to honor their passion project. The circle charm with a center cross symbolizes crossroads in life.

Moore designed the piece pictured to the right for a client. The circle charm celebrates a loved one who passed away with the inscription: “Love you so very much,” which is how the special person signed cards through the years. The client saved those cards and Moore’s studio cut the cursive inscription into a steel stamp to create the personalized piece.