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6.28.2017

Erie Maritime Museum and the Flagship Niagara

The Erie Maritime Museum has great displays of artifacts and history in regards to the maritime history of Erie. A large chunk of the museum is dedicated to Erie's greatest maritime achievement, Perry's defeat of the British Navy. Naval battles and Pennsylvania are not typically associated with each other, but Pennsylvania's maritime border with Canada was hotly contested during the War of 1812. The natural peninsula of Presque Isle translates to "almost an island" in French, so Presque Isle was, and remains, largely hidden from Lake Erie. Lake mariner Daniel Dobbins recommended Presque Isle  as an excellent harbor to build up a naval fleet. The Niagara and the Lawrence were built in the harbor, and this lead towards eventual victory in the War of 1812. The museum covers this, and Erie's contribution to the nation's naval history.
The museum was opened in 1998 and was the first new museum in twenty years for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. The largest room in the facility consists of what was once a power plant, and the huge turbines and other apparatus remain, a neat reuse of a facility that would have otherwise stood abandoned or even demolished. 
Anchor down!

Remnants from the power plant

Weaponry from the ships
A remake of Commodore Perry's famous flag "don't give up the ship," a battle slogan that has endured ever since.
Displays, along with the remade section of the Lawrence, and a sail section from the Niagara.
The sail section is from the modern remake of the Niagara that sits in port at the museum.
A view from the remade midsection of the Lawrence, along with the ship's artillery. This midsection was engaged in a reenactment using remade artillery from that era. It demonstrates the devastation that these ships faced during these battles. Anyone who was in line with the walls of these ships would face certain injury or death, just from flying splintered wood and artillery going through the walls.

The Port area. This is where the U.S. Brig Niagara officially docks.
The US Brig Niagara is the flagship of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, for it is a great example of the ingenuity and resilience of our state to people both abroad in Canada, and stateside. The ship was one of nine small ships (six of which were built in Erie) that joined with three other ships to fight the British Navy and retook Detroit and helped turn the tide in the War of 1812. Oliver Hazard Perry commanded the fleet and is memorialized at nearby Presque Isle State Park.
Here is the Fresnel Lens from the Erie Harbor Pierhead Lighthouse that was installed in 1858 and decommissioned in 1995.
This buoy lantern was in Erie Harbor from the 1920s through the 1960s.

The museum has a stunning collection of model ships, including this one, the Rufus S. Reed, a prime example of an 1800s Schooner.

Cannonball!
Erie's maritime history runs deep. The USS Michigan, later known as the USS Wolverine, was Pennsylvania Naval Militia used Erie as a training spot with the USS Wolverine, which was in port here. The ship was the first iron-hulled battleship in the US Navy when it was built in Pittsburgh back in 1843. Relics from the ship remain at the museum.

The ship stood guard for the nation, standing as a deterrent to threats as the leader of the Great Lakes Patrol. The patrol fought against pirates and rebels in numerous confrontations, in addition to playing a central role in breaking up a Confederate espionage ring. Later on, the ship was utilized for training purposes.
The most stunning of the USS Michigan's relics on display at the museum is the prow of the ship, which was donated to the city of Erie by the salvaging company that scrapped the ship in 1950.

The Erie Maritime Museum is a must-see for anyone into maritime history. We were very impressed by the collection that the museum has and all of the other visitors were as well. Be sure to check it out if you are visiting Erie! Additionally, be sure to check out the Bicentennial Tower that rises 138 feet over Presque Isle Bay, grab a bite to eat at the fantastic Bayfront Grille at the Sheraton, check out the piers and boating opportunities from the Port of Erie, and more. The Bayfront area is relaxing and has lots of recreational opportunities to offer.
Our visit was hosted by Visit Erie and the Erie Maritime Museum and we have shared our candid thoughts on this place.

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