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6.18.2017

Erie: PA's Lighthouse City

When I think about lighthouses, the first thing that generally comes to mind is the abrupt and rocky seashores of Maine, with a plethora of spectacular lighthouses up and down the Atlantic Coast. Pennsylvania is not the first place that comes to mind when thinking about navigational lighthouses. Erie has three of them that were officially built for navigation. All three are in the Presque Isle Peninsula and Bay area, and they are beautiful. Lake Erie has been known for its intense storms, so navigational aids in the way of lighthouses are crucial, especially when it comes to the Presque Isle Peninsula, jutting out into the lake.

Erie Land Light

The Erie Land Lighthouse was the first lighthouse to shine on the great lakes. The original incarnation of this tower was built in 1818. It was expanded in 1856, though the soil was unstable and it was rebuilt in 1867. The 1867 tower is the one that remains today. It remained in service until 1880. It was recommissioned five years later after a large public outcry, and then was permanently shut in 1899. This structure has somehow stood the test of time, spending the last 117+ years out of official service, and standing in various states of limbo. For the bulk of the twentieth century, it stood without its lantern, having been shipped to the Marblehead Light in Ohio. A wooden replica was placed on top in 1990, though a storm in 2003 ripped that off of the top. Thanks to grants by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the light now stands in its original glory. The lighthouse's grounds are home to a nice little park, with playgrounds and picnic areas. It is a great place for a quiet afternoon picnic or to just get away for a little bit. The tower is nearly 49 feet tall.


Erie Harbor North Pier Light

The view from the Erie Land Light gives us a look at the next lighthouse we will be checking out, the Harbor North Light, which marks the juncture of Lake Erie and Presque Isle Bay.
The first incarnation of the Harbor North Light came about in 1830, simply consisting of a 50 foot wooden tower on a concrete pad, with a foghorn and whistle. The 34 foot tall structure known and loved today was prefabricated in France in 1858 and replaced the original tower, which had been destroyed by a schooner during a heavy storm. For navigational purposes, this light served as a warning for navigators to notice the large Erie Land Lighthouse that is located on a bluff within a close proximity of this light. Unlike the Erie Land Lighthouse, this light has remained in constant operation by the US Coast Guard. In 1995, the last Fresnel lens was removed and sent for preservation to the Erie Maritime Museum, where it is still on display, and replaced with an automated blinking red light. 
While the other lighthouses see a great number of visitors, the Harbor North Light always seems to be extremely popular. It is located on a popular fishing pier. There are always at least a dozen or so fisherman in this spot, with usually at least one person at any given time catching a relatively large fish. 
Since it also marks where Presque Isle Bay and Lake Erie meet, you always see boats sailing through the area. You may even catch a glimpse of the Brig. Niagara sailing by as Commodore Perry did more than two centuries ago.

Presque Isle Lighthouse

The Presque Isle Light is a beautiful building that marks the furthest coastline of the Presque Isle Peninsula. This light is frequently open for tours and it, along with the beach in front of it, are excellent places to take in the sunset.
The lighthouse was built in 1873. The tower itself is forty feet tall, but with the lightroom on top that was added in 1896, the height comes out to 57 feet.
Bonus stop! Waterworks Lighthouse
Our last stop leads us to the location of the old Erie waterworks on the bay side of Presque Isle Peninsula. While this is not a real lighthouse, it was built in 1906 to look like one. This housed the gears for the waterworks pump. The waterworks was a huge deal when it was first completed, since it was an engineering solution to a huge problem with water quality in the city's water system, for environmental controls were not in place to prevent disease outbreaks and more within city drinking systems. This specific structure has attracted the affection of visitors to the peninsula since it was built. While it is not an actual lighthouse, it is a neat thing to see.
The waterworks area is filled with a pristine forest area that always impresses me. I cannot help but stop for a minute in this spot and listen to the breeze blow through the leaves of the trees. 

Erie's lighthouses are beautiful and well worth checking out. 

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