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   Erie Land Lighthouse


Historic Name

Erie Land Lighthouse


2 Lighthouse Street


City of Erie

Tax Parcel


Historic District



Class 1 (Definitions of Classes)

State Key Number


Historic Function

Transportation - air-related









Barn Type on property


Last Entry Update



The Erie Land Lighthouse is one of three lighthouses in Erie, along with the Presque Isle Lighthouse and the North Pier Light. Formerly called the Presque Isle Lighthouse, the name of this structure was changed to the Erie Land Lighthouse when a lighthouse on the land side of Presque Isle was completed in 1872. An act approved by Congress in 1810 appropriated the funding for this lighthouse and the Buffalo Lighthouse. Both are considered the first American lighthouses built on the Great Lakes. Situated one the bluffs overlooking Lake Erie, the Erie Land Lighthouse was also the first lighthouse erected in the area.

Completed in 1818, the lighthouse’s twenty-foot stone tower housed a nine-foot-tall lantern that projected out a mere ninety-three feet. Nearby, a one-story frame dwelling was constructed for the light’s first keeper, Captain John Bone, who served from 1818 until 1832. Bone lived with his wife and four daughters in the small dwelling, maintaining the grounds and refilling the lens’s oil supply. Shortly after Bone’s departure, the tower was inspected and found to be in good condition. Almost two decades later, the tower had to be replaced due to foundational issues. In 1857, a fifty-six-foot tower made of Milwaukee brick was erected, but by 1866 this tower had to be dismantled after quicksand was found beneath the tower’s foundation. In turn, the third tower was constructed further from the bluffs. Completed in 1867, this Berea sandstone tower still stands today. After its completion, a Fresnel lens from Paris, France was installed and a saltbox light keeper’s house was built. The keeper’s home was altered in 1871 to accommodate a second story and finer finishes.

After the lighthouse on Erie’s Presque Isle Peninsula was completed in 1872, this structure was officially renamed the Erie Land Lighthouse. Due to the completion of the new Presque Isle Lighthouse, the Erie Land Lighthouse was deactivated in 1880. Myron Sanford, owner of the surrounding land, bought the property in March 1881. The public was disappointed in the decommissioning of the lighthouse, and on July 1, 1885 it was reactivated and a new third-order Fresnel lens was installed. George W. Miller, former keeper of the Conneaut Lighthouse, became the Erie Land Lighthouse’s final keeper in 1894, serving until its final distinguishing in 1899. Miller was the only keeper to maintain the tower’s light using natural gas that was piped from a nearby well. After its closing, this light was moved to Marblehead Lighthouse in Ohio, where it is still in use today.

The City of Erie acquired the Erie Land Lighthouse in 1934, and continues to rent the keepers dwelling to caretakers who maintain the surrounding land, which is now known as Lighthouse Park. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 30, 1978, promoting preservation efforts to ensue in the following decades. On December 17, 1990, a new wooden lantern room was unveiled at the base of the tower. Almost a decade later, on December 26, 1999, a ceremonial relighting was held at the lighthouse. The following year, archaeologists discovered the foundation of the 1818 lighthouse at a site 200 yards west of the current tower. In 2003, funds secured by the Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority, who later assumed ownership of the tower in 2010, allowed restoration of the property to begin. Fiske & Sons of Erie replaced the lantern room and oil room roof, and repaired the interior and exterior brick. Following the restoration project, a rededication ceremony was held June 19, 2004, where a state historical marker was unveiled. In 2011, the Erie Playhouse offered tours of the lighthouse in period costumes over Labor Day weekend and the preceding weekend. The Erie Playhouse has continued to annually provides these tours, which is the only time the Erie Land Lighthouse is open to the public. The Erie Land Lighthouse continues to embody Erie’s early maritime history as the first lighthouse to open in the city, as it overlooks the bluffs of Lake Erie and the bustling city.




Erie Land Lighthouse National Register nomination


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Photo courtesy, Erie County Assessment Office



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