The Presque Isle Light Station, better known as the Presque Isle
Lighthouse, was put into service on July 12, 1873, and it is still a
working aid to navigation today.
On July 25, 2014, the Presque Isle Light Station transitioned from being a
residence for park staff to a publicly accessible heritage site under the
administration of the Presque Isle Light Station, a non-profit organization
which holds a 35-year lease with the Pennsylvania Department of
Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).
The Presque Isle Light Station is listed on the National Register of
Historic Places (1983), and a Historic Structures Report for the site was
completed in 2007. The report is the primary planning document for
decision-making efforts concerning the preservation, rehabilitation,
restoration and reconstruction of the Presque Isle Light Station.
The Presque Isle Light Station was commissioned in 1870 to replace the Erie
Land Lighthouse. A new light was needed to warn mariners of the seven-mile
long peninsula jutting out into Lake Erie – on an otherwise straight
coastline. The light was also needed to provide mariners with a location
marker so they could confirm their location as they traveled through the
Construction began in September 1872. Building materials were first brought
to the lakeside of the project site. Lakeside delivery proved to be too
difficult and dangerous. A scow carrying 6,000 bricks was lost early in
the project causing builders to consider a new method of getting materials
to the site. Instead, a path was cleared through the swampy interior of
the peninsula to connect the construction site with Misery Bay and the City
of Erie. Construction material was brought by boat from Erie and
transported along this path. Today, this path is known as Sidewalk Trail.
Construction of the lighthouse was suspended for the winter on December 8,
1872. In the initial three months of construction, the masonry of the
residence and that of the tower was well under way, the residence was
roofed, and the tower covered. Construction resumed in April 1873, and the
station as ready for occupancy on July 1, 1873. The entire station cost
$15,000 to construct. Limestone was used as the foundation for the tower
and residence. Plans originally called for the entire structure to be
built of limestone, but the design was later changed to use bricks above
ground to reduce costs.
Attached to the residence is the tower. Constructed of brick, the tower is
square on the outside and round on the inside. The thickness is needed to
protect the structure from the fierce storms that occur on Lake Erie.
Initially, the tower height was 40 feet. In August of 1896 a project to
increase the tower height an additional 17 feet to 57 total feet was began
to enhance the visibility of the light from the lake.
The overall height of the tower, to the top of the ventilator ball is 73
feet with the light sitting at 63 feet above ground level. In 1899 the red
bricked tower was painted white so it would stand out as a ‘day mark’ for
ships and vessels on Lake Erie.
A winding staircase of 78 iron steps provides access to the lantern room at