I can now officially mark seeing one of the Great Lakes off of my list! I visited Lake Erie during my recent trip to Pennsylvania. We went to Presque Isle, a National Park along Lake Erie. Presque Isle hosts two lighthouses, so we set out to see them.


  • Gear Tower
  • Presque Isle Light
  • Erie Harbor North Pier Light
  • Erie Land Lighthouse


While heading towards Presque Isle Light, we ran into a gear tower. We thought it was a lighthouse until we read the sign nearby and found out it was a gear tower that is often mistaken for a lighthouse.

the history: The industrial revolution in Erie brought tremendous growth to the city. With growth, the demand for a reliable water supply became apparent. A water intake was constructed in the bay in 1867. After typhoid fever outbreaks continued to spread across Erie, city planners decided to extend the pipe into Lake Erie.


After checking out the gear tower, we continued on to Presque Isle Light. The lighthouse was open for tours. You can either do the house tour or the house + climb tour where you get to climb to the top of the lighthouse. Of course we opted for the house + climb tour. How many times do you get to climb to the top of a lighthouse? We happened to be 10 minutes early for the next climb, so we toured the house while we were waiting. The house tour is not guided, so you can leisurely wander about and check out the different artifacts / facts about the house + lighthouse.

Before climbing the lighthouse, the guide gave a speech about the house and the light. After her 10 minute speech, we climbed the 78 steps to the top of the lighthouse. I was excited until I got to the top and realized how high up we were. My knees were a little shaky and weak - only because I don’t love heights. However, I am glad I did it. We learned how the lighthouse keeper would maintain the light, how the light has evolved over time, that each lighthouse has a different light pattern and that the lighthouse is still in use. Buffalo, NY manages the light pattern from their coast guard station.

After our tour, we went back into the house to finish looking at a few artifacts before heading outside to wander around the grounds. There was an oil house on the edge of the grounds where they stored all the flammable fluids used in the lighthouse. The ventilator on the roof along with openings near the floor inside, prevented the build-up of fumes.

the history: When the Presque Isle Lighthouse was built in 1873, lard or other vegetable-based oils were used in the lamps in the tower and residence. In 1880, lighthouse keepers began using kerosene to light their lamps. To prevent fires, only one night's supply of kerosene was carried into the lighthouse to fuel the lamps. Every night, the lighthouse keeper carried the kerosene up the winding steps to burn the lamp throughout the night. The oil house at Presque Isle Lighthouse was built in 1898. This oil house help up to 200 gallons of kerosene. Electricity was installed in 1924 with the lighthouse became fully automated in 1949.

Price of tour {at time of this post}: $6 for house + climb to the top; $3 for house


After we finished looking around Presque Isle Lighthouse, we drove to the next lighthouse: Erie Harbor North Pier Light. This lighthouse is still in use and is operated by the Coast Guard.

Since there was no sign or information on this lighthouse, I googled {thanks, Google!} it to find out a bit more information. Originally, the Erie Harbor North Pier Light was a wooden structure, however, a schooner swept it away in 1857, and a new structure was created in France then sent to Erie to be assembled.


To top off the day, we visited the final lighthouse on in Erie. This lighthouse is the oldest and original lighthouse before Presque Isle Light was built. They built Presque Isle Light because Erie Land Lighthouse was not as visible to boats as it should be. Erie Land Lighthouse is no longer operating. 

the history: The Erie Land Lighthouse is the "first on the great lakes." In 1812, Congress authorized the first lighthouse at this site. Construction was completed in 1818, 200 feet west of the present lighthouse at this location. Prior to the current lighthouse, there were two other structures that were built - the first had structural instability that led to the construction of the second tower that was built in 1858. Due to sandy soils, the tower was proved to be unstable. Cue to the present tower that was constructed in 1866/1867. The beacon of this lighthouse served Lake Erie until 1899.

I loved the architecture of this lighthouse the most out of the three lighthouses we visited. It was more of a traditional lighthouse. If you're ever visiting Erie, Pennsylvania, I highly recommend checking out these lighthouses. You will have to drive to all of them as they are not in walking distance of one another - however, it is worth the drive.