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Erie Land Lighthouse

The Erie Land Lighthouse, or the original Presque Isle Light, was built in 1818 and is the first commissioned lighthouse on the Great Lakes in the United States.

The History of the Erie Land Lighthouse

Old maps008
Early 19th century survey of Presque Isle Bay showing submerged sandbars

The First Light

The Erie Land Lighthouse, as it is now commonly referred to, was the first commissioned lighthouse along the Great Lakes in the United States.

The light was positioned on a cliff overlooking the entrance to Presque Isle Bay, which is now the foot of Lighthouse Street in Erie, PA. The original structure was a 20-foot-high square wooden tower with an enclosed lantern room. The lamp that would light the way for ships was a nine-lamp array that was fueled by oil.

The lighthouse's location was strategically chosen at the entrance of what was then an 's' shaped entrance to the bay and the port of Erie. Presque Isle is a dynamic landmass, called a sandspit, that changes over time. In the early 1800s, submerged sandbars made the bay nearly impassable. A proposal to engineer a uniform channel depth was made to Congress around the same time at funds were secured to construction the Land Lighthouse.

This lighthouse aided travelers for nearly 50 years before the structure began to fail. Over time, the lighthouse started to lean. Metal bands were placed around the light to attempt to stabilize it, but these efforts for unsuccessful and it was clear the tower needed to be replaced.

Land Lighthouse 2 Weber Brothers photo edited 1

Of Brick and Stone

In 1857, a new tower was constructed that was 56 feet high. The structure was round and constructed of “Cream City Bricks” from Milwaukee with a spiral cast iron staircase and a 16 ft lantern room.

The soft ground and poor foundation proved to be a problem and the 1857 light was demolished. 10 years later, in 1867, the current lighthouse was constructed 200 feet east of the original site. To ensure this light's longevity, it was constructed with a 20-foot foundation of oak timbers, crushed limestone, and Portland cement to support the round brick tower with Berea sandstone exterior. A third order Fresnel lens was installed that had a focal plane of 128 above the lake and could be seen 15 miles out into the lake.

Land Lighthouse with picket fence photo edited

A Light Extinguished

The lighthouse operated until 1880 when, based on the recommendation of the inspector of the Tenth Lighthouse District, it was discontinued. The property then fell into private hands for a short time until, after public protest, Congress appropriated $7,000 for the reestablishment of the lighthouse in 1884. The light remained active until 1899 when it was finally closed. The lens and lantern room were removed and taken to Marblehead Lighthouse in Sandusky, OH.

Today, the Erie Land Lighthouse has been restored thanks to the efforts of the City of Erie and the Erie Port Authority. While no longer an active aid to navigation, the site provides spectacular views of Lake Erie and Presque Isle and is open to visitors seasonally.

Land Lighthouse Weather Cam with Jet24


Open for the Season

Open Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon - 10 am to 5 pm

Grounds open dawn to dusk.


Located at the foot of Lighthouse St, in Erie, PA

2 Lighthouse St., Erie, PA 16507

  • Parking is available on-site
  • Buses and large RVs should consult staff for parking instructions


Erie Land Lighthouse Tower Climb

$6, Free for Members

  • Includes self-guided access to grounds
  • Available every 20-minutes, no reservation required
  • Must be 44" tall to climb

Combination Tower Climb

$12, Free for Members

  • Covers both Presque Isle and Erie Land Lighthouse
  • Tickets are redeemable any day during the season
  • Must check-in and show ticket to schedule climb at each site
  • Includes grounds and tower at Land, and house and grounds at Presque Isle
  • Visits to both sites must be completed within the season
  • Must be 44" tall to climb

Self-Guided Three Lights Audio Tour

By Donation

  • Self-paced, exterior audio tour of each lighthouse
  • Does not include tower access
  • Required use of personal device to access tour
  • Click below to view

School or Group Visits

Group rate

  • Group visit rates are available upon request (a group is a minimum of 8 people).
  • Groups - bookings must be made at least two weeks in advance. To book your group, please call 814-833-3604 or complete the form below.
  • Schools/Youth - Please contact us at (814) 833-3604 for more information or complete the form linked below.

Know Before You Go