North Pier Light
The Erie Harbor North Pierhead Light, also known as the Presque Isle North Pier Light, is one of three lighthouses near Erie, PA. The light, which is located at the far eastern end of Presque Isle State Park, helps ships and boats navigate their way into the narrow channel to Presque Isle Bay.
It was originally constructed as a wooden tower in 1830, a slightly farther west, closer to the current location of the United States Coast Guard Station. At that time, it was powered by whale oil and had to be constantly tended by a lighthouse keeper and his assistant who lived in nearby cottages.
The wooden tower was destroyed in 1857 when a schooner crashed into it trying to enter the channel during a gale. Until a new light could be built, a light was hung from a gallows to provide light for ships entering the channel.
In 1858, the North Pier was extended, and a two-story structure was constructed. This was made of wrought iron and metal forged in France and assembled on site in Erie. It contained a 6th order Fresnel lens, but still powered by whale oil, that emitted a fixed white light. Originally, the lower staircase was open and only the lens and watch room at the top were enclosed.
Again in 1883 the North Pier was once more extended, and the lighthouse was moved closer to the end of the pier. They installed a 4th order Fresnel lens and changed it to a fixed red light. A 934-foot-long elevated walkway was added attaching the iron tower to the keepers cottage.
Further extension of the North Pier in 1891 meant that the tower had to be moved again, as well as the elevated walkway. A zip line tower was also installed to allow supplies and people to be transferred to and from the pier.
Electricity came to the North Pier Light in 1924, allowing the light to be electrified and easing the keepers’ workload.
The North Pier was extended one last time in 1940, and the light was moved to its current location. It was also encased in steel panels and painted it’s distinctive white with black stripes.
The US Coast Guard took over management Lighthouse Service, including the North Pier Light in the 1940s and so lighthouse keepers were no longer needed after 1945.
In 1995, US Coast Guard removed the 4th order Fresnel lens and installed an automated red flashing light powered by solar panels.
The unique square-pyramidal design of the lighthouse is the only surviving example of this type left in the United States. In 2021, the lighthouse was featured on a postage stamp as part of the Mid-Atlantic Lighthouse series done by the United States Postal Service. The image of the light on the stamp was one of the last works done by artist Howard Koslow.
Opened during Presque Isle State Park hours
Grounds access available during park hours
Tower is not open to the public.
Presque Isle State Park
Located on the North Pier adjacent to the Coast Guard Station, near beach 11
Self-Guided Three Lights Audio Tour
$5 for each site, $10 for all three
- Self-paced, exterior audio tour of each lighthouse
- Does not include tower access
- Required use of personal device to access tour
- *Coming in summer 2022