Lighthouses of the United States: Northwestern Pennsylvania

The U.S. state of Pennsylvania has 4 lighthouses, 3 active, on its Lake Erie shoreline in the northwestern corner of the state. A preservation society, Keepers of the Erie Lights, has been formed to support the restoration of the three historic light stations. All four lighthouses are readily accessible.

Pennsylvania also has a coastline on the Delaware River at the southeastern corner of the state; lights in that area are described on the Southeastern Pennsylvania page.

Navigational aids in the United States are operated by the U.S. Coast Guard, but ownership (and sometimes operation) of historic lighthouses has been transferred to local authorities and preservation organizations in many cases.

Note: All the lighthouses on this page are in Erie County.

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights. USCG numbers are from USCG Light List Volume VII.

General Sources
Lighthouses of Pennsylvania
Excellent photos and accounts by Kraig Anderson.
Lighthouses of the Great Lakes - Lake Erie
This site by Neil Schultheiss has good photos and information on the lighthouses.
The Lighthouse Hunters - Pennsylvania
Photos and accounts by Christine and Tom Cardaci.
Lighthouses in Pennsylvania
Photos available from Wikimedia.
National Maritime Inventory - Pennsylvania
National Park Service inventory of Pennsylvania lighthouse data.
Coast Guard Lighthouses - Pennsylvania
Historic photos and notes, posted by the U.S. Coast Guard Historian's office.
Leuchttürme USA auf historischen Postkarten
Historic postcard images of U.S. lighthouses posted by Klaus Huelse.

Presque Isle Light
Presque Isle Light, Presque Isle, July 2009
Wikimedia Creative Commons photo by Ruhrfisch

Lake Erie Lighthouse
* Presque Isle
1873. Active; focal plane 73 ft (22 m); white light, 3 s on, 3 s off. 67 ft (20.5 m) square cylindrical brick tower rising from a 1-1/2 story brick keeper's house. 300 mm lens. Tower painted white, lantern and gallery black. A photo appears above, Jimmy Emerson has a good 2008 photo, Bill Britten has an excellent closeup photo, Huelse has a historic postcard view, and Google has an aerial view. The Coast Guard has historic photos taken before and after the height of the tower was increased by 33 ft (10 m) in 1896. Presque Isle is a large spit (a glacial moraine) projecting toward the northeast and protecting Erie Harbor; the entire spit is now included in a Pennsylvania state park. There is a historical exhibit outdoors near the lighthouse. The lighthouse was transferred to state ownership in 1998. In 2006 a new preservation organization, Keepers of the Erie Lights, launched a fundraising drive to restore the grounds and rebuild outbuildings. The Pennsylvania legislature approved a vanity license plate featuring the lighthouse; $17 from the sale of each plate goes toward the restoration effort. A 2007 architectural study estimated that a complete restoration of the building would cost about $880,000. In 2011, there was a plan for a more limited restoration that would cost $450,000, but no funds were available. In December 2012 Portia Norton, a local resident, donated $196,348 to establish an endowment fund for the lighthouse and the nearby Perry Monument. The keeper's house was for many years a residence for the state park manager, who was required to live in the park. In 2014, the state scrapped that requirement and agreed to lease the lighthouse to a non-profit group, the Presque Isle Light Station Board. The board will offer limited tours while planning to restore the building to its appearance around 1900. Located on the beach in Presque Isle State Park (end of PA 832). Site open, tower closed. Owner: Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Site manager: Presque Isle State Park. ARLHS USA-666; USCG 7-3690.

Erie Harbor Lighthouses
Note: Erie Harbor, also called Presque Isle Bay, is an oval-shaped lagoon sheltered by the peninsula of Presque Isle. The shallow entrance to the lagoon, at its east end, is held open by a dredged canal. The enclosed bay is vulnerable to pollution, but in recent years there have been strong efforts to restore it to health. In February 2013 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency removed the bay from its list of Great Lakes Areas of Concern.
* Erie Harbor Pierhead (Presque Isle North Pier) (2)
1858 (station established 1830). Active; focal plane 42 ft (13 m); red flash every 2.5 s. 34 ft (10 m) square cast iron tower with lantern and gallery. Lighthouse painted white with a horizontal black band; the lantern is also black. Solar-powered lens (1995); the original 4th order Fresnel lens is displayed at the Erie Maritime Museum. C.W. Bash's photo is at right, J. Becker has a closeup, Wikipedia's page has a good photo, and Bing has an aerial view. The lighthouse replaced an 1830 wood tower destroyed by collision with a ship in 1857. No other surviving U.S. lighthouse shares this design. The tower has been moved twice (in 1882 and 1940) to accommodate changes in the pier. Located on the north side of the Erie Harbor channel entrance at the eastern end of Presque Isle State Park. Accessible by walking the pier. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: U.S. Coast Guard. ARLHS USA-274; USCG 7-3495.
* Erie Yacht Club
Date unknown. Active April through October (privately maintained); focal plane 32 ft (10 m); white flash every 2 s. 36 ft (11 m) round cylindrical steel tower, rising through the center of a square gazebo. Lighthouse painted white, lantern black; gazebo painted white with a blue metal roof. The Cardacis have good photos, and Google has an aerial view. The gazebo was added sometime between 2006 and 2010. Located on the outer arm of the east breakwater of the yacht club, off PA 5A and Virginia Avenue on the west side of Erie. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: Erie Yacht Club. ARLHS USA-1313; USCG 7-3660.

Erie Pierhead Light, Presque Isle, January 2004
Flickr Creative Commons photo copyright C.W. Bash
** Erie Land (3)
1867 (station established 1818). Inactive 1881-1885 and since 1899. 49 ft (15 m) round sandstone tower with lantern and gallery, unpainted. Lantern roof and watch room painted white. The original 3rd order clamshell Fresnel lens was transferred in 1902 to Marblehead Light in Ohio, and it is now on display at the Marblehead keeper's house. The original 2-story wood keeper's house, renovated in 1979, provides a residence for the park caretaker. The Cardacis have a page with photos, Huelse has a historic postcard view, and Google has a closeup street view and an aerial view. The tower was raised in height by 17 ft (5 m) in 1897. The lantern and watch room were removed around 1900, when the light was deactivated. They were replaced by wooden copies in 1989 as part of a partial restoration of the tower. In May 2003 a wind gust blew the lantern off, but it was about to be replaced anyway by a historically accurate replica. The restoration project was completed in early 2004; in addition to replacement of the lantern, the project cleaned and repaired the exterior of the lighthouse and the interior stairway. Lighthouse Digest carried a report in April 2004. The lighthouse was rededicated in June. In August 2011, the lighthouse opened for tours for the first time. Archaeologists working at the light station have uncovered the foundations of an 1818 tower, the earliest U.S. lighthouse on the Great Lakes. Located in Land Lighthouse Park at the end of Lighthouse Street in downtown Erie. Site open daily, tower closed except for occasional guided tours organized by the Erie Port Authority and the Erie Playhouse theater; tickets are required and the proceeds benefit the Playhouse. Owner/site manager: City of Erie. ARLHS USA-921.
Erie Land Light
Erie Land Light, Erie, July 2009
Wikimedia Creative Commons photo by P. Noble

Conneaut Lake Lighthouses
Note: Located west of Meadville about 50 mi (80 km) south southwest of Erie, Conneaut Lake is about 3 mi (5 km) long and 1 mi (1.6 km) wide. The largest natural lake in Pennsylvania, it is surrounded by vacation homes.
Snug Harbor
1924. Active; focal plane about 33 ft (10 m); continuous (?) white light. Approx. 30 ft (9 m) round tower with lantern and gallery, painted white. Frank Miklos has a photo and a second photo of the lighthouse in action, and Google has a satellite view. Built by E.H. Shartle, this lighthouse is a familiar landmark of the lakeshore. Located near the southeastern corner of the lake, on Konneyaut Trail. Site and tower closed (private property).
Lauderdale Estates
Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 25 ft (7.5 m); continuous (?) white light. Approx. 23 ft (7 m) octagonal wood tower with lantern and gallery. Lighthouse painted white, lantern roof red. Frank Miklos has a photo, and Google has a satellite view. Located on the east side of a canal entrance at the extreme north end of the lake. Site and tower closed (private property).

Notable faux lighthouses:

  • Bicentennial Tower (1996), a 187 ft (57 m) observation tower on the Erie waterfront, resembles a lighthouse but carries no light. Google has a street view and a satellite view.
  • Erie Waterworks (1906), a small cast iron tower on the bay side of the Preque Isle Peninsula. There is no evidence that this tower ever served as an aid to navigation. Google has a satellite view.
  • Sherman Memorial (Tionesta) (2006), located on an island in the Allegheny River, is a working lighthouse but not an aid to navigation. Guided tours are offered periodically. The Pennsylvania Hunting and Fishing Museum is to be built near the lighthouse. Google has a satellite view and a distant street view.

Information available on lost lighthouses:

Adjoining pages: East: Upstate New York | West: Ohio

Return to the Lighthouse Directory index

Checked and revised April 1, 2014. Lighthouses: 6. Site copyright 2014 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.