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Presque Isle, Lighthouses and Monuments

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1872–1873 lighthouse, G. L. Gillespie, engineer; 1926 additions; 2002–2005 Tom Ridge Environmental Center, Wallace, Roberts and Todd. Peninsula Dr. (PA 832), north of Alt. PA 5
  • (Michelle Krone)
  • Presque Isle, Lighthouses and Monuments (Lu Donnelly)
  • (Michelle Krone)
  • (Michelle Krone)
  • (Michelle Krone)
  • (Michelle Krone)
  • (Michelle Krone)

Presque Isle means “almost an island,” and while that is a literal interpretation of this seven-mile-long recurving sand spit, Native Americans had a more spiritual interpretation. They saw it as the arm of the Great Spirit reaching out to create a protected harbor for them. Presque Isle State Park, built between 1921 and 1923, was served by a trolley company that established Waldameer Park with rides and waterslides, and now hosts the Tom Ridge Environmental Center (301 Peninsula Drive), a silver LEED-rated, two-story brick, glass, and aluminum building with a seventy-five-foot-tall green glass circular observation tower and inverted gable roofs. Designed to be environmentally sensitive, it provides classrooms, laboratories, and interpretive spaces to explore the peninsula's natural landscape.

With six different ecological zones and more than 320 species of birds that migrate through the park, Presque Isle State Park is a naturalist's paradise. Eleven miles of hiking trails link the navigational light (North Pier Head Light of 1830) with the Presque Isle Lighthouse, the Stull Interpretive Center, and the Perry Monument on Misery Bay. When the lighthouse was constructed in 1872–1873, the peninsula's narrow attachment to the mainland had been washed out, and, consequently, a ten-room brick residence was included as part of the facility to house the light keeper and his family, who had to row across the bay to reach the mainland. In 1896, the light tower was raised seventeen feet to make it more visible from the water. The square-shaped building is five brick courses thick to withstand Lake Erie winters.

The Perry Monument at Crystal Point was designed in 1926 by local architects Fuller and Stickle, with Warren Powers Laird of the University of Pennsylvania as architectural consultant. The 101-foot-high limestone obelisk rises from a fifty-foot square base and commemorates those who died in the battle of Lake Erie in September 1813. The adjacent inlet and pond, Misery Bay and Graveyard Pond, commemorate the suffering of the sailors who died as a result of the poor standard of living during that winter aboard an unheated wooden ship. Also in 1926, the Erie Park and Harbor Commission built a Police Barracks using the dark-colored wane-edged wood siding common to state park structures. The rustic building was enlarged and refurbished as the Stull Interpretive Center in 1994.

Writing Credits

Lu Donnelly et al.


What's Nearby


Lu Donnelly et al., "Presque Isle, Lighthouses and Monuments", [Erie, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of PA vol 1

Buildings of Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, Lu Donnelly, H. David Brumble IV, and Franklin Toker. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010, 495-495.

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