Lighthouses continue to capture our imaginations out of proportion to their modern usefulness. They evoke a sense of urgency as we picture a fogbound ship bleating its horn and searching desperately for sight of land. Most ships today use sophisticated navigational systems, so it is only the smaller craft that continue to depend on the distinctive light patterns that lighthouses use to warn sailors and inform them of their location.
The first lighthouse on the Great Lakes was built on this site in 1818. The Erie Land Lighthouse is the third on this site east of Erie's public docks; the first two having given way to the stream of quicksand below the surface. It is a forty-foot-high tower of Berea sandstone with a six-foot-diameter interior that is essentially a brick-lined tube with cast-iron stairs circling upward to the light. The handsome tawny-colored lighthouse with minimalist Romanesque-inspired detailing was operational for thirty-two years. In 2003, Erie masonry restoration specialists Fiske and Sons restored the exterior and a functioning, historically accurate lantern room was installed. Five new interpretive panels and a restored view to the lake enhance the educational experience.