Erie Land Lighthouse, Presque Isle Lighthouse opens for excursions

The Erie Land lighthouse hasn’t guided sailors in more than a century, but the 49-foot tower remains a beacon in a neighborhood on the east side.

Starting this weekend, the public can regularly climb the 69 steps to the lantern. The Erie Land Lighthouse, previously only open for special occasions, is accessible on Saturdays and Sundays for a fee and free on the first Tuesday of each month.

“It’s such a community gem,” said Emily Butler, executive director of Presque Isle Light Station. “It is our mission as an organization to make these lighthouses accessible to the public.”

The nonprofit she runs also operates the Presque Isle Lighthouse in Presque Isle State Park. It will reopen to the public on May 27th after it closed in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Both structures offer a breathtaking view.

The Presque Isle Lighthouse with a 30 meter high tower is located on the beaches of the Lake Erie peninsula. Owned by the state, it is still a navigational aid, with a light maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Erie Land Lighthouse is located at the foot of the city’s Lighthouse Street, three blocks east of East Avenue. It overlooks Presque Isle Bay, the Harbor Canal and Lake Erie. Across the water, the North Pier Light can be seen at the end of North Pier in Presque Isle State Park, which is often misidentified as a lighthouse.

For subscribers:Guide light: How the North Pier Light evolved as a beacon for navigation

Located at the foot of Lighthouse Street in Erie, the Erie Land Lighthouse is 49 feet high and was built in 1867.  It is the third lighthouse that was built on the property.

Butler said the light on the Erie Land Lighthouse is shining in the dark but not projecting since it was decommissioned in 1899 as a navigational aid.

“It’s really pretty at night,” she said.

The sandstone structure was built in 1867 and is actually the third lighthouse on the site. The first wooden version from 1818 was replaced with a brick version in 1858, but Butler said it began to sink, shifting the location for the stone tower about 200 feet to a thicker floor.

“It’s in great shape,” she said, adding that the Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority, which owns the Land Lighthouse, carried out restoration work in the early 2000s.

New keeper:The historic operation of the Erie Land lighthouse has been handed over to the Presque Isle lighthouse staff

Under a two-year contract with the Port Authority, Presque Isle Light Station staff will oversee the operation of the Erie Land Lighthouse.

“We couldn’t be happier to partner with Presque Isle Light Station to operate the Erie Land Lighthouse,” said Brenda Sandberg, executive director of the Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority.

She said it illuminates a hidden gem.

The Port Authority will continue to own the 2 acre property, which includes the lighthouse and the nearby keeper’s residence where Butler now lives.

She and Sandberg said it was important for both organizations to open the lighthouse free of charge for at least four hours a month to allow people access regardless of their solvency.

“We know a lot of people may not be able to afford the $ 5 cost to climb the tower,” said Butler.

Visitors tour the Presque Isle Lighthouse in Presque Isle State Park in 2017.

Visiting the site is free during the day at both the Land Lighthouse and Presque Isle Lighthouse. It costs $ 7 to climb the Presque Isle Tower.

Visitors must be at least 44 inches tall to access any of the towers, as climbing the spiral stairs can be a bit dangerous, Butler said. The curved ascent at the Land Lighthouse includes two landings before reaching the gallery level, where a step through a short, narrow door gives visitors outside spectacular views.

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Groups of up to six people are allowed to climb the tower at intervals of 20 minutes, according to Butler.

This is the view of Lake Erie from the lantern room on top of the 49 foot tall Erie Land Lighthouse.

A lecturer will be on the gallery level to assist and educate visitors, she said. Access to the lantern room, which is enclosed in glass above the gallery, is forbidden for security reasons, she said.

At the bottom, the former oil room, which first held whale oil and later kerosene, could eventually house a “mini-gift shop,” said Butler.

On April 1, she became General Manager of Presque Isle Light Station, taking over from retired Michael Sullivan. Butler, who has a masters degree in conservation from Tulane University, was previously the director of conservation at Taliesin West, a former Frank Lloyd Wright home and school in Arizona.

“I grew up with Presque Isle and I am from Pittsburgh,” she said.

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Emily Butler, 30, executive director of Presque Isle Light Station, will be featured on the gallery level of the Erie Land Lighthouse in Erie on Friday.  The lighthouse, built in 1867, will be open for regular public tours from Saturday.

Butler said she took the lighthouse position to be closer to her family and because she was eager to work on historic sites here.

“It’s an exciting time to be in conservation in Erie,” she said, adding that people are considering it and it is currently being worked on.

Butler said she was also excited about the east side of the Land Lighthouse, where people pride themselves on their towering community resources. She encourages neighbors to visit it as well as tourists, and said it was a great way to learn about maritime history, engineering, and architecture.

“Architecturally, it’s such a stunning building,” she said.

Butler wants to expand the educational program and community events related to the lighthouse.

She also wants to keep it open to visitors until at least October and possibly more days of the month.

“I want to extend our season as much as possible,” she said. “If the demand is there, we’ll find a way to get more.”

Contact Dana Massing at Follow her on Twitter @ETNmassing.

Erie Land Lighthouse

  • Location: 12 Lighthouse Street, East Erie
  • Open to the public: Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., $ 5 to climb the tower, and free to climb on the first Tuesday of each month from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. You can visit the site every day during the day.
  • Info: 814-833-3604,
  • 69 – Steps to the Lantern
  • 49 feet – tower height
  • 1867 – current lighthouse built; Original built nearby in 1818
  • Interesting facts: The light is shining, but is not an active navigation aid. An oil room is connected to the tower. The keeper’s house nearby is a private residence.

Presque Isle lighthouse

  • Location: Presque Isle State Park
  • Open to the public: Daily from May 27, 10am to 5pm, $ 7 to climb the tower and see the house, and $ 3 to take the self-guided tour of the house. Free to walk around the site.
  • Info: 814-833-3604,
  • 78 – Steps to the Lantern
  • 57 feet – tower height
  • 1873 – construction year completed
  • Interesting facts: The lighthouse still serves as a working aid for navigation. The outside of the tower is square, the inside is circular. Presque Isle State Park managers lived in the attached house for many years.

Sources:, Emily Butler

More online: Take a video tour of Erie’s Land Lighthouse:

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