Pennsylvania Lighthouses

by David Montoya
Lighthouses illuminate physical obstacles and shorelines at night.

Lighthouses illuminate physical obstacles and shorelines at night.

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Pennsylvania only has three active lighthouses: the Presque Isle Lighthouse, the Erie Harbor Pierhead, also known as the Presque Isle North Pierhead, and the Turtle Rock Lighthouse. Each structure has its own unique styling and still function thanks to the work of the National Park Services and conservation efforts by local groups. Pennsylvania currently has six lighthouses still standing. The Erie Land Lighthouse is one of Pennsylvania's most famous inactive lighthouses.

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Erie Land Lighthouse

The current Erie Land Lighthouse, located on the Presque Isle Peninsula near Erie, is the last of three lighthouses to stand in the exact same location, each one replacing the subsequent structure. The original, erected in 1818, was considered one of the finest in the area until the structure began to sink and had to be demolished. The second and much larger lighthouse was built in the 1850s. Unfortunately, the second lighthouse met the same fate as the first, lasting only about a decade before demolition. Thereafter, work began on reinforcing the ground with cement and limestone to prevent further sinking for future structures. The current Erie Land Lighthouse, made from unpainted sandstone, was constructed in 1867 and operated for only six years due to the effectiveness of the nearby Presque Isle Lighthouse.

Presque Isle Lighthouse

Located in Presque Isle State Park, the original was erected in 1873, stood 56 feet tall and constructed of unpainted brick. While effective, the range of the light required an increase. An additional 17 feet of height was added to the tower in 1896. The location and the efficiency of the lighthouse eventually made the Erie Land Lighthouse obsolete. This meant the Presque Isle Lighthouse had an extended useful lifespan since no other lighthouses functioned in the area for decades. It was updated often, including the addition of electrical lighting in the light tower.

Erie Harbor Pierhead (Presque Isle North Pierhead)

The Erie Harbor Pierhead Lighthouse replaced an older wooden lighthouse that was destroyed by a boat crash in 1857. To keep the rebuilt structure from meeting a similar fate, the lighthouse has a cast-iron tower structure. By mid-20th century, steel plates were added around the entire structure.

Turtle Rock Lighthouse

This lighthouse near Philadelphia is attached to a colonial-style home erected in 1902 by The Sedgely Club. The group petitioned the Fairmount Park Commission to build a new home along the famous Boathouse Road along the Schuylkill River. The club built its clubhouse around the Turtle Rock Lighthouse, erected in 1887.

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