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History of Presque Isle State Park

Erie Nation

The Erie Indians lived along the southern shores of Lake Erie and were early inhabitants of the area. They hunted game from the forests, gathered plants, and fished from the waters of Lake Erie in birch-bark canoes. According to legend, the Erie ventured far into the lake to find the place where the sun sank into the waters.

The spirits of the lake caused a great storm to arise, so the Great Spirit stretched out his left arm into the lake to protect the Erie from the storm. Where the sheltering arm of the Great Spirit had lain in the lake, a great sandbar in the shape of an arm-like peninsula was formed to act as an eternal shelter and harbor of refuge for the Great Spirit’s favorite children, the Erie.

Presque Isle Lighthouse

The Presque Isle Lighthouse was built in 1872 and first lit on July 12, 1873. The 57-foot tower has a redbrick dwelling and is open for tours. It flashes a white light that is still maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard.

North Pier Light

Guiding ships into Erie Harbor since 1858, this square, metal pierhead light is located at the end of the Erie Harbor Channel. Visitors can walk out to the light and watch the boat traffic in the harbor channel.

Misery Bay and Perry Monument

During the War of 1812, Little Bay was the temporary home of the fleet of ships commanded by Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry. Six of his eleven vessels were built in Erie at the mouth of Cascade Creek. The shores and waters of Presque Isle protected the fleet during construction.

On September 10, 1813, during the Battle of Lake Erie, Commodore Perry and his men defeated the British at Put-in-Bay, near Sandusky, Ohio. Perry’s first flagship, the Lawrence, was heavily damaged during the battle, requiring him to transfer his flag to the brig Niagara. He then re-engaged and defeated the British fleet using the Niagara as his flagship.

After the battle, Perry and his men returned to Little Bay and Presque Isle Bay to repair their fleet and seek medical treatment for the wounded. They stayed in the protection of the bay because of threats of another British uprising.

During the winters of 1812-1814, many of Perry’s crew suffered from poor living conditions and the harsh winters. As legend has it, many of the crew died and their bodies were buried in the adjacent pond known as Graveyard Pond. In remembrance of their hardships during those winters, Little Bay was renamed Misery Bay by the surviving sailors.

The hull of the Lawrence, then eventually the Niagara, was sunk in Misery Bay to preserve and protect them from the weather. The Lawrence was raised during 1875, but was destroyed by fire in Philadelphia during the Centennial Exhibition of 1876. The Niagara was raised during 1912 and rebuilt for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie in 1913. A replica of the Niagara sails from its dock at the Erie Maritime Museum.

The Perry Monument on Crystal Point was built in 1926 to commemorate this significant battle during the War of 1812 and the valor of the sailors in Perry’s Command.

Waterworks Park

The city of Erie developed this area in search of a cleaner water source. During 1908, workers began placing a pipe from the lake to the settling basins. In 1917, the pumphouse was built. At that time, it contained a steam boiler and engine.

Water was drawn from the lake to the settling basins and then pumped across the bay to the city of Erie. This pumphouse and water supply system operated from 1917 until 1949.

Currently, the pumphouse is used as a zebra mussel control facility for Erie’s water supply as well as a surrey and bike rental concession.