December 18, 2016 7:51 pm Published by Leave your thoughts
Old North Pierhead tower and light

North Pierhead Tower and Light

Here is a continuation of my Presque Isle “Tidbits and History.”  I am amazed at how much in the way of comments, calls and some new information I received from the first article.  Here’s a thanks to Curt B. for tidbit number 1 in this issue.


  1. There were seven steam powered passenger vessels serving the old Massasauga Hotel located on what was then called the “Head” area of Presque Isle.  The largest was 48 feet long and the smallest 28 feet long.  The boats made eight to ten trips a day from the old Public Steamboat Landing.
  2. Sometime about 1874, a company called Slocum & Myers opened a large caviar processing factory on Misery Bay near where the Perry Monument stands.  Like all Sturgeon processing plants, they extracted eggs for caviar, sliced and diced the good meat from the fish, processed it and shipped nearly 100% of it to New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington, D.C.
  3. From the 1870s until nearly 1912 or so, Erie was the freshwater fishing capital of the world with over 100 fishing boats trading in Erie. Between the caviar plant with its Sturgeon operation and over 20 fishing processing plants dotting the waterfront, a huge supply of fish carcasses was generated all year long.  Disposal of these quickly became a problem.  The area that is now just off-shore from the Ranger Station on the park became a dumping ground for nearly all of this waste.  It gained a special name at that time.  It was called the “Stink Hole,” and people clear on the east side of Erie some six miles away could smell it on the normal westerly winds.
  4. The old Life-Saving Service merged with the Revenue Cutter Service in 1848 and became the United States Coast Guard.
  5. The Original Coast Guard Station, then called the Life-Saving  Station, was built right on the Lake Erie Shoreline about three miles east of the then new Presque Isle Light Station. Most of Erie’s citizens told the Life-Saving service out of Washington, D.C., that the location could not work due the heavy storms coming off the lake.  This location lasted less than two years before the rough waters of the lake forced the Life-Saving Service to move to its current location at the entrance to Presque Isle Bay.
  6. The Original grounds of the Presque Isle Light Station contained the lighthouse, a barn, two privies, a storage building and a steel oil shed.
  7. The first lighthouse keeper, Charles Waldo, was employed by the United States Lighthouse Service at a salary of $ 520.00 per year.
  8. Waldo, in 1878, had the first baby, a girl, born on Presque Isle.
  9. In 1753, the French from Montreal established the first military garrison in the Erie area near the entrance to Presque Isle Bay. It was strictly a military garrison and had a Catholic priest, a schoolmaster and just a few French families.
  10.  Joe Root, the park’s resident hermit, had at least five shacks he lived in on Presque Isle at any one time.  They were built with whatever material he could beg, borrow or, (yes) steal from people in town.


    Fresnel Lens

  11. In 1850, after a move to the end of an extended north pier, the North Pierhead Light was equipped with a new sixth order Fresnel Lens so that the light could be seen more clearly in foul weather.
  12. In 1926 and 1927, the roads on the park were extended from the Waterworks area to 50 feet past the Presque Isle Light Station. At that time, the new road was located on the lake side of the lighthouse.


I will have more Tidbits to come in the future.  If you have some facts about the park’s history, please share them with in in an e-mail to


See you on the park!!


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