Spotlight on Presque Isle's Waterworks Tower
Frequent visitors to Presque Isle State Park easily recognize the big metal tower at the Waterworks Recreation Area. It's shaped like a lighthouse. The tower received a much-needed facelift 4 years ago and soon the landmark will be getting even more improvements.
The tower is affectionately called 'The Waterworks Lighthouse', but its official name is the Waterworks Steel Intake Tower. When you think of landmarks at the peninsula, this tower definitely comes to mind.
Matt Greene is the operations manager at the park.
"You can be pretty much all across the bay here and see the intake tower,” he said. “There's only a few spots to the head of the bay where you can't really see it. You see it as soon as you drive into the Waterworks area. It's really recognizable there."
There are plans to make the Waterworks Lighthouse even more recognizable. LED lights will illuminate the tower in the spring of next year, thanks to matching funds made available by the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority.
"If you look at the structure from across the bay, it sticks out like a sore thumb,” says Jon DeMarco, Executive Director of the Presque Isle Partnership. “So once we put some LED lights on it, it's only just going to pop in the evening time. And that's the goal, to be able to see this thing shining bright from across the bay and especially from the roadway here at Presque Isle."
It's hard to believe the tower was a rusty, neglected eyesore just five years ago. That's when Erie natives Dan and Sallie Shipley took a water taxi to Presque Isle and saw the tower's condition. They pledged $50,000 from their charitable foundation to restore the structure. The tower was owned at the time by Erie Water Works.
Craig Palmer, Senior Manager at the Water Works, remembers Mr. Shipley’s telephone call.
“He said we need to do something about this. It was clear he had a lot of pride in this area and wished to do something."
The renovated lighthouse replica was moved to a prominent spot on land in front of the Waterworks dock. It is now owned by the Presque Isle Partnership whose members want to highlight the tower's history.
The tower was installed in 1906 to house a steel chain and gears. That equipment was designed to lift a large lid to gain access to the municipal water intake pipe. Talk about history, The Waterworks area was first piece of land at Presque Isle acquired from the federal government. It wasn’t acquired for recreation, but to expand the intake pipe from the bay to the lake to provide water for the City of Erie.
"Important assets to the water system that are, for the most part, still in use today.” says Palmer.
The Presque Isle Partnership also plans to install an information panel to explain the history of the tower and its restoration. It also plans to place a new sidewalk to surround the structure.