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Visiting Orchard Beach, in the So-Called Chimney or Tab of Pennsylvania: Recalling Ellicott & the Erie Triangle

Updated on January 26, 2018
State flag of Pennsylvania
State flag of Pennsylvania | Source
Orchard Beach, nr. North East, Erie Co., Pennsylvania
Orchard Beach, nr. North East, Erie Co., Pennsylvania | Source

A history of land claims; area fishing opportunities; and shipwrecks

In the late 18th century, renowned surveyor Andrew Ellicott (1754-1820), who also worked extensively in New York and Pennsylvania (1), surveyed lands along the south shore of Lake Erie, west of the New York boundary. These lands were Federal lands, but interestingly various other states had exercised claims over them: Massachusetts and Connecticut (yes, really!) as well as New York; and the Iroquois Confederacy also negotiated about them with the Federal Government.

These Federal lands were known as the Erie Triangle.

By 1792, other parties had relinquished claims to the Federal lands in the so called Erie Triangle, and thus the Federal government awarded — or, rather, more strictly, sold — these lands to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

This area is sometimes known as the Chimney or Tab of Pennsylvania, from the shape which this geographical outlet to Lake Erie makes on maps of the State, or, rather, the Commonwealth, as Pennsylvanians are apt to call it.

So I visited Orchard Beach, situated within the boundaries of North East Township, along the Erie Lakeshore of Pennsylvania, in Erie County. Long known as cottage country, it is noted for its bracing, lakeshore winds.

Close to Orchard Beach is Sixteen Mile Creek, which takes its name from the body of water that flows into Lake Erie there. There are carefully controlled fishing opportunities in the area (2), not least, for steelhead .

Offshore, Pennsyvania's Eire Triangle has long been known as the Graveyard of Lake Erie because of the profusion of shipwrecks in past centuries. Americans and Canadians often recall the sinking of the huge Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975 on Lake Superior, although in fact shipwrecks in the Great Lakes have long been an historical feature and the concentration of shipwrecks off the Erie Triangle was especially pronounced.

And so what happened next to the much travelled surveyor Andrew Ellicott?

Soon after surveying the Erie Triangle, he moved on to the task of surveying the area of Maryland which was the future Washington, DC.

January 26, 2018


(1) The Pennsylvania's western boundary with Ohio is known as the Ellicott Line. See also:

(2) See also map:

For fishing regulations in the Erie, Pennsylvania area, see:

See also:

Orchard Beach, nr. North East, Erie Co., Pennsylvania
Orchard Beach, nr. North East, Erie Co., Pennsylvania | Source
Andrew Ellicott on a medallion from 1799.
Andrew Ellicott on a medallion from 1799. | Source

The Erie Triangle of Pennsylvania

Map of Erie Triangle in Erie County, Pennsylvania and surrounding area.  (Created via National Atlas online mapmaker, a public-domain resource of U.S. gov.)
Map of Erie Triangle in Erie County, Pennsylvania and surrounding area. (Created via National Atlas online mapmaker, a public-domain resource of U.S. gov.) | Source

Also worth seeing

Downtown North East (distance: 1.87 miles / 3 kilometres) has many examples of architectural heritage, including the Presbyterian Church on Main Street, the Presbyterian Church on Main Street, the McCord Memorial Library the former First National Bank Building in Lake Street, Short's Hotel; and many others. The Lake Shore Railway Museum also attracts visitors.

Presque Isle State Park and the Perry Monument (distance: 24.9 miles / 41.1 kilometres) are located on large, striking peninsular extending into Lake Erie. The Monument recalls Commodore Oliver H. Perry's naval leadership during the War of 1812.


How to get there: American Eagle, Delta Connection and United Express fly to Erie International Airport (distance from Orchard Park: 22.6 miles / 35.5 kilometres) from Philadephia, Detroit and Chicago-O'Hare respectively; car rental is available at Erie International Airport. Orchard Park is situated a short distance from the I-90. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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