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Old Posted Sep 9, 2008, 7:38 AM
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Erie: the gritacular hub of northwestern Pennsylvania!

"Much of the city is as gritty as gritty gets" - pj3000 (Erie native and SSP forumer in a previous Erie thread)

The City of Erie (pop. 103,717) is the fourth largest municipality in Pennsylvania (after Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Allentown). However, it ranks as the commonwealth's 9th largest metropolitan area at 280,843 (though 2nd largest in PA west of Harrisburg). Erie's Urbanized Area has a population of 194,804. The city of Erie is the seat of Erie County, which is coterminous with the Erie Metro.

Erie is located in Pennsylvania's northwestern corner and is the state's only coastal and Great Lakes city. It serves as the hub of northwestern Pennsylvania and is home to major cultural institutions, shopping destinations, recreational facilities, and health care (Hamot) and educational (Gannon, Mercyhurst, Penn State Behrend, Lake Erie College of Medicine) institutions.

Erie remains a heavy manufacturing city to this day, and can be considered the "epicenter of the Rust Belt"... being roughly equidistant from Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Buffalo. While located in PA, Erie doesn't really look like anything else in PA... and has a typically "Great Lakes" style of urban development and vernacular architecture. It is quite similar to neighboring Lake Erie cities Cleveland and Buffalo (and Detroit somewhat) in terms of urban environment, neighborhood style, climate, industrial heritage and demographics... though it has also had a close relationship with Pittsburgh to the south... the "in-state" factor facilitating greater population and business interchange. Erie is known for its "lake effect" climate, which dumps an average of 88 inches of snow each year... but also moderates the summer climate and provides optimal conditions for grape and fruit cultivation.

Brief history:

Before Erie was founded, the French built a Fort Presque Isle along the bay in 1753, the northernmost of a string of frontier forts running south to Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh), also including: Fort LeBoeuf (Waterford) and Fort Machault (Franklin). When the British defeated the French at the Battle of Fort Niagara in 1759, the French abandoned and burned Fort Presque Isle. The British built a new Fort Presque Isle, but the garrison was massacred during Pontiac's Rebellion of 1763. Erie was founded in 1795, but before that... the area around Erie... a triangle of land wedged between New York and Ohio... was a point of contention.... claimed by PA, NY, CT and MA (the latter two having wide-reaching ambiguous territorial claims from colonial days). The other states eventually released their claims on the land to the federal government, from whom Pennsylvania purchased the land in 1792. Andrew Ellicott arrived in 1795 to survey Erie and settlement began.

"We have met the enemy and they are ours."
- Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry

During the War of 1812, Erie would once again take a key military role. President James Madison ordered the construction of a naval fleet at Erie, which was headed by Daniel Dobbins. Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry led the American fleet to a famous victory over the British fleet at the Battle of Lake Erie. Perry's name is today ubiquitous throughout Western Pennsylvania, adorning schools, monuments, parks and towns.

Erie then became a significant transportation hub (rail and port) and manufacturing center. In the late 1900s, Erie fell into the typical Rust Belt economic malaise along with the rest of the region. However, even with the dramatic shrinkage of the manufacturing sector, Erie's economy is still heavily reliant on manufacturing... producing locomotives (Erie-based GE Transportation), aerospace components (Erie-founded Lord Corp.) and 10% of the nation's plastics. Today, Erie's growth sectors include the usual mix of health care and services. Beaches and grape heritage form important bulwarks for the emerging tourism trade. Erie is home to one Fortune 500 company: Erie Insurance Group.

Erie's urban core fell into the usual pattern of American urban neglect, disinvestment and active destruction in the 2nd half of the 20th century. Furthermore, the region stagnated beginning in the 1970s due to industrial decline. Neighborhoods throughout the city fell prey to the usual toxic cocktail of urban ills... and Erie's downtown was largely wiped out... replaced by suburban buildings with tragic architecture, parking lots, and a shocking system of inner-city 4-6 lane highways. While recovery has been slow... downtown and bayfront development seems to finally be gaining significant traction in recent years. Erie has assets totally unique to Pennsylvania, which will hopefully allow this city to fulfill its potential once again.

Now on to the photos. Due to Lake Erie, Erie has a unique micro-climate. It was sunny and 88F when I left Pittsburgh... but arrived to 62F and heavy rain 2 hours north in Erie (I failed to check the Erie weather forecast). I tried to make the best of it... though you might notice some raindrops in my photos.

First a couple shots from Presque Isle State Park... a remarkable peninsula jutting into Lake Erie. It is home to many beaches and trails. The weather was horrible, so I didn't get to explore much.







Houseboats!


looking towards Ontario (country radio from London comes in quite clearly in Erie)


this old lighthouse is on the East Side of the city


Mercyhurst is a small Catholic liberal arts college on the city's southern edge... the school is known for its excellent hockey teams... Go Lakers!


a Catholic school... Erie is one of the most Catholic cities in the country


the southern edges of the City of Erie are very 1960s/70s bland suburbia (ranches, split levels, no sidewalks)... the portion of South Erie further in is more of a 1930s/40s "suburbia" that reminds me of working class suburbs like Parma (Cleveland) and Cheektowaga (Buffalo). It's not terribly interesting... but has a lot of "boulevard" residential streets with grass/tree medians.


I think of these types of houses as "cottages"




Moving further into Erie's urban core... the city's East Side is extremely gritty...




this type of housing is very common in Cleveland (though they have a distinctive "duckbill" architectural flourish)








a pocket of wealth along the eastern shore








\




















much like Cleveland, Buffalo and Detroit... massive institutional structures from the 1880-1930 era are scattered throughout the city neighborhoods




same style... but brick this time!








Erie's gigantic industrial heart in the center city


catering to the working man




When you enter Erie from the south on I-79... the W. 12th St. exit is one of the most awesome urban heavy industrial entrances a city could have... it is brutal, terrifying and awe-inspiring


example of residential boulevard


26th St. has some decent commercial

















much of the city's west side is also quite gritty


on the city's far west shore there's a neighborhood called Kanawha(sp?) that has the city's largest area of upscale mansions... it reminds me of Cleveland's Edgewater neighborhood... which is also located on that city's far west shore










some bay housing




the section of the city along W. 8th and W. 6th near Gridley Park is my favorite... it's got some nice stuff... though it too is still rather gritty




























some bayview apartments


Front St... at the edge of the bluff high above the bay






Downtown next to the Bayfront Parkway...


Modern Tool complex


really handsome block downtown... the Erie Museum of Art is at right


building at left dates from the 1830s


this is another fantastic block downtown... the Starbucks is gorgeous and seems to function as the hub of Erie's intellectual community... and Sherlock's at left is a rather famous nightlife spot








Erie County Courthouse (1855) in downtown




a Gannon University building




the old Boston Store


State St. is the main drag through town... featuring many of the high-rises and much of the nightlife... the Warner Theatre is an opulent art-deco venue


I think this is Erie's tallest skyscraper... it's also my favorite


another strong block featuring the Erie Playhouse


the Avalon Hotel presents a blank face


destroy it


Cathedral of the Erie Catholic Dioceses


I imagine there used to be a lot of houses like this one in central Erie... only a few remain... "erratics" amongst blighted streetscapes of parking lots, mid-century trash and automobile-centric facilities


Nice block... much of State St. south of the railroad remains pretty solid








condo conversion in progress








Peach St. is 5 lanes in one direction downtown... a thoroughly depressing environment


more wide-ass boulevards of desolation




ooo... the Professional Building!




hideous residential building and abandoned Burger King


too wide!


oh... Verizon


another lonely survivor with the crappiest arena ever in the distance






that dude at bottom right is the mascot for Troyer Farms potato chips... the best chips in the world


how could an architect live with himself after designing such a monstrosity?








the best houses always turn out to be law firms and funeral homes






Erie's bayfront has seen plenty of development lately... there's Erie's sexy and sleek new convention center and Sheraton hotel


the Flagship Niagara led the American fleet during the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813... the current ship was reconstructed from the sunken remnants




the former Pittsburgh Wind Symphony barge is hanging out at Dobbins Landing


Gannon students coming down to the bayfront to watch the tall ship


Perry Monument across the bay on Presque Isle




finishing up with some near East Side... this area has some serious problems... but I really like its narrow streets and tree canopies...








heading south on Parade St.





Last edited by Evergrey; Sep 9, 2008 at 7:48 AM.
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  #2  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2008, 8:37 AM
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Amazing! I've lived in Buffalo, and I always wanted to see Erie. Absolutely fascinating, your pictures captured it beautifully!
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  #3  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2008, 1:02 PM
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Best Erie thread ever!

It definitely has that Great Lakes feel to it, especially the housing.
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Old Posted Sep 9, 2008, 1:43 PM
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^^^ I agree. Absolutely killer solid thread. And very thorough too.
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Old Posted Sep 9, 2008, 2:11 PM
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It's great to see such an extensive portrait of this place, especially one so well done.
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Old Posted Sep 9, 2008, 2:23 PM
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Holy Moly!

That's what I'm talking about. That Great Lakes blue collar, uniquely-American grit.

yay!
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Old Posted Sep 9, 2008, 2:25 PM
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The Catholic school you mentioned has been abandoned since 1984. It was being used as a residential treatment center for drug and alcohol addicts but is now abandoned once again.
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Old Posted Sep 9, 2008, 2:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 37TimPPG View Post
The Catholic school you mentioned has been abandoned since 1984. It was being used as a residential treatment center for drug and alcohol addicts but is now abandoned once again.
thanks... it kinda looked abandoned...

btw, what's the deal with the Bicentennial Tower... it was closed when I was there on Saturday afternoon
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Old Posted Sep 9, 2008, 4:51 PM
37TimPPG 37TimPPG is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Evergrey View Post
thanks... it kinda looked abandoned...

btw, what's the deal with the Bicentennial Tower... it was closed when I was there on Saturday afternoon

It should have been open. Maybe it was closed for maintenance or a private party - sometimes the Port Authority will close the Tower for private parties...one time there was even a wedding atop the observation deck! (A great place to get married!)

btw...AWESOME pics! Most people try and gloss over the grit, you embraced it and produced one kick ass thread! WELL DONE!

side note about climate: when it snows in Erie it REALLY snows....sometimes at the rate of 3 to 4 inches in a single hour
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Old Posted Sep 9, 2008, 7:24 PM
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Cool city! And I love all the different kinds of houses in the neighborhoods.
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Old Posted Sep 9, 2008, 8:13 PM
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Grit-tacular! Looks so much like Cleveland and not like Pittsburgh at all due to lack of hills. Amazing.

This picture is my favorite. Are those gannon buildings up top?
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Old Posted Sep 9, 2008, 8:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PA Pride View Post
Grit-tacular! Looks so much like Cleveland and not like Pittsburgh at all due to lack of hills. Amazing.

This picture is my favorite. Are those gannon buildings up top?
The buildings on the top of the hill are not Gannon. They belong to Hamot Medical Center. From left to right...Hamot Heart Institute, Hamot Women and Children's Hospital (Under Construction) and the Hamot Professional Building. (The small smokestack between W & C and the Pro building is for Hamot's Incinerator and power generator.)


Gannon Buildings are a few blocks south.
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Old Posted Sep 9, 2008, 9:14 PM
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Nice place
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Old Posted Sep 9, 2008, 9:27 PM
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Brings back some memories Evergrey. As you can see, Erie contains some great architecture alongside some mediocre creations.
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Old Posted Sep 9, 2008, 9:56 PM
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Nice thread!
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Old Posted Sep 9, 2008, 10:20 PM
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Ah, good ole Erie, my favorite in-state retreat I love the downtown district with all the nightclubs, many still have the original tin ceilings. And you're definitely right about coming into the city from I79, it's uber-industrial and jaw dropping
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Old Posted Sep 9, 2008, 11:06 PM
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Great thread as always, Evergrey!!

This house is my favorite!!


You would think architects on drugs would be as creative as musicians.


BTW, doesn't Erie have a height limit on their buildings? I mean, I wouldn't expect a building 40 stories tall to be built there! Just wondering.....
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Old Posted Sep 10, 2008, 1:03 AM
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Nice collection of E-Town! And thanks for quoting me at the beginning.

I think you picked the absolute worst weather of the entire summer to capture Erie in all its gritty glory! Great tour... you got some of the shots I would take if I ever got my act together and did a hometown photo thread.

I love exiting I-79 at 12th St and taking in the industrial might. That stretch from Greengarden to Franklin Ave on the east side at the GE plant was said to the most diverse manufacturing corridor in the world. Many local officials want that whole stretch levelled, which would be the ultimate slap in the face to Erie's industrial history (so many multi-block long brick factories have already met the wrecking ball on that street).
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Old Posted Sep 10, 2008, 1:06 AM
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Two murders at this club in less than a year, along with a few shootings, and numerous fights, and I still don't think they've shut it down.

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Old Posted Sep 10, 2008, 1:10 AM
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This is actually a fun place. It has covered bocce courts in back!

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