Erie is an industrial city on the shore of Lake Erie in the northwestern corner of the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. Named for the lake and the Native American tribe that resided along its southern shore, Erie is the state's fourth largest city (after Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Allentown), with a population of 104,000. Erie's Metropolitan Area consists of approximately 280,000 residents and an Urbanized Area population of approximately 195,000. The city is the seat of government for Erie County.
Erie is in proximity to Cleveland, Ohio, Buffalo, New York, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Once teeming with heavy industry, Erie's heavy manufacturing sector now consists mainly of plastics and locomotive building. Known for its lake effect snow, Erie is in the heart of the rust belt and has begun to focus on tourism as a driving force in its economy. More than four million people each year visit Presque Isle State Park, for water recreation, and a new casino named for the state park is growing in popularity.
Present day Erie would have been situated in a disputed triangle of land that was claimed by the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut (as part of its Western Reserve), and Massachusetts. It officially became part of Pennsylvania on March 3, 1792, after Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York released their claims to the federal government, which in turn sold the land to Pennsylvania for $151,640.25 (75 ¢/acre) in Continental certificates. The Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy released the land to Pennsylvania in January 1789 for payments of $2,000 from Pennsylvania and $1,200 from the federal government. The Seneca Nation separately settled land claims against Pennsylvania in February 1791 for the sum of $800.
The General Assembly of Pennsylvania commissioned the surveying of land near Presque Isle through an act passed on April 18, 1795. Andrew Ellicott, who famously completed Pierre Charles L'Enfant's survey of Washington, D.C. and helped resolve the boundary between Pennsylvania and New York, arrived to begin the survey in June 1795. Initial settlement of the area began that year. Colonel Seth Reed and his family moved to the Erie area from Geneva, New York and became the first European settlers of Erie.
To wrest control of Lake Erie from the British during the War of 1812, President James Madison ordered the construction of a naval fleet at Erie. Noted shipbuilders Daniel Dobbins of Erie and Noah Brown of New York led construction of four schooner–rigged gunboats and two brigs. Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry arrived from Rhode Island and led the squadron to success in the historic Battle of Lake Erie.
Erie was an important railroad hub in the mid–nineteenth century, the city being the site where three sets of track gauges met. While the delays required to unload and load passengers and cargo were a problem for commerce and travel, they provided much needed local jobs in Erie. When a national standardized gauge was proposed, those jobs, and the importance of the rail hub itself, were put in jeopardy. The citizens of Erie, led by the mayor, set fire to bridges, ripped up track, and rioted to stop standardization.
On August 3, 1915, the Mill Creek (the creek that Millcreek Township was named after) flooded downtown Erie when a culvert, blocked by debris, gave out. A four block reservoir, caused by torrential downpours, had formed behind it. The "wall of water" that resulted killed 12 people. After the flood, Mayor Miles B. Kitts had the Mill Creek diverted to a tube that would run under the city to the lake.
Erie's importance gradually faded through the 1900s as the age of lake trade and commercial fishing drew to a close. Downtown Erie continued to grow for most of the 20th century, before taking a major population downturn in the 1970s. With the advent of the automobile age, thousands of residents left Erie for suburbs such as Millcreek Township, which now has over 50,000 people.
Erie is situated at (42.114507, -80.076213), directly between Cleveland, OH, Buffalo, NY, and Pittsburgh, PA on the south-central shores of Lake Erie. Erie’s bedrock is Devonian shale and siltstone, overlain by glacial tills and stratified drift. Stream drainage in Erie flows northward into Lake Erie, then through Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River, and out to the Atlantic Ocean. South of Erie is a drainage divide, where most of the streams south of this divide in western PA flow in a southward direction into the Allegheny or Ohio Rivers.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of with being land and the remaining (21.54%) being water. Erie is home to Presque Isle State Park (known to the locals as "The Peninsula"), a peninsula that juts into Lake Erie and has seven miles (11 km) of public beaches, wetlands, and fishing sites.
Erie is laid out in a grid surrounding Perry Square in the downtown area. The downtown buildings, none being more than 14 stories, are separated from the waterfront by the Bayfront Parkway. Erie has generally small ethnic neighborhoods including Little Italy. South of 38th Street, the grid gives way to curvilinear roads of post–1970 suburban development. Millcreek Township and Peach Street are among Erie's newer areas.
Most of the cityscape includes renovated and refurbished factory buildings, mid–rise housing, single family homes, and office buildings. Erie's waterfront includes the Pepsi Amphitheater and surrounding parkland, which hosts numerous festivals. The Bayfront Convention Center and Hotel is on Sassafras Pier next to Dobbins Landing. The Bicentennial Tower is centrally located in the skyline when viewed from Presque Isle State Park, with the numerous High-rise and Mid-rise buildings flanking the higher ground behind and to the east and west sides. On the east end of the waterfront, the Erie Maritime Museum and the city's main library, and third largest in Pennsylvania, host the Brig Niagara. Docks and marinas fill the freshwater shoreline in between.
The climate of Erie is typical of the Great Lakes. Erie is located in the snow belt that stretches from Cleveland to Syracuse and Watertown; accordingly, its winters are typically cold, with heavy lake effect snow. Summers tend to be hot and humid. On the Köppen climate classification, Erie is in the warm summer humid continental climate zone (Dfa). The city experiences a full range of weather events, including snow, ice, rain, thunderstorms, and fog.
As of 2007, Erie is 13th on the list of snowiest places in the United States, averaging . For the winter of 2007–2008, Erie received of snow with the first snow of the season falling on November 6. The adverse winter conditions have been known to cause whiteouts, including one that caused a 50 car pile-up on Interstate 90, and USAir Flight 499 to overrun the runway at Erie International Airport.
|Population, percent change, 1990 to 2000||-4.6%||+3.14%||+13.1%|
|Population density||4,722.9/sq mi||247/sq mi||80/sq mi|
|Median household income (1999)||$28,387||$34,619||$41,994|
|Bachelor's degree or higher||17.4%||22.4.4%||24.4%|
|Hispanic (any race)||3.2%||4.4%||12.5%|
Erie's population was spread evenly among all age groups, with the median being 34. About 13% of families and 19% of the population were below the poverty line. Most of Erie's people are of European descent.
Since the mid 1990s, the International Institute of Erie (IIE), founded in 1919, has helped with the resettlement of refugees from Bosnia, Eritrea, Ghana, Iraq, Kosovo, Liberia, Somalia, Sudan, the former Soviet Union, and Vietnam. The inclusion of refugees in Erie's community augments religious diversity and prompts community events such as cultural festivals.
In the early 20th century, Erie had a significant Russian immigrant community, many of whom worked in the shipbuilding plants along the bayfront. Unusual for a Great Lakes city, a substantial number of these Russian immigrants were Priestless (Bespopovtsy) Old Believers. In 1983, most of this community united with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and became Priested Old Ritualists. Even today, the gold-domed Church of the Nativity, on the bayfront near the former heart of the Russian community, is an Old Ritualist church. Bishop Daniel of Erie, of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, is based in Erie and is the Vicar President of the Synod of Bishops for the Old Ritualists.
Erie has a Jewish community that is over 150 years old. Temple Anshe Hesed, a member of the Union for Reform Judaism, is served by its spiritual leader, Rabbi John L. Bush. Erie is home to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie, covering 13 counties (9,936 sq mi- the largest in the state). Its diocesan seat is the Saint Peter Cathedral in Erie, which has a central tower flanked by two towers. Constructed in 1873, it is among the tallest churches in the U.S.
According to the Association of Religion Date Archives, Erie County had a total population of 280,843 people in 2000, of which 103,333 claimed affiliation with the Catholic church, 40,301 with mainline Protestant houses of worship, and 12,980 with evangelical Protestant churches.
Erie is the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's primary access point to Lake Erie, the Great Lakes, and the Saint Lawrence Seaway. The city emerged as a maritime center after the American Revolution, then as a railroad hub during the great American westward expansion. Erie became an important city for iron and steel manufacturing during the Industrial Revolution and thrived well into the 20th century with big industry.
While only diesel-electric locomotive building remains from the ranks of the large manufacturers in the early 21st century, a more diverse mix of mid-sized industries has emerged. This broader economic base includes not only smaller and more agile steel and plastic plants, but also a vigorous service sector: health, insurance and tourism. As of February 2008, Erie's unemployment rate was 5.3%, a one-point increase over the 4.3% rate a year earlier. The national unemployment rate was 4.8%.
Erie is the corporate headquarters of GE Transportation, Plastek Industries, Inc., and Erie Insurance Group. Lord Corporation was founded and has major operations in Erie. Over 10% of the nation's plastics are manufactured or finished in Erie-based plastics plants. Erie is an emerging center for biofuels and environmental research, producing over 45 million gallons of biofuel a year. Tourism plays an increasingly important role in the local economy with over 4 million people visiting Presque Isle State Park and other attractions. Canadian shoppers frequent the Millcreek Mall and Peach Street stores and attractions mostly because of Pennsylvania's tax exemption on clothing.
The city government is encouraging development through Commonwealth programs that encourage residents, universities and businesses to contribute toward the community’s economic health.
In 2002, the Erie Downtown Improvement District (DID) contracted a Philadelphia-based company (Kise, Straw, and Kolodner) to set up a "master plan" for Erie's downtown. The DID plan includes construction of mid-rise and high-rise structures that will be used primarily for mid-city housing and retail expansion. Plans include renovating historical downtown buildings including the Boston Store and Mercantile Building. Fourth River Development and Radnor Property Group were selected as the developers.
Erie is a regional leader in health care with two of its hospitals being ranked nationally. St. Vincent Health System was founded in 1875 as St. Vincent's Hospital, Erie's first medical institution, by the Sisters of St. Joseph and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie. It was chartered by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1895 as the St. Vincent's Hospital Association. A school of nursing was established in 1901. Formal instruction of interns began in 1914. In 1981, St. Vincent's became the largest hospital in Pennsylvania, and one of the first hospitals in the country, to use computers to make medical records available to authorized personnel for patient treatment. St. Vincent Health Center became a subsidiary of St. Vincent Health System when the corporation was reorganized in 1988.The Erie Shriners Hospital for Children has been operating in Erie since 1927. It won a 2007 achievement award from the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania.
One of Erie's largest employers, Hamot Medical Center, has consistently been ranked as one of the best hospitals in the country. Pierre Simon Vincent Hamot (died in 1846) was a successful local businessman whose homestead was donated by his descendants for the founding of the Hamot Hospital Association in 1881. The medical center, along with the Hamot Heart Institute (pictured at right), are part of the Hamot Health Foundation.
Hamot and St. Vincent organized two joint projects in the 1980s. The Tri-State Regional Trauma Center opened in 1983. The Regional Cancer Center (TRCC), founded in 1987, is one of the largest free-standing community cancer treatment centers in the United States.
Sewage service in Erie is provided by the Erie Sewer Authority, and many outlying townships have partnerships with the Sewer Authority for service. The Authority cleans about 30–40 million gallons of wastewater every day.
The Lake Erie Ballet is a professional company that performs well-known programs throughout the year. The Erie Civic Music Association attracts, sponsors, and books performances by professional musicians, singers, entertainers, and ensembles from around the world. The Erie Art Museum is the city's main art gallery, located in a former U.S. Customs House on lower State Street near the bayfront. Its collection has an emphasis on folk art and modern art and it hosts a popular blues and jazz concert series.
Downtown Erie's historic and ornate Warner Theatre hosts a range of performances. Renovated in the 1980s and again in 2007, the Warner is the hub of Erie's Civic Center. The downtown area is the home of the Erie Playhouse, one of the leading community theaters in the country, as well as the Roadhouse Theatre for Contemporary Art, home to more avant-garde works. The local Great Lakes Film Association (GLFA), which hosts the annual autumn Great Lakes Independent Film Festival, was founded in 2002.
Along West 6th Street is Millionaires Row, a collection of 19th century Victorian mansions. The oldest lighthouse on the Great Lakes stands at the foot of Lighthouse Street. The lighthouse was built in 1818 and replaced in 1867.
The Bicentennial Tower, on Dobbins Landing at the foot of State Street, was built in 1995/1996 to honor the city's bicentennial. It is tall and gives a panoramic view of Lake Erie and downtown. The Blasco Library and Erie Maritime Museum are its neighbors to the east. Presque Isle Downs opened for business on February 28, 2007, the fourth slots parlor in the state and the first in Western Pennsylvania. There are 2,000 slot machines as of opening day, and an adjoining racetrack which opened in September 2007.
Erie plays host to a number of semi-pro and professional sports teams. The Erie SeaWolves play AA baseball in the Eastern League as an affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. The Erie Otters play hockey in the Ontario Hockey League. The Erie RiverRats are a member of the American Indoor Football Association. The Erie Illusion is a member of the National Women's Football Association. The Erie BayHawks are a member of the NBA Development League. Football and hockey games are played at Louis J. Tullio Arena, while minor league baseball games are held at Jerry Uht Park.
Gannon University, Mercyhurst College, and Penn State Behrend have active collegiate sports programs. The local high schools compete in District 10 sporting events as well as the annual McDonald's Classic. Scholastic and intramural sports are held at school and park facilities around the city. The Mercyhurst Ice Center and Veterans Stadium are only two of the many sports arenas and stadiums available in and around the city.
Minutes away, just outside of North East, is the Lake Erie Speedway, a 3/8 mile (0.6 km) NASCAR sanctioned race track. Horse racing is found at the Presque Isle Downs racino in nearby Summit Township.
|Erie SeaWolves||EL, Baseball||Jerry Uht Park||1995||0|
|Erie Otters||OHL, Ice hockey||Louis J. Tullio Arena||1996||1|
|Erie RiverRats||AIFA, Indoor football||Louis J. Tullio Arena||2008||0|
|Erie BayHawks||NBA D-League, Basketball||Louis J. Tullio Arena||2008||0|
|Erie Illusion||NWFA, Women's football||Tullio Field||2003||0|
Erie is home to Presque Isle, a national landmark. The Seaway Trail runs through downtown Erie along the lakefront. The Tom Ridge Environmental Center, at the foot of Presque Isle, features 7,000 sq ft (650 m²) of exhibit space.
Historical sites also draw people to Erie. Union Station and the Warner Theatre are historical buildings still in use. The Erie Playhouse is the third oldest community theater in the U.S., but is the most active.
Other tourist destinations include the Bayfront Convention Center; the Bicentennial Tower that overlooks Lake Erie; Dobbins Landing, a pier in downtown Erie; the Erie Land Lighthouse; the Erie Maritime Museum, the home port of the US Brig Niagara; Millcreek Mall, the 11th largest shopping mall in the United States, Perry Square, a large downtown park; Presque Isle Downs, a racetrack and casino in Summit Township; Splash Lagoon, the largest indoor waterpark on the East Coast and third largest in the United States; the Erie Zoo, with its many animals and exhibits; and Waldameer Park and Water World, a local amusement park.
In exchange for tax revenue, the city provides its residents with police and fire protection. For separate quarterly payments, the city provides garbage, recycling, water and sewer services. The city has come under criticism for cutting jobs in the public service sector, mostly in the Police and Fire Departments. The layoffs, mostly made in 2006, were meant to avoid bankruptcy and state takeover of the city's finances.
Laws are enforced by the Erie Police Department. In 2005, six murders were committed in Erie, compared to just one in 2004. Despite the rise in homicides, nonviolent crime in the city dropped by 14% in 2005 compared to 2004. Since 2000, Erie has been experiencing a spike in drug-related crimes, due in part to a decrease in police officers. As a known link in the drug trade, Erie has always had strong criminal ties to Detroit and New York City. Erie is the site of many major drug busts, although its crime rate is lower than the national average. Erie's homicide rate per 100,000 residents increased from 1 in 2004 to 5.8 in 2005. The number of assaults in the city increased to 191 in 2005. Property crime, theft, arson, and burglaries were down in 2005 from 2004, but rape was slightly higher.
Erie also contains several colleges and universities. Created in the 1970s Penn State Erie, The Behrend College is the largest Penn State branch. The university is noted for being one of the best value colleges in the country.
Other notable colleges in the Erie area include Mercyhurst College, with the number one rated Division II lacrosse team in the US; Allegheny College, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, a large college in nearby Edinboro; and Gannon University, a Catholic university in downtown Erie.
Ranking Erie city and county officials, as well as officials of the Erie School District, began looking into the need for a community college in the Erie area in 2006. As of January 2008, county officials and representatives of Penn State-Behrend, Mercyhurst, and Gannon were in serious discussions expected to lead to the creation of Northwest Pennsylvania Community College by September 2009. Besides accreditation issues, officials must resolve whether to use local four-year educational institutions or to build a separate site in Summit Township for community college classes.
The public libraries in Erie are part of the Erie County library system. The Raymond M. Blasco, M. D. Memorial Library, named for its benefactor, opened in 1996. It is the third largest library in Pennsylvania. It is connected to the Erie Maritime Museum, both of which are part of a bayfront improvement project that includes the Bayfront Convention Center and the Bicentennial Tower.
Erie is well connected to the Interstate Highway System. Six highway exits from Interstate 90 connect travelers to Erie from Boston, Massachusetts and points east, and from Cleveland, Ohio and points west. Those traveling north to Erie on Interstate 79 can merge with Interstate 90 or continue north for several local Erie exits before the road merges into the Bayfront Parkway in downtown Erie. Southbound travelers on Interstate 79 can connect with Interstate 80 for points east to New Jersey or west to Akron, Ohio or Youngstown, Ohio, or continue south on Interstate 79 to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Charleston, West Virginia. Interstate 86, also called the "Southern Tier Expressway," splits from Interstate 90 at North East, Pennsylvania and heads southeast through New York State to Binghamton. The city has several arterial roads. Pennsylvania Route 5 (12th Street), U.S. Route 20 (26th Street and Buffalo Road), and 38th Street are major east-west routes through Erie's municipal roadway grid. The town is divided east from west at State Street, a major thoroughfare in downtown Erie. U.S. Route 19 is a major southwesterly route from downtown to a shopping area north of Interstate 90 known to locals as Upper Peach Street.
The Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority (EMTA) operates local and regional bus service seven days a week. A new city bus terminal opened in 2006. Connections are available to water taxi, rail services, and the airport. The Intermodal Transportation Center, which opened in 2002 at the Holland Street Pier, includes a commercial bus terminal. Greyhound Lines and Fullington Trailways (owned by Fullington Auto Bus Company) provide daily bus service, including routes with local stops between Erie and DuBois and Pittsburgh, with connections to other destinations.
The former "Water Level Route" of the New York Central Railroad (now the CSX mainline) travels directly through Erie. This is a major mainline for the railroad and sees scores of trains a day. The mainline of the Norfolk Southern Railroad at one time ran directly down the middle of 19th Street in the city. Norfolk Southern decided to remove the 19th Street tracks in 1998. The 19th Street rail traffic is now routed onto the transcontinental mainline. Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited arrives at the Union Station, in downtown Erie, twice daily. Although there has been much discussion in recent years in favor of adding trains along the southern shore of Lake Erie to link Buffalo with Cleveland and beyond, there are no near-term plans to begin this service.
Erie International Airport (IATA: ERI; IACO: KERI), located 5 miles (8 km) southwest of the city, hosts general aviation, charter, and scheduled airline service. Airlines serving Erie include Continental Airlines, US Airways and Northwest Airlines. Tom Ridge Field was recognized by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation as the fastest-growing airport in the state and by the US Department of Transportation as the 3rd fastest-growing airport in the United States in 2004.
The Port of Erie is in Presque Isle Bay, a natural harbor formed by Presque Isle. The Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority provides water-taxi service in the summer months between Dobbins Landing and Liberty Park in downtown Erie, and the Waterworks ferry landing on Presque Isle.
A channel on the east side of Presque Isle allows ships to transit between the bay and Lake Erie. Cruise line services land at Dobbin's Landing rather than the Cruise Terminal built in 2002. A Great American Waterways cruise makes a 15-day run from Chicago to Warren, Rhode Island, with a stop in Erie on the eastern leg of the journey. The Great Lakes Cruise Company and the American Canadian Cruise Line advertise this cruise.
Erie is served by The Erie Times-News, the city's only daily newspaper, although there are several alternative weekly and monthly publications.
Erie is ranked as the 146th largest television market by Nielsen Media Research. The market is served by stations affiliated with major American networks including WICU 12 (NBC), WJET 24 (ABC), WFXP 66 (FOX), WSEE 35 (CBS), and WBEP (CW). WQLN 54 is a member of PBS (several Cleveland stations can be seen in the area). Erie is also served by 25 AM and FM radio stations based in the city, and dozens of other stations are received from elsewhere.