Local city information for Erie, PA
() 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.
Erie is known as the Flagship City
because of the presence of Oliver Hazard Perry's flagship Niagara
. Erie has also been called the Gem City
because of the "sparkling" lake.
The Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy and the Seneca Nation occupied the lands now known as Erie. The French built Fort Presque Isle near present day Erie in 1753, as part of their effort to garrison New France against the encroaching English. The French word "Presque-isle" means peninsula (literally "almost an island") and refers to that piece of land that juts into Lake Erie that is now called Presque Isle State Park. When the fort was abandoned by the French in 1760, it was their last post west of Niagara. The British occupied the fort at Presque Isle that same year, three years before the end of the Seven Years' War in 1763.
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 in an event known as the Erie Gauge War.
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.
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