2020 Greater Erie Award for Preservation Excellence
It would be impossible to recognize preservation in the City of Erie and not award Jeff Kidder of Kidder Architecture for the expansive restoration projects he has taken on over the past 29 years. Preservation Erie is proud to present him with an award in the category of Preservation Excellence for all of his efforts to ensure that Erie’s historic buildings are sound and beautiful for generations to come.
Jeff Kidder’s passion for preservation began when he was very young. Growing up in Fairview, he spent a lot of time watching his father restore old cars, demonstrating a respect for the beauty of things built in the past. He also recalls being moved by observing the nearby historic Dobler House: watching something that was once so beautiful and stately fall into such a sad, faded state. He points to this memory as a formative one as he pursued his education and eventual career in architecture and historic preservation.
After studying at Arizona State, Jeff realized the architecture out west was not the sort that inspired him most and came back east to continue his education on the historic campus of the University of Virginia. “While every building isn’t the Thomas Jefferson, you can try to treat every building that way. It is in the balancing of reality and achievability.” And it is with this thought in mind that he returned to Erie 29 years ago to begin his career here, treating the historic buildings here with the same awe and respect that he has for the Thomas Jefferson Rotunda in Charlottesville.
Over the past 29 years, Kidder has restored and renovated many buildings important in the history of Erie’s built environment. Among those, Jeff points to a few he holds closest to his heart: the Dickson Tavern, the Watson-Curtze Mansion and the Erie Club. These three not only represent three of the most important historic buildings in Erie, three that tell the story of Erie just in their existence, but also, to Kidder, they represent a personal history as well. When he first returned to Erie, the city was looking for a firm to take over the Dickson Tavern project and Jeff was a part of that firm. Later, he had the opportunity to continue the restoration and make the historic building his office. Originally constructed in 1815, the Dickson Tavern is easily one of the oldest in the city and a last remaining remnant of Erie’s very early history. Being able to work in such a historic place continues to inspire him to act as a steward of the buildings on which he works. The Erie Club and the Watson-Curtze Mansion are also significant to him in the amount of work he has completed on them over the years, and the frequency with which he visits.
The Erie buildings that he has restored include: The Dickson Tavern (ca 1815), the Erie Club (ca. 1848), the Watson Curtze Mansion (ca. 1891), The Judah Colt House (ca. 1820), the Von Buseck House (ca. 1815), The Wood Morrison House (ca. 1858), The Schoolhouse and Swan Tavern (ca. 1897), The National Guard Armory (ca. 1920), The Firehouse (Engine Co. No. 1 ca. 1908), The Sigsbee Reservoir (ca. 1874), and the Presque Isle Lighthouse (ca. 1873). The list goes on and on. When one thinks about the important historic places in Erie, you can nearly guarantee that Kidder Architecture has had a hand in the restoration. This list does not include the 8-10 ongoing projects that are in progress, as Kidder Architecture works to restore the prominent homes along Millionaire’s Row on West 6th Street as well as the Sterret building on State Street. With these buildings (some being brought back from the brink of near collapse) being restored on a very important street in our city, Jeff Kidder is not only restoring their history and beauty but also ensuring that anyone who enters our city is met with a beautiful impression of our place in history.
Congratulations to Jeff Kidder, on not only your Greater Erie Award, but on a continued “job well done” in helping our city retain its heritage and built history. We all look forward to watching what comes next.
(photographer credit: RJ Fiorenzo)