News and Events

$25,000 Grant Awarded for Historic Preservation Planning

AcademyHistoricDistrictThe Erie County Planning Department and Preservation Erie have been awarded a $25,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission to develop a Cultural Heritage Plan for Erie County. The proposed plan will look at historic preservation plans that have been used in the past, as well as current preservation plans, and develop an action plan to preserve historic resources — for example, buildings and other structures that have played an important role in Erie’s heritage and development and the buildings are in danger of falling into disrepair or being demolished.

This is the second phase of a project that began with local grants to Preservation Erie to conduct an inventory of historic properties built before World War II in Erie County. Wise Preservation Planning has completed that inventory, identifying the most historically significant properties. The inventory can be viewed at

Erie County Department of Planning is pleased to partner with Preservation Erie to complete this plan. Upon completion, a blueprint will be provided for future preservation programs and next steps towards protecting Erie County’s cultural heritage.

The new grant will be used to develop a Cultural Heritage Plan for Erie County by the end of 2017. The grant from PHMC is the first piece of funding secured for the project, and additional funds need to be secured. It is anticipated that the planning process will begin in 2016.

The current concept for this project is to develop a plan that includes the standard components of a comprehensive plan and expands on that model by incorporating the type of content commonly found in heritage area management plans, such as interpretation and marketing.

For more information about Erie County’s historical legacy or if you would like to do a story on some of Erie’s properties that have been preserved or should be preserved, contact Melinda Meyer, Preservation Erie Chair at or (814) 403-1772.

For additional information, contact the Erie County Department of Planning:
Katherine Wyrosdick, Director, Erie County Department of Planning, (814)451-7003
John McGranor, Program Administrator, Erie County Department of Planning, (814)451-7423

Congratulations to the 2015 Greater Erie Award Recipients


On Thursday, April 30 Preservation Erie recognized three local businesses for their contributions to Greater Erie and welcomed leading urbanist John Norquist as the keynote speaker at the 2015 Greater Erie Awards.

The Greater Erie Awards are presented annually by the board of Preservation Erie to three individuals, businesses or organizations that are exceptional stewards of the physical and cultural landscape that is Greater Erie. The 2015 recipients of the Greater Erie Award are:

  • Miller Brothers Power Equipment, in recognition of their commitment to maintain a commercial enterprise in downtown Erie and repurpose one of our City’s well-known historic structures;
  • Latino’s Restaurant & Bar, in recognition of their achievement in creating a true Latin American-styled establishment on Erie’s original Main Street, historic Parade Street;
  • Kerr’s Tire Korner, in recognition of their commitment to maintain an auto-repair and service station in a historic commercial building.

Following the presentation of awards, our keynote speaker John Norquist took the stage. During his presentation, “Adding Value to Erie,” Mr. Norquist recommended re-visioning the city’s zoning code and development practices and patterns, and making the most of our streets and public amenities and assets.

Thank you to our many volunteers and sponsors who helped to make the 2015 Greater Erie Awards a success!

The event was supported, in part, by the Erie Community Foundation, Jefferson Educational Society, Kidder Wachter Architecture & Design, Erie Insurance, SNOOPS Neighborhood Network, Coletech, S.O.N.S. of Lake Erie, Pennsylvania Sea Grant, Mercyhurst University, Northwest Restoration, Miller Travel Services, Richard E. Filippi & Associates, and the Erie Art Museum.

Facade Improvement Workshop

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Erie City Councilman Dave Brennan, in partnership with the Northwestern Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the Erie Downtown Partnership and Preservation Erie, is hosting a Facade Improvement Workshop November 13, 2014, 8 am to 12 noon at the UPMC Health Plan – Community Room, 109 Boston Store Place, Erie.

The workshop is FREE and is designed to assist property owners and tenants with facade improvements that will enhance the character of their building and will include programs on façade design, restoration, repair, historic tax credits, and funding. Improving your building facade will show your customers that you care about your neighborhood and want to provide a more welcoming environment for residents and visitors to LIVE, WORK, PLAY, and SHOP!

Please email us at to confirm your attendance by November 10th.



7:30 am Registration / Check-in (coffee, muffins, bagels)

8:00 am Welcome
– Dave Brennan, Erie City Council
– John Buchna, Erie Downtown Partnership
– Melinda Meyer, Preservation Erie

8:15 am Windows – Matthew McLaughlin, Andersen Windows
8:45 am Masonry – Matt Anderson, Northwest Restoration Inc.
9:15 am Design – Jeff Kidder, Kidder Wachter Architecture & Design
9:45 am Coffee Break

10:00 am Historic Tax Credit Incentives – Heather Rudge, Historic Preservation Group, LLC
10:30 am City of Erie Funding Programs – Chris Groner, City of Erie
11:00 am Construction Loans – Karen Clark, DevelopErie and T.J. King, Bridgeway Capital
11:45 am Q & A

Recommendations made to Destination Erie


Over the last three years, Destination Erie worked with residents throughout Erie County to build a more sustainable region by creating a plan to meet the economic, social and environmental challenges of the 21st Century.

During Destination Erie’s most recent public ourtreach events, Preservation Erie contributed the following recommendations for project ideas.

Development of Historic Preservation Plans
Preservation is viewed as a concept that encompasses entire landscapes, including open spaces, historic buildings and structures, farmlands, viewsheds and the distinct characteristics found in communities of all sizes. A Historic Preservation Plan provides local units of government a working document to identify these historic, cultural and natural resources in the county or municipality, and via the planning process, civic leadership works in collaboration with the public to consider preservation issues, problems and opportunities associated with those resources, explore the possibility of county-wide and regional approaches to management of important resources, and develop goals, policies and strategies for their appropriate use, conservation, preservation and protection that are consistent with those established for other comprehensive plan elements.

A historic preservation plan should be completed for Erie County. This plan should be incorporated into the County of Erie’s Comprehensive Plan. The Erie County Department of Planning, in partnership with municipal leadership/representatives, Preservation Erie, the Erie County Historical Society, PHMC’s Bureau for Historic Preservation, and other key stakeholders, can use this plan to assist in the development of localized historic preservation plans that can be accepted, adopted and implemented by the county’s 38 municipalities. Through the planning process, concepts such as zoning regulations, design review guidelines and requirements for new and existing structures, preservation easements, preservation commissions, historic architectural review boards, historic marker programs, homesteading, land banks, mothballing of historic structures, and advocacy and public education should be vetted.

Create Resources for Property Owners
We refer to the range of programs, laws, and financial incentives that are used to help protect and enhance historic places as the preservation “toolbox.” The tools in the toolbox include – but are not limited to – planning and zoning regulations, grants, tax credits, state or Federal laws, and resources/programs for homeowners.

While some historic and cultural resources are owned and maintained by local governments, a tremendous number of historic homes, farms and commercial buildings are owned and cared for by individual property owners. In an effort to preserve the character and appeal of our downtowns and rural communities (for all of the reasons listed previously), and promote proper care of structures 50 years old and older, new resources/programs should be created and existing resources/programs (Erie Downtown Partnership, SNOOPS, Little Italy Neighborhood Network, Erie Redevelopment Authority, Community Development Block Grant Program) should be strengthened to provide property owners technical assistance regarding building repairs and ongoing maintenance, materials, and contractors and tradesmen, and financial assistance in the form of loans, grants and/or tax incentives. For example, a municipality may allow a tax break for single family residential property owners who are within a Historic District who have restored their structures according to the Department of the Interior standards.

Development of a County-Wide Interpretation Plan for Historic and Cultural Assets
Erie Places, Erie Stories is a dual-faceted project aimed at fostering greater appreciation and understanding of Erie County’s historically and architecturally rich built environment. This interpretation project has two main elements—one, an illustrated, interdisciplinary series of streetscape exhibits located at narrowly defined building locales, places of well-documented historical significance in the life of urban centers within Erie County, Pennsylvania. A website with downloadable maps and other materials will accompany the exhibits. The second element is a grassroots effort to engage Erie County residents and citizens’ organizations in surveying the storied buildings and places that give communities personal and collective meaning and infuse built landscapes with unique character. A digitally published “Census of Erie County Places” (which will be ongoing) will be the final product.

Erie Places, Erie Stories will support regional, as well as localized branding and tourism promotion efforts, public education and historic preservation advocacy. It will also inspire pride in community and re-root people in their neighborhoods and urban centers.

Strengthen Training Requirements for Volunteer Civic Leadership
Develop a civic leadership training initiative required for elected and appointed municipal leaders and senior managers of government agencies, and open to emerging leaders from our growing population of New Americans, young professionals, neighborhood associations, etc. The initiative could be structured as an institute or academy in partnership with one or more local college or university, or as a fee-for-service program of the Erie County Planning Department or a nonprofit organization with planning or leadership at the core of its mission. Curriculum should enhance the capacity of people to lead meaningful change and address (at the very least) land use, zoning regulations and code enforcement, understanding government finances and financial position, creating well-defined economic development ecosystems, revitalization strategies, effective citizen participation and the Freedom of Information Act, cross-sector partnerships, competitive bidding and grant writing, and best practices for multi-municipality collaboration.

Establish Urban Growth Boundaries
An urban growth boundary is a planning tool used to control urban sprawl, protect rural lands, focus investment in existing downtowns, main streets and employment areas, and promote efficient use of public services and facilities. Benefits of urban growth boundaries include motivating development and redevelopment of land and buildings in urban cores, helping to keep core (often historic) “downtowns” in business; assurance for businesses and local governments about where to place infrastructure (such as roads and sewers) which will be needed for future development; and efficiency for businesses and local governments in terms of how that infrastructure is built. Implemented in Erie County, this should be a multi-municipality effort.

The Erie urban growth boundary (UGB) should collaboratively execute an intergovernmental agreement between the existing four developed municipalities – City of Erie, Lawrence Park & Millcreek Townships, and Wesleyville Borough – along with the developing next ring of communities of Fairview, McKean, Summit, Greene, and Harborcreek Townships (west to east). Other UGBs could be created between Erie County boroughs (and the City of Corry) and their immediate township neighbors.

Preservation Erie Launches Backstage Erie Tours

BackstageErie_WebAd_2For many, we travel the streets and avenues of the City of Erie and neighboring communities so frequently, we no longer notice the beauty and uniqueness of the built environment that surrounds us. If only there was a way in which we could see these buildings differently. There is.

Preservation Erie has launched a series of “Backstage Erie” tours intended to take people behind-the-scene in places we see, perhaps every day, but haven’t taken the time to explore or learn about.

Our series begins with a visit to the Erie Cemetery on September 18 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Burial Grounds and cemeteries are among the most valuable of archaeological and historic resources.  They are evidence of various settlement patterns, burial practices, cultural and religious influences, economic development, social relationships, and genealogy. Unfortunately, they are one of the most fragile resources to preserve and protect. With this in mind, Mercyhurst University professor Mary Ann Owoc recently completed a typological overview, as well as a preservation and threat assessment for all of the cemeteries in Erie County. Dr. Owoc will provide an overview of her research and take the group through the older sections of the Erie Cemetery to illustrate her findings. We’ll also hear from staff of the Erie Cemetery about their current and upcoming preservation activity. Tickets are $8 per tour for non-members and $5 per tour for Preservation Erie members. Tickets may be purchased online or at the Erie Cemetery’s main office. Refreshments provided.

Purchase Tickets

The next adventure takes us to the old Erie Brewing Company building at 21st and State Streets October 2 from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm. The building was constructed in the 1890s to house brewing operations and offices and serve as a distribution hub or warehouse. Mark Miller, owner of Miller Brothers Power Equipment, recently rehabilitated the property for his store and will share the history of the building and stories about the rehabilitation work, and will take us on a tour of the original Executive Ratskeller. Tickets are $8 per tour for non-members and $5 per tour for Preservation Erie members. Refreshments provided.

Purchase Tickets

If you have questions, please contact us at

Public meetings scheduled to present results of Historic Resource Inventory for Erie, Corry

Since December, Preservation Erie and the consulting firm Wise Preservation Planning have been working on a county-wide inventory of historic resources. Inventories for the cities of Erie and Corry are nearly complete. The public is invited to attend a presentation of the inventory results in Corry and a Q&A session with consultant Bob Wise Tuesday, June 24 at 7 pm at the Corry Higher Education Council, 221 N Center Street, Corry. Those wanting to learn more about the inventory results for the City of Erie are invited to attend a presentation Wednesday, June 25 at the Jefferson Educational Society, 3207 State Street, Erie at 7 pm.

Preservation Erie is excited to be working with Wise Preservation Planning, an experienced historic preservation planning firm based in Chester Springs, PA. The firm’s principals, Robert Wise and Seth Hinshaw, have more than 30 years of experience with municipal historic preservation planning and have produced an impressive portfolio of 26 National Register nominations for individual properties, districts and landmarks, 12 municipal-wide surveys of all historic resources 50 years old and older, and approximately 10,000 documented historic resources.

The remainder of Erie County is scheduled to be inventoried throughout the summer.

The results of the 2014 historic resource inventory will be added to the State’s Cultural Resources Geographic Information System, a map-based inventory of the historic and archaeological sites and surveys stored by the Bureau for Historic Preservation. Web access to all of the historic resource data will be open to the public. Electronic copies of the final inventory will be made available to all municipalities in Erie County, the Erie County Public Library and other interested groups.

The project is generously supported by the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority, Erie Community Foundation, the Perry 200 Commission, and individuals. Once complete, the inventory will provide baseline information which will enable communities, property owners, organizations, and agencies to better appreciate the cultural and economic value of historic buildings and sites in their communities and assist civic leaders in planning for their protection and integration into economic revitalization strategies.

Preservation Erie and the Erie County Historical Society Collaborate to Present ECGRA Mission Main Street Workshop

Event will Feature Experts from the Pennsylvania Historical and
Museum Commission and Preservation Pennsylvania

Preservation Erie and the Erie County Historical Society are collaborating to present an Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority Mission Main Street workshop. The event will take place June 20, 2014, from 9 a.m. to3 p.m. at the Jefferson Educational Society, 3207 State Street, Erie, Pa. Event updates and RSVP details are available under the Events tab on Preservation Erie’s website,

Trainings will address topics such as: the economic and cultural value of historic preservation; ordinances, tax credits, grants, and other tools for supporting preservation programs; fostering historic preservation in your neighborhood; Erie’s demolition delay ordinance and historic overlay district ordinance; and the importance of performing a historic resource inventory.

ECGRA Executive Director Perry Wood said, “There was a time when main streets were the hub of every American community. Although those corridors no longer serve that purpose, they hold rich history and vast opportunities for community development. ECGRA is committed to helping our municipalities protect their unique assets while evolving to meet contemporary needs.”

Regional municipal and neighborhood leaders, architects and planners, and economic development and tourism specialists are encouraged to attend the community preservation training. Key speakers will include Bureau for Historic Preservation Community Preservation Coordinator Bill Callahan and Archeological Reviewer Kira Heinrich, and Preservation Pennsylvania Field Representative Erin Hammerstadt.

The Bureau for Historic Preservation is part of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), the Commonwealth’s official history agency. The bureau administers the state’s historic preservation program and is responsible for identifying and protecting the architectural and archaeological resources of Pennsylvania by working with individuals, communities, local governments, state and federal agencies to educate Pennsylvanians about our heritage and its value. The event is part of the Cultural Resource Essentials Focus workshop series that PHMC is offering regionally.

Preservation Pennsylvania is the Commonwealth’s only statewide, private nonprofit, membership organization dedicated to the protection of historically and architecturally significant properties. The organization assists in protecting and utilizing historic resources Pennsylvania communities want to preserve for the future.

A grantmaker, ECGRA’s mission is to galvanize the nonprofit sector toward economic and community development and to elevate Erie County, Pa. Since February 2008, ECGRA has invested more than $28 million in Erie County thanks to the innovative leadership of members of the ECGRA Board of Directors and staff, and Erie County Council. ECGRA’s Mission Main Street Grants are open annually for up to $15,000 per eligible municipalities and nonprofit organizations seeking to complete revitalization projects along historic commercial corridors, e.g., overhauled streetscapes, revamped landscapes and restored façades. Full Mission Main Street Grants guidelines are available at

Self-guided walking tour of historic South Shore Drive

The Erie County Historical Society invites you to join them May 15 for a self-guided tour through 10 beautiful homes in  the historic Frontier  Neighborhood, including South Shore Drive. Homes will  be open from 6-9pm and, for most part, are private residences, so there will be  limitations on visitation.

Tickets are $10 per person. Reservations must be made for this event. Call 454-1813×24

Erie Places, Erie Stories exhibit available online

EriePlacesErieStoriesErie Places, Erie Stories was a collaboration of the Mercyhurst University Public History program, the Erie Nonprofit Partnership, Preservation Erie, Center City Arts/Bloom Collaborative, and other partners throughout the city. The project engaged Mercyhurst students throughout fall 2013 in both producing photographs of a few of Erie’s great buildings and landscapes, and conducting oral history interviews with individuals who have some connection to those places. Students in Dr. Chris Magoc’s Introduction to Public History class interviewed residents, church parishioners, and business owners with deep and lasting attachments to some of the special places in the greater Erie area.

If you missed seeing the Erie Places, Erie Stories exhibit at Bloom Collaborative in December, or Erie City Hall in January/February, you can experience it online at

Villa Chapel supporters hold (another) Easter event

At 1pm on Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014, members of the Save the Villa Chapel committee of Preservation Erie will convene for the ninth year in a row at the corner of West 9th and Liberty to provide an update on the status of the landmark chapel. Following the announcement, a brief Easter Parade will be held to celebrate the chapel’s survival through another difficult winter.

On Easter Sunday 2005 a group of concerned citizens gathered to protest the rumored demolition of the Villa Chapel.  The resulting Save the Villa Chapel committee has held dozens of fundraisers, raised thousands of dollars, and worked to find an appropriate reuse of the building.

In 2009, Duncan Stroik, a University of Notre Dame professor of architecture and founding editor of Sacred Architecture magazine toured the Villa Chapel and admired the carved woodwork and stained glass saying that the historic building is “a gem that should be saved.” The chapel is on the National Register along with the rest of the Villa Maria complex. The convent and school have been converted to apartments, but the chapel remains vacant, unheated and leaking.

ImageIn 2010, in response to concerns that the chapel was “too far gone to renovate” an engineering expert from Pittsburgh’s Atlantic Engineering was hired to evaluate the building – he indicated that the chapel is stable, but in need of roof and “cosmetic repairs.”  In 2011, a reuse planning session (with stakeholders and architects Dave Brennan, Jeff Kidder, Richard Olaya and Ellis Schmidlapp) resulted in a 2012 re-use report drafted by KidderWachter Architecture and Design. The illustrated report details will be available at the Easter Sunday event.

Due to the chapel’s uncertain future, Preservation PA placed the Villa Chapel on its list of Pennsylvania at Risk properties in 2011.  Dr. Chris Magoc, while serving as Preservation Erie’s Board President, commented that a renovated chapel would “help stimulate community and economic development in a historic Erie neighborhood…”

ImageWhile jobs and tax revenues are crucial for a thriving community, Magoc and many others believe that saving the chapel is crucial to preserving our history, identity and sense of place. Mary Frabrizio McCarthy wrote in an Erie Times News opinion piece that Villa Maria grade school, high school and college students met in the chapel “to learn and sing the songs of our faith, songs that have stayed with us throughout our lives.”  Another Villa alumna, community leader Sally Carlow Kohler, commented that she has “been fortunate enough to have traveled around the world” but that she returned home to realize that Erie’s Villa Chapel “is one of the most beautiful anywhere!”

Preservation Erie and the Save the Villa Chapel committee believe that Greater Erie must both recognize the importance of becoming a wise steward of its many inherited treasures.