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Historic Name

Hist. Erie County Public Library


27 S Park Row


City of Erie

Tax Parcel


Historic District



Class 2 (Definitions of Classes)

State Key Number


Historic Function

Education - library


Beaux Arts







Barn Type on property


Last Entry Update



The Erie County Public Library was built at the turn of the twentieth century as a result of the sustained effort of a number of prominent Erie citizens. In 1890, the Erie Board of Education set aside $100 for reference books to serve as the foundation of a school library. In 1891, Dr. A. F. Freeman planned to establish a free, non-sectarian library under the Board of Education. A citizens’ committee was formed, creating a plan for a library building on a donated East 7th Street lot. However, there were not enough funds raised for the building, and the land was returned to the donor. Although this initial citizens’ effort failed, it encouraged the Superintendent of Schools to appoint a committee of Library Trustees, which included Dr. M.C. Dunnigan, Mr. L.M. Little, Mr. Chas. Jarecki, Mr. Benjamin Whitman, Mr. Louis Rosenzweig, and the president of the board, Mr. J.F. Downing. In March 1896, the Board of Education decided to issue bonds for a library building, which raised $110,000. A surplus and $4,000 were given by public-spirited citizens to support the project. The total cost of the library was $150,000. On June 5, 1897, the cornerstone for the building was laid, and the building was formally dedicated in 1899.

The first book collection contained 11,000 volumes, administered by a substantial library staff of 11 individuals. The Board of Education’s budget for the library’s first full year of operation was $20,300. The School District appropriation contributed to 95% of the library’s income. Over the next few years, the library’s collections grew substantially. A medical reference library and a course of annual lectures were eventually supported by the library, as well as a collection of children’s books. In 1903, Jean A. Hard replaced Katherine M. Mack as Librarian, and under her first year as administrator, the library lent over 387,000 books. Also, the annual budget increased to $58,000. From 1903-1927, “Citizen’s Libraries,” or adult library branches, were established, a collection of government documents began, and foreign language collections were strengthened. An Open Shelf Room was established in 1913 and mezzanine shelves were installed on the library’s main floor in 1924. By 1947, the total collection contained 180,000 volumes, which was about 16 times the original count.

Until 1969, the library only occupied the first floor. The second floor was used as office space by the Erie School District, and as an art gallery for the Art Club of Erie and Erie Museum. As the library expanded, new collections were placed in the basement of the building. In 1996, this library was closed due to the opening of the expansive and modern Raymond M. Blasco, M.D. Memorial Library on Erie’s Bayfront. In 2004, the former Erie Public Library was incorporated into the federal courthouse complex.

The successful, well-received establishment of the stately, elegant Erie County Public Library at a prominent corner across from Erie’s central downtown civic space (now Perry Square) signified the importance Erie leaders invested in their new library. In building this magnificent edifice of civic education, Erie joined the ranks of other great American cities that were spearheading the national public library movement at the turn of the century, offering school children an essential repository of books, and Erie citizens access to life-long education.

Sources: Frew, David, et al. Journey Through Time: Erie’s Best Downtown Walking Guide. Erie, PA: Erie County Historical Society, 2006.



Hist. Erie County Public Library National Register nomination


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Photo courtesy, Erie County Assessment Office



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