Judge William A. Galbraith moved to Erie from Franklin, Venango County
with his family at the age of fourteen. He received his early schooling
at the old Erie Academy and later attended Allegheny College.
Afterwards, he studied law under his father, Judge John Galbraith, and
subsequently was admitted to the bar. Upon his graduation from Harvard
University’s Dane Law School in 1845, William Galbraith returned to
His law practice flourished in the city and Galbraith was often
overworked, which prompted his physician to recommend he refrain from
practicing law for a short period of time. Galbraith directed his
attention towards northwestern Massachusetts, where the Hoosac Tunnel,
a 4.82-mile tunnel under the Berkshire Mountain Range, was under
construction. After twenty-two years of construction, the first train
traveled the Hoosac Tunnel in 1875. Galbraith remained in Massachusetts
for only two years, returning to Erie in the 1860s.
He was then appointed attorney for the Sunbury & Erie Railroad, and
later served as a director of the Sunbury & Erie Railroad and the
Cleveland & Erie Railroad. Galbraith invested in the Erie Car Works,
the Erie Car Wheel Works, the Burdett Organ Company, and Chicago real
estate. He also served as president of the Erie Dime Savings & Loan
Company. In 1876, he was elected president judge, serving a term of ten
years. Afterwards, Judge Galbraith practiced law with his sons,
Davenport and John. Until 1873, Judge Galbraith and his wife, Fannie
Davenport Galbraith, occupied the Italianate style house at 238 West
Sixth Street. The Galbraith family sold the property to Leroy L. Lowry,
who owned the home until 1886. It was then sold to John Card Selden,
co-founder of Erie’s Selden & Griswold Manufacturing Company.
Selden & Griswold Manufacturing Company was established in 1865 at the
corner of Tenth and Chestnut Streets. The company’s products included
door hinges, hardware, long griddles, waffle irons, kettles, dutch
ovens, roasters, and a burglar alarm. After John Selden and his
brother, Samuel Selden, were bought out by Matthew Griswold, the
company became Griswold Manufacturing Company, and continued to produce
high quality cookware until 1961. John Selden turned his attention to
the Erie City Iron Works, and worked there with his brother George
until his death in 1888.
The Galbraith-Selden house went through a succession of owners, and was
renovated into twelve apartment units. Despite these renovations, the
exterior of the home maintains its original character and design.
Sources: Frew, David, et al. Journey Through Time: Erie’s Best Downtown Walking Guide. Erie, PA: Erie County Historical Society, 2006.;
Miller, John. A Twentieth Century History of Erie County, Pennsylvania. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1909.