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   Watson-Curtze Museum

PROPERTY INFORMATION

Historic Name

Watson-Curtze Museum

Address

356 West 6th Street

Municipality

City of Erie

Tax Parcel

17040011011900

Historic District

West 6th Street HD

Classification

Class 1 (Definitions of Classes)

State Key Number

50943

Historic Function

Domestic - single dwelling

Style

Queen Anne

Built

1891

Architect

Green and Wicks

Builder

Green and Wicks

Barn Type on property

 

Last Entry Update

7/6/2016


HISTORY

The Watson-Curtze Mansion is located along Millionaire’s Row, a National Historic District west of Erie’s downtown that features stately residences of the city’s elite from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It was built for the family of Harrison Watson, founder of the Watson Paper Company and GAF Manufacturing, and his wife Carrie Watson. The Watson Paper Company was a key contributor to Erie industry, which was booming in the late nineteenth century. This industrial powerhouse manufactured building, roofing, and lining papers, as well as other construction materials. These manufactured goods were mass produced and exported to areas throughout the United States. Harrison Watson became one of the wealthiest men in Erie County.

Construction of this ornate Richardsonian mansion began in 1889 and was completed in 1891, providing the Watsons and their daughter Winifred with an elaborate home meant for entertaining affluent friends and family. The Watsons employed several servants who lived with them in the mansion. The third floor contains a ballroom which was utilized in the fall and winter by the family for celebrations. Ultimately, the Watsons enjoyed full use of their mansion until Mr. Watson passed away in 1904 and his wife died in 1923. Their daughter Winifred sold the home in 1924 to Frederick Curtze, a successful banker, and the second round of tenants moved in.

One concern with the home was that it did not provide relief from oppressively hot Erie summers. As a result, both the Watsons and the Curtzes had summer homes in addition to the mansion during their ownerships. The Curtzes installed electricity and replaced the carriage house vehicles with automobiles, thus upgrading the technology. After Frederick Curtze’s death in 1941, Mrs. Curtze and her children donated the home to the Erie School District for the purposes of preserving the monumental structure and using it as a museum to educate generations of citizens about its history, the families who resided there, and their associated businesses and enterprises that were immensely important to Erie’s growth.

Over the ensuing decades, the mansion has evolved. For many years it was known as the Erie Historical Museum, but in 2000 the Historical Society of Erie County (HSEC), assumed stewardship of the mansion. HSEC began using the mansion to showcase the history of the building and the prominent families who once lived there, as well as for exhibitions on Erie history. For many years, the adjacent carriage house served as an educational planetarium. In 2015, HSEC moved its headquarters from State Street into the former planetarium/carriage house. It now contains their vast array of literary resources as well as a gift shop, while the mansion itself remains open for tours. Visitors to the Watson-Curtze Mansion can gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of not only the architectural splendor and elaborate lifestyles associated with Millionaire’s Row, but also the larger story of Erie’s era as a leading Great Lakes industrial and maritime city.

Sources: West Sixth Street Historic District Nomination; Frew, David, et al. Journey Through Time: Erie’s Best Downtown Walking Guide. Erie, PA: Erie County Historical Society, 2006.


DESCRIPTION


LINKS AND ATTACHMENTS

Watson-Curtze Museum National Register nomination


UPDATE

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Submitted information is reviewed by Preservation Erie prior to updating the database.


CURRENT ASSESSMENT PHOTO


Photo courtesy, Erie County Assessment Office


PHOTO FROM 2014 SURVEY

HISTORIC PHOTOGRAPHS


Photo circa 0


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