The Wood-Morrison House is located along Erie’s Millionaire’s Row. Designed by Dudley and Hawk, the mansion
was built in 1858 for Dr. William Maxwell Wood, who was appointed the first surgeon general of the United
States Navy in 1869. It was initially known for being rather modern, as it was well equipped with state-of-
the-art appliances and conveniences. As extraordinary as the building is from an architectural standpoint,
the history it embodies and to which its residents are linked is even more impressive.
Dr. Wood, who served as the physician aboard the U.S.S. Michigan, performed surgery in the basement of the
home on a regular basis, and one of his more famous patients was President Zachary Taylor, whose niece, Rose
Mary Carson, was Dr. Wood’s wife. In 1849, President Taylor became ill on his way to Buffalo and Dr. Wood
tended to him in his home at 8th and Peach Streets.
Dr. Wood is remembered for his daring and secret expedition deep into Mexico at the onset of the Mexican War.
The intelligence he gathered led to the appropriation of California by the United States. Dr. Wood is also
the author of several books in which he recommended the reform of the United States Navy. Wood’s son, Charles
Erskine Wood, who grew up in the home, would become a noted soldier in the 1877 Nez Perce War, known for
transcribing the famous words of Chief Joseph, “I will fight no more forever.” Charles Wood was also a
prominent civil libertarian, anti-imperialist, and author, whose 1927 bestselling satirical collection of
essays, Heavenly Discourse, took aim at religious intolerance and militarism.
In 1865, the Morrison family purchased the home from Dr. Wood, as well as a barn located east of the
property. The Morrison’s also acquired land to the west where the Watson-Curtze Mansion currently stands. The
Watson family purchased this land in the 1880s and completed the construction of an ornate mansion in 1891.
An important figure in Erie’s maritime history, Lieutenant Commander William Morrison lived at this home with
his family in the late nineteenth century. Morrison served as Captain (although never holding that rank of
service) while commanding the U.S.S. Wolverine, formerly the U.S.S. Michigan, from 1910 to 1917, and later as
Lieutenant Commander of the U.S.S. Utah during World War I. Locally, Morrison oversaw the reconstruction of
the U.S. Brig Niagara in 1912 and served two terms as a representative in the Pennsylvania House of
Representatives. An avid mariner, he was a founding member of the Erie Yacht Club and instrumental in the
establishment of Presque Isle as a state park. Morrison served as the first superintendent of Presque Isle
State Park in 1922. A man dedicated to preserving Erie’s maritime history, Captain Morrison is honored in
front of the Erie Maritime Museum. A plaque has been dedicated to him, which is situated beside the anchor of
the U.S.S. Wolverine, a ship that Morrison had commanded and sought to preserve; however, only remnants of
the ship remain inside the Erie Maritime Museum.
Upon the death of Morrison and his wife in 1956, the Erie Art Club purchased the home. They maintained the
building for almost thirty years, renaming it the Erie Art Center. It was here that the association began to
expand, opening new exhibits and galleries until there was no longer room on the property. As a result, the
association moved to 411 State Street in 1983, and Schroek and Segel P.C. purchased the Wood-Morrison house
a year later in 1984. Schroek & Associates law firm operated from the Wood-Morrison house until 2016, when
the Erie County Historical Society purchased the building. The Society extensively renovated the house and
now operates it as its education center.
Sources: Northwest Institute of Research, Historic Survey 1982; Frew, David, et al. Journey Through Time: Erie’s Best Downtown Walking Guide. Erie, PA: Erie County Historical Society, 2006.