The Addison Leech House is located along Erie’s historic Millionaire’s
Row. Built in 1870 by Buffalo architect S.R. Barry, the home was one of
the last residences constructed west of the Erie Extension Canal before
its closing in 1871.
Born in 1824 to a family of staunch colonialists in Slippery Rock,
Pennsylvania, Addison Leech was a man of modest beginnings. Educated at
Allegheny College, he followed in the footsteps of his father, David
Leech, the founder of Leechburg, Pennsylvania and a major force in the
Pennsylvania Main Line Canal. In the midst of his early entrepreneurial
adventures, Addison Leech married Mary Watson of Lycoming, Pennsylvania
in 1852. The couple would raise nine children throughout their forty-
seven-year marriage. Prior to his marriage, Leech became involved in
Leechburg’s flour mills. He became known as an innovative flour miller,
operating multiple mills in the small town. However, during the Civil
War, Leech left the mills to serve as a major in the United States
Army. Once the war had ended in 1865, Leech returned to Leechburg’s
flour mills for a short period of time. Throughout his twenty-year
stint operating the flour mills, he received several awards for his
technological innovations and superior flour-milling techniques, which
were showcased in exhibitions from London to Philadelphia. Seeking new
opportunities, Leech left Leechburg in 1868, spending some time in St.
Paul, Missouri before relocating to Erie the following year. Leech
became manager of the grain lines at Anchor Line Transportation
Company, located on Holland Street in the heart of Erie. Anchor Line
provided freight and passenger transportation, specializing in the
handling of grain during the height of Erie manufacturing. It was
during his early years in Erie that Leech commissioned the construction
of this beautiful Second Empire style home. Construction was completed
in 1870, and the family would maintain it as their primary residence
A decade after moving to Erie, Leech sought to expand his
entrepreneurial affairs westward. Upon visiting Fargo, North Dakota, he
purchased over thirty-five thousand acres of wheat lands. Leech and his
family then decided to spend their summers in Fargo and winters in
Erie. After selling a hefty portion of his land a few years after the
initial purchase, Leech’s sons managed the remaining three-thousand
acres of North Dakota farmland. Leech passed away in 1899, and his
widowed wife, Mary, lived out the rest of her life in their Erie home.
After her passing in 1921, the home remained empty; however, as of 2016
it serves as an apartment building.
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.;
Miller, John. A Twentieth Century History of Erie County, Pennsylvania. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1909.