Friday, January 18, 2013

How to Identify Old Erie Business Photos

Erie City Hotel photograph courtesy of Tom DiLuzio.
Are you curious about unlabeled photographs that you have in your possession? It is possible to identify the location if you do a little detective work. I found the location of two old photos in the past couple of weeks, and I thought I would share the my secrets with you.

1. Examine the photo closely. This example is 7" x 9" mounted on heavy card stock. The name of the business, assumed to be 'Erie City Hotel,' is our first clue. Was this hotel located in Erie, Pennsylvania? Unfortunately, no address or street names are visible. Nor is there a name of the photo studio on the mounting card.

2. Determine the year that the subject was photographed. The horse and buggy, telegraph poles and trolley tracks narrowed the search to approximately 1890 to 1910.

3. What street could this business be on? The hotel sits on a corner. It is most likely on a major street such as State, Parade or Peach Street, because of the trolly tracks and high utility poles. State and Parade Streets are relatively flat, so I wondered if this hotel was on Peach St.

4. Get out the magnifying glass. I saw a reflection in the large window on the right side of the building. OITAN= NATIO. There is also a poster in the left window that says Majestic. Erie, Pa had a Majestic Theatre.

5. Head to the library. I checked the 1903 city directory and found a National Hotel at 1801-1805 Peach St., but no Erie City Hotel. I found the Erie City Hotel listed at 1725 Peach St. in 1906, across the street from the National Hotel. They both appeared in the directory from 1906 until 1913.

The Erie City Hotel was run by Louis Behr. Chances are pretty good that he is holding the reins of the horse in this picture. In 1904, Louis worked at the Hotel Colegrove at 1725 Peach St., the same address where the Erie City Hotel was later located. Louis Behr died in his home at 1811 Walnut St. on June 26, 1924.

The old Erie City Hotel took on a different look in later years. Brick was added to the facade, and the peaked roof was removed. Here is a more recent picture of the building:

Enjoy more historic facts and photos of Erie, PA at: Old Time Erie


  1. Cool detective work. Moved from Erie in 1953 and have rarely been back since 1962. You have an interesting site. Thank you.

    1. Thank you, Bob. I hope you have many good memories of your days in Erie.