Saturday, August 24, 2013

Reed House Hotel in Perry Square

Old Time Erie postcard contributed by Tom DiLuzio.
The luxurious five-story Reed hotel attracted guests from all over the United States, including Buffalo Bill Cody. It sat right in the middle of Erie's commercial district, on the corner of North Park Row and French Street. Check out this description of the Reed House:

"The building is pressed brick, with stone, iron and terra cotta towers at each corner and in the center of the north and south fronts. The structure is in the form of a hollow square, thus securing an abundance of light and air to every room in the house, which is traversed by broad corridors running the entire length and breadth. Splendid staircases connect the various stories, and a fine passenger and baggage elevator enables guests to reach their rooms quickly and with little exertion. 

The first floor is laid in marble tiles, and comprises the spacious office, barroom, wine-room, barber shop, baggage room, etc., all elegantly finished in costly woods. On the second floor are the grand dining room, 80x120', reading and writing room facing French street and the park, 40x60', reception room, general parlor, ladies' parlor, sample rooms for traveling salesmen, and several beautiful suites of rooms for the use of guests.

The appointments as regards furniture, carpets, hangings and decorations are of the most luxurious kind, each room or suite of rooms being provided with toilet closet, bath, bells, gas-lights and the neatest, daintiest and most refreshing beds that ever invited the weary wayfarer to repose. 

The dining room with its array of spotless table linen, glittering glass, crystal and silver, and battalion of attentive colored waiters, is another most attractive feature, and especially worthy of the epicure's attention, and every substantial and delicacy obtainable being provided in profusion to tempt the appetite and satiate the inner man. All servants are in livery, and the promptitude and reliability of waiters, bell boys and all employed about the hostelry would satisfy the most exacting."

The description above was written in 1888. Sounds like we had our own Downton Abbey in Downtown Erie. The Reed House was demolished in 1933. A parking lot now occupies this site.

Enjoy more historical facts and photos of Erie, Pennsylvania at: Old Time Erie


  1. What a beautiful old building. We won't see architecture like that ever again. I'm so glad to see these old photographs and postcards, and wish there were some shots of the interiors of them too. Thank you for all your work on this blogsite.


  2. I suppose attentive white waiters were a rarity in those days.

  3. And certainly not one of the finer moments in local history.

  4. This was actually the last of the Reed Hotels on that spot. Seems they had a problem with fires. The best known of the 19th century hotels in Erie were the series of Reed hostelries that occupied the northeast corner of French St. and North Park Row. Rufus Reed was a member of a pioneering family and built a small hotel around 1796. The Mansion House, which he erected on the park in 1826, was considered one of the finest hotels of its day. Ironically, Reed was instrumental in forming Erie's first fire company, but it could not save the Mansion House, which succumbed to flames in 1839. Reed replaced it with another. That building, too, burned in 1864. This time his son, Charles Reed took up the challenge and erected a large 4 story building in Italianette style. Eight years later, this too (shown after the fire in the photo) would go up in flames. The final Reed House creation (shown in the photo) was that of Rufus' grandson, Charles M. Reed. It was completed in 1875. It essentially retained the wall treatment of the former building, but was now w 5 stories high through the addition of a mansard roof, and doubled the number of rooms to 200. It was also fireproofed, and had the reputation of being one of the leading hotels between New York and Chicago. It survived into the 20th century, but by then the city's business district had moved well south of the park. The contents of the Reed House, including bronze statues, tapestries, and a $50,000 art collection were auctioned off in September of 1933 and the building was demolished shortly thereafter. ( As a side note: Rufus Reed also opened Erie's first distillery, on 5th & Parade...where he devised a hollow stick that enabled him to sell it by the yard to the Native Americans. The law strictly forbade he sale of liquor to Native Americans by the gill (4 0z.), quart or barrel,. Reed skirted the law with his hollow device. Rufus Reed also opened a store, traded furs, secured large government contracts to to supply Western military posts with beef, pork flour, and whiskey. He also was half owner of the The Good Intent, which was the first vessel launched in Erie in 1799, and by the time he died, he owned an extensive fleet of lake vessels.)

    1. Thanks for adding this great information. Now, if I could only download your brain!

  5. Fascinating story, and what a beautiful & imaginative way to help us visualize the grand old hotel. THANKS!!