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Charles Manning Reed Mansion

Charles Manning Reed Mansion, Erie, PA, National Register of Historic Places

Photo: Charles Manning Reed Mansion, Erie, PA, National Register of Historic Places

The Charles Manning Reed Mansion (also known as The Erie Club; 524 Peach St.) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1]


The Charles Manning Reed Mansion, now occupied by the Erie Club, is in the best traditions of the Greek Revival style, incorporating a bold silhouette, broad proportions, and simplified details. It is constructed of brick, with stone foundations, and wooden trim and embellishments.

The mansion property is actually a complex of two buildings: the former residence — now club eating and meeting rooms, and former office — now club office and recreational hall. The main building or former residence is essentially square measuring 68' 5" wide (seven-bay front) by 75' long by 55' high (two-story plus attic). The recreational hall is long and narrow measuring 20' by 125'. There have been alterations to both structures: on the residence -- a one-story bay on the south side (ca. 1855), a two-story bay on the north side (ca. 1865), and a two story extension on the west side (1970). The one-story recreational hall was extended to the west (ca. 1920).

The front or east elevation of the residence facing the park is of the Ionic order. Four massive fluted columns rise to the height of the two stories and support a pedimented portico roof. The portico cornice is a continuation of the cornice which encircles the remainder of the house. The columns rest upon attic bases. The caps as well as the ornamentation suggest the Erechtheum in Athens. The seven steps leading to the platform are flanked by bronze figures of goddesses holding lights. Flat pilasters ornament the corners and wall at the rear of the platform.

The attic which rests on a flat roof is designed in the form of a central temple-like monitor, measuring 46' by 22'. It is surrounded by an ornamental cast iron railing.

Most of the interior of the house has been remodeled to accommodate the needs of the present owners. The plan of the three floors, shows a central room, oval in shape, and measuring 25' by 50'. At one time this room was open throughout the full height of the building, but was closed off when air conditioning was installed several years ago. The layout of this room on the first floor is suggestive of a first class saloon in a luxury steamship, which would be appropriate for the residence of the owner of one of the largest fleets on the Great Lakes. The Grecian influence is evident throughout the first floor in the floor length windows, columns, mantels, ceilings, wainscotings, and other elements. However, there are some Gothic and even Rococo details, particularly in the west foyer, which it is believed once served as a card room. The east foyer has an open-string stairway placed to the north. The metal service stair at the rear is unique, since it is helical in design with 58 steps leading from the lower floor to the third floor.

The second floor does not open upon the central oval room for reasons of privacy. On the south side are three private dining rooms, originally bedrooms; and on the north side a banquet room, originally the family dining room. Ionic pilasters are featured throughout.

The third floor is perhaps the most unique portion of the house since here the oval room is surrounded by a railed walk upon which all bedrooms open. Thus at one time it would have been possible for the occupants of this floor to have had an unobscured view of what was occurring on the first floor. Above the walk is the cupola or penthouse with windows set on every side, and peaked sky-light (now framed in). At this level there is also a railed walk inside, as well as access to the roof which is enclosed by an ornamental cast-iron fence.

The Reed mansion sits five feet above street level, the lawns enclosed by a stone wall on two sides. On the north side there is a small courtyard between the residence and recreational hall with steps and flatstone walk leading from the street.


The Charles Manning Reed Mansion (Erie Club) is probably the best known landmark in Erie, for its size, architecture, and association with the city's most prominent family during the nineteenth century.

Colonel Set Reed was the area's first permanent settler arriving here in the summer 1795. He started in business by establishing a trading post, saw mill, and inn on the site of the 1753 French fort. Succeeding generations, namely Rufus and Charles Manning, would considerably expand the family's commercial enterprises. By the mid-1830's, Rufus was already one of Erie's wealthiest men, owning extensive property throughout the borough, as well as interests in shipping, grist mills, lumber mills, distilleries, and stagecoach lines. Son Charles gave every indication of being an even shrewder businessman than his father.

The choice of the site for his mansion by Charles Reed is significant. It not only reflects a new direction in Erie's pattern of development, but also a shift in Reed's own social and business values. The mansion stands as a symbol of a town and entrepreneur turning away from a lifestyle based exclusively on the economy of the waterfront. When Reed died in 1871, he had been among other things, president of the Erie and Pittsburgh Railroad, vice-president of the first National Bank, and owner of a magnificent hotel bearing his name; and Erie was well on its way to becoming an important manufacturing center. The stately homes of its new captains of industry extended westward from Reed's mansion along Sixth Street.

Reed was well aware of his position in the community, and he spared no effort or expense in securing the services of the most talented craftsmen to create an edifice that would dominate the landscape. For an architect, he engaged Edward B. Smith of Buffalo, who had designed some of the best public buildings and fine homes in that city. Rather than a general contractor, the accomplished Erie masons James and William Hoskinson were hired to build the structure, while E. F. Barger, the skillful head carpenter of Reed's own shipyard, supplied the trim and interior woodwork. Barger was a resident of Westfield, N.Y., and is credited with the design and construction of at least one Greek Revival residence in that town. The construction of the imposing dwelling whose main floor stood a full ten feet above the level of the street, attracted considerable attention. On May 14, 1846, the Erie Gazette wrote "Our citizens were pleased to observe on Tuesday, that our enterprizing townsman General C. M. Reed had broken ground for the erection of a mansion worthy of himself and ... as creditable to his native town, as have been his talents and enterprize." It was a spectacle that they would regard with a great deal of patience, for Reed's insistence upon perfection and the inability of his shipwrights to devote full time to the project, delayed completion of the mansion for two and a half years.

Perhaps the best way to record the architectural excellence of the Reed mansion is in the words of the various critics who have written about it. In The Architectural Heritage of Early Western Pennsylvania, Stotz commented that . . . "the Charles M. Reed House in Erie, used by the Erie Club, (is a) striking example(s) of a city home(s) of the 1840's that (is) well suited for such modern occupancy." (p.31). Stotz also observed that "the portico was sometimes applied to the long elevation, as in the Reed House, where, if not an integral part of the house structure, it had a more logical relationship to the plan than did the cumbersome portico of the Wilkins House." (p.109). The editors of Erie: A Guide to the City and County felt that... "The Reed Mansion, 1849, is likewise of interest chiefly for its broad Ionic portico. The third floor is arranged like a boat deck with the entrance to all rooms from a corridor, with a ship's 'railing' on one side. Its adjacent small office, built in 1846, simulates a Greek Doric temple." (p.53). Finally Talbot Hamlin writing in Greek Revival Architecture in America claims "The highest point of the Greek type in Pennsylvania was reached in the Charles M. Reed House at Erie, with its strong formal composition crowned by a well-designed and impressive attic."(p.276).

Following Reed's death his widow continued to occupy the mansion until her own death in 1901. Three years later, that portion of the Reed property on which stood the house and the connecting office building was sold to the Erie Club for $32,500 and payment of the 1904 taxes. The Erie Club chartered in 1882 was composed of Erie's leading civic and business leaders. One of the original subscribers to stock was Reed's son Charles, and other Reed descendents continue to enjoy the privileges of membership today.


(a) Hamlin, Talbot, Greek Revival Architecture in America. New York, Oxford University Press. 1944. p.276.

(b) American Guide Series, Erie: A Guide to the City and County/Philadelphia: William Perm Association, 1938. p. 53.

(c) Spencer, Herbert R., "The Reed Mansion," Inland Seas. Vol. XX, No.4 (1964), pp. 313-323.

(d) Swetnam, George and Smith, Helene, A Guidebook to Historic Western Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1976. p.117.

(6) Stotz, Charles Morse, The Architectural Heritage of Early Western Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1966), pp.32, 109, 143, 268, 287.

  1. John R. Claridge and Roger H. Tafdt, Erie County Historical Society, Charles Manning Reed Mansion, nomination document, 1981, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Charles Manning Reed Mansion Map

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