The Hagen History Center was fortunate recently. A donor sent an object relating to the 1888 Erie Penna. Illustrated Souvenir book that this blog is inspired by, and it is making me hungry!
I was under the misconception that most Erie residents in the 1880s baked everything at home. The 1888 book lists 16 bakeries in town, which goes to show that people were looking for time saving ways to create meals, just like today. The company that advertised itself as the oldest and largest bakery in Pennsylvania was W.J. Sands, later becoming known as the Erie Steam Bakery.
W.J. Sands began baking in 1842 at 5th and Sassafras Streets. In 1873, they moved the operation to near the corner of 4th and French Streets then expanded in 1894 to include 402, 404, 406 and 408 French Street. They were known to bake the choicest bread and cakes with their specialty being a “Wavelet” bread which I have been unable to find anything about. The bakery also made a “Tidal Wave” biscuit which was extremely popular. They shipped to areas within 100 miles of Erie and “used the highest grade of flour and other ingredients” according to the 1888 book.
Erie Steam Bakery lasted until 1919 when the building was sold. Erie Insurance currently owns the property, renaming it Lafayette Place in honor of the Revolutionary War hero. This location is the site of the Judah Colt House and General Lafayette stayed with Colt during his visit to Erie in 1825.
The baking business was lucrative. In 1887, Mr. Sands built his Victorian Eclectic home at 313 West 6th Street on Erie’s “Millionaire Row”.
Today, the home is the location of the Mizner Law Firm at 311 West Sixth Street. Address 313 West 6th is now the carriage house in the back converted to a home.
We have no shortage of bakeries today, but I do still try to do my own baking with the help of an old bread machine and good recipes. Below is a favorite recipe I have used for MANY years, especially during this time of year. It’s not healthy – but it is good! Be happy and enjoy!
2 eggs 3 cups flour (scant)
2 cups white sugar ½ tsp. salt
1 cup cooking oil 1 tsp. soda
Add sifted ingredients to egg mixture, then add 3 cups chopped apples, 2 teaspoons vanilla, and nuts (optional). Mix well. Pour (it will be thick) into greased cake pan and bake 45 minutes or until done at 350 degrees.
1 cup brown sugar, ¼ cup milk, ¼ cup butter or margarine. Cook 2 ½ minutes. Stir a little after removing from stove, but do not beat. Dribble over cake while cake and icing are still hot. A few chopped nutmeats may be sprinkled over the icing.
Recipe from “Amish Cooking” 1977, Pathway Publishers