As I continue this series on all things that make for living a long and happy life in Erie County, I have stumbled across a book that I have been wanting to read for many years. Although the title may scare away a casual reader of local history, I am sure that readers of this blog will find the contents fascinating. It is called “Plans and Reports for the Extension and Improvement of the City” written in 1913 by City Planner John Nolen (1869-1937). I mentioned Mr. Nolan in Blog #94 on GE and Lawrence Park. I have read that he was the first American to identify himself as a “city planner” and studied landscape architecture under Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. (who designed New York City’s Central Park among other places). Nolan consulted on plans for more than 25 cities in the country and Erie was one of them.
Not only did Mr. Nolen offer recommendations for the improvement of Erie but he offers a snapshot of the city in 1913. He writes with optimism and hope which brings to my mind one question. Why didn’t Erie grow to become the size of Buffalo, Cleveland, or larger?? On page 15 of the book, Nolan writes “No city is probably in better position than Erie to command phenomenal prosperity through the utilization of natural advantages”. I believe it! I once lived in Colorado and they are experiencing huge growth right now but water remains a concern. There just is not enough water available for the growing population and accompanying businesses. Additionally, we all have read about the heat waves, tornados and hurricanes that hit the southern United States quite often, however; that area is growing as well!
Erie is making a comeback, although it appears to be a slow and arduous process to those who live here. Working in the museum business, I speak with many visitors who tell me what a pleasant surprise Erie is to them. They point out Erie’s natural beauty, along with the number of special events and activities here that we tend to take for granted. Our visitors love the small city feel and are amazed at how friendly the citizens are to them.
Stay tuned to this blog as I start writing next week on John Nolen’s view of Erie. I promise you that you may never look at our city the same way again!