Looking across Peach Street from the Selden fountain, one can’t help but notice an elaborate building that most residents of our region will recognize. Now known as the Erie Club, it was the home of Charles Manning Reed (1803-1871), a member of the city’s most prominent family during the nineteenth century. I say “prominent” because the family name is found 42 times in the 1888 book, more than any other. C.M. Reed’s Grandfather, Seth Reed was a Revolutionary War veteran and is noted to be the first settler in Erie County in 1795.
Charles Reed was deceased by the time of the 1888 book, but his wife lived at the home until her death in 1901. The home was reportedly built to make Mrs. Reed happy showing off her family’s wealth and it certainly did the job. Charles was involved in his father’s business of Great Lakes’ shipping, was president of the Erie and Pittsburgh Railroad, vice-president of the first National Bank, and owner of a magnificent hotel bearing his name. The “Reed House” hotel was located on the corner of North Park Row and French Street and was sadly knocked down in 1933.
Known as the “steamship king”, Charles had built the largest fleet of cargo vessels in the United States at the time and was considered the wealthiest man west of New York City at this death. Which brings me to an obscure object near the home. Have you ever noticed the post circled in red below? It’s still there. I’ve been trying to find a documented story about it with no luck.
Here’s a current picture with a close- up of the plaque that is affixed.
The story that was told to me many years ago was that Mr. Reed got tired of horses and wagons cutting across his property to get to Perry Square. He had the drive shaft dragged up the hill from his fleet of ships and sunk, sticking up about 6 feet from the ground. Being that the yard around his home was built up five feet from street level, he then had a chain go between the shaft and the corner of the wall going around the yard. If I’m dead wrong, feel free to email me at the Historical Society, but it’s a great story.
We all do things that make us happy and if it takes (legally) running a chain between the house and corner of the yard, do it. It makes me happy driving or better yet, walking near this beautiful home. We are so fortunate that the Erie Club has made the building its headquarters since 1905, preserving it for a beautiful Erie present and future instead of falling victim to the wrecking ball as the opulent Reed House did so many years ago.