If you live in the Erie area, I am sure you have seen this beautiful building that is part of Gannon University downtown. This 46-room mansion was built by William Scott but was incomplete by the time of his death. The mansion was left to Scott’s daughter, Annie, in his will. The unfinished mansion cost $480,000 ($13,887,360 today) to finish and was furnished at a cost of $800,000 ($23,145,600 today).
Charles Hamot Strong was born March 14, 1853 in Erie. A grandson of Pierre Simon Vincent Hamot (see blog #6) and son of Dr. Landaff and Catherine (Hamot) Strong, he was descended from some of the earliest settlers in the County. Charles graduated from the Erie Academy, and from Yale University in 1877. He married Anna Wainwright Scott in 1881 and they had one daughter, Matilda Thora Wainwright Strong.
The list of Mr. Strong’s involvement in business is lengthy. He began his career reading law then became a shipping clerk with the Mount Hickory Iron Works of Erie, later becoming
- Union Coal Company President, which distributed coal through the port of Erie
- Youghiogheny River Coal Company Vice President
- Spring Valley Coal Company of Illinois President. Strong’s business involvements include the following: becoming President in 1920
- L. Scott Company Vice President, which distributed coal via the Great Lakes
- Erie & Pittsburgh Railroad Company President
- Dispatch Publishing Company President, which grew into two newspapers
- Edison Electric Light & Power Company President, which later became the Erie County Light & Power Company
- 2nd National Bank of Erie Director
To say the Strong family was wealthy is an understatement. This is an image of their home at 810 Peach Street before the 46-room mansion on the corner of West 6th and Peach Streets was completed in 1893. The building no longer exists.
Annie was the leading hostess in Erie in the late 1800s, known as “Erie’s Social Dictator” in Fortune Magazine in 1934. She founded the “Hamot Hospital Training School for Nurses” and financially supported the school and hospital during her lifetime.
Charles and Annie hosted three Presidents at their home, T. Roosevelt, Howard Taft (a Yale classmate of Charles) and Grover Cleveland. The story of President Taft getting stuck in a bathtub due to his immense size has been attributed to the Strong’s tub yet I have found no documentation to support the story. Like other wealthy families in Erie, the Strong's had a country estate which was near the bay, north of the current Erie Day School on property currently owned by LECOM. Charles lived there full-time in 1918 when he and Annie separated. Named “Somewhere” it was demolished in the 1980s.
Annie died in 1928 and Charles in 1936, and both are buried in the Scott mausoleum in Erie Cemetery. The West 6th Street mansion was sold to Gannon College in 1941 for $50,000 and now serves as the Administration Center of the University. Long life and happiness to that great building and to the memory of Annie and Charles.