What’s in a name? If the name is Sarah A. Reed, it’s a legacy of caring.

Geri Cicchetti

Wednesday Mar 16th, 2022

Sarah A. Reed was born on March 16, 1838, into a prominent Erie family. She was the eighth and final child of William and Elizabeth Reed and the great-granddaughter of Seth Reed, one of the original settlers and a Revolutionary War veteran.

“Colonel Seth Reed was the area's first permanent settler arriving here in the summer of 1795. He started in business by establishing a trading post, sawmill, 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.” (

Sarah was the great-niece of Charles, an early Erie businessman.  Charles Reed built a mansion which is now the Erie Club, located at West 6th and Peach Street.  

“When Charles 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. (

Sarah came from a family of privilege but had a true passion for caring for the less fortunate. A Feature story on Sarah Reed was included in the MBA Business Magazine, April 2021.  Here is her story from the Magazine.

Sarah “Reed was a true influencer of her time. She had connections, business savvy — passed down from her father who was Secretary-Treasurer of the Erie Canal — and made it her mission to dedicate her life to community service.  In 1871, when she and a group of 30 women joined forces to form “The Association for Improving the Conditions of the Poor, and A Home for the Friendless,” it was a decision that would impact thousands of lives for generations to come. 

At first, the “Home for the Friendless” operated out of the family homestead of Reed’s great-uncle Rufus Reed on Seventh and State Streets, and eventually moved to the site of the future Soldiers and Sailors Home. In 1875, the home found a more permanent location at 22nd and Sassafras Streets — gifted by a Board member and her husband, the Honorable M.B. Lowry, an Erie native and Pennsylvania state senator. By 1890, as the needs of the community grew, the home expanded to separate buildings for children and adults.

Reed devoted her life to what would be known as Erie’s oldest human services agency, serving as president for 45 years, while also dedicating her time and service to 25 other organizations and various charities in the Erie area. In fact, “Erie’s Grand Old Lady” had such a profound impact on the community, that the mayor of Erie named March 16, 1927 “Sarah Reed Day” in honor of her 89th birthday. In 1934, Reed passed away at the age of 96. Two years later, the organization was renamed in her honor — something the humble Reed never allowed during her lifetime.

One hundred and fifty years since founding the “Home for the Friendless,” the legacy of Sarah Reed and her 30 co-founders lives on in two separate nonprofit centers incorporated in 1986 — Sarah A. Reed Children’s Center, the region’s longest-standing behavioral health facility, and the former “Old Ladies Home” — the multi-faceted, continuum care senior living facility, Sarah Reed Senior Living.

It is because of her deep caring for the Erie community and the 150-year legacy of her work that future stories on how Sarah A. Reed shaped Erie’s history will be featured here in subsequent weeks.

Sarah Reed