Our campus at 356 W. Sixth Street includes four buildings with more than 18 exhibits. It is named for our benefactor, Thomas B. Hagen, who grew up across the street from the Erie location at 341 W. 6th St.
We started out as the Erie Public Museum in 1898 and later became the Erie County Historical Society. The name changed a few times, and we are currently known as the Hagen History Center.
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The carriage house belonged to the Watson family and housed transportation vehicles from carriages to cars throughout its service. When the Historical Society owned the property, it also included the Erie Planetarium, a popular attraction inside. The Historical Society transferred the planetarium to Penn State Behrend where it is now called the Yahn Planetarium.
The carriage house includes the gift shop, research area, reading room and library with more than 5,800 books published in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. The Hagen History Center staff offices are also in the building.
Built in 1891, the mansion features a Richardsonian Romanesque style and includes 24 rooms, filled with extraordinary architecture, stained-glass windows, mosaics,12 fireplaces, a ballroom and solarium.
Harrison F. Watson (1853-1904), a paper manufacturer, built the house along with his wife Carrie. Their daughter, Winifred, married Eli Griswold, of Griswold Manufacturing.
After Carrie died, Frederic Felix Curtze (1858-1941), a bank president and industry leader, bought the home and lived there with his family until his death. The family included his wife Caroline Stohlman Curtze and two children, Louise M. and Frederick A.
After Mr. Curtze died, the family donated the home to the Erie School District, and it later became known as the Erie County Historical Society. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
This historic house predates the Watson-Curtze Mansion and was built next to the Erie Extension Canal. Dr. William Maxwell Wood built the house in 1858. He served onboard USS Michigan, the U.S. Navy's first iron-hulled warship. He and his wife, Rose Mary Carson, raised six sons and a daughter.
In 1865, Leverett and Missouri Bliss Morrison, of Westfield, New York, bought the house. After Leverett died, their son, Lieutenant Commander William Morrison, and his wife, Katherine Mack Morrison, took over home ownership. They had two children, but only their daughter Anne survived. They owned the land that included where the Watson-Curtze Mansion was built in 1891.
The building was planned in 2018 and built in 2019 specifically for new exhibits. The first floor of the New Exhibit Building opened in 2021 and features multiple exhibits including Frank Lloyd Wright’s San Francisco office and the 17-foot-long Butterfly Bridge model that Wright created. It had a memorable role in the movie “Die Hard.”
Additional architectural exhibits that pertain to Erie are on the first floor along with the Oliver Hazard Perry Welcome gallery, which provides a close look at genuine Perry artifacts and an engaging ship-spotting video screen.
On the second floor, the Story of Us opened in 2022 with 3,000 square feet of exhibits that trace the history of Erie County in a series of displays and interactives that include stories of people who created and built our community. It features hundreds of historic images and dozens of family stories that discuss how immigrants created neighborhoods, churches and ethnic clubs, and where and how these new Erie residents made a living.
This building’s 10,000 square feet of space includes archival material, diaries, letters, correspondence, books, typescripts, reports, photographs and other historical resources. This special subject research library is devoted to the history of Erie County and its environs. The Robert J. MacDonald Great Lakes maritime history is also part of the collections. The ECHS Library & Archives’ holdings present the history of people, places, things, events and activities.
Built in 2015, holdings include 800+ separate collections and 8,200+ linear feet of material. Professional staff continues their commitment to helping researchers and other visitors find what they need in a timely, efficient manner.