The “Key” to Preserving Lawrence Park

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Residence at 511 Rankine Avenue in the Lawrence Park Historic District – Photo by NaylorWellman.

If this were the game show Jeopardy!, the question would be “What grant, administered by PHMC, was the “key” to celebrating the history and significance of Pennsylvania’s Lawrence Park?”

And the answer, of course, is the Keystone Historic Preservation Grant!

A “Garden City” in Erie County

In 1910, General Electric established Lawrence Park as a company town with the construction of a new factory just south of Lake Erie, east of the City of Erie.

Around the factory, company officials envisioned and designed the surrounding “Garden City.” Garden Cities were concept communities centered on providing a healthy and pleasing environment for the factory workers and local businesses by building homes with garden plots. The Lawrence Park community grew from 1913 through the 1950’s.

The Garden City concept was extended through much of the overall community landscape, with a green belt separating the factory and residences and parks strategically placed within the town. The first streets, such as Rankine, Silliman and Smithson, were laid out and named after famous scientists, inventors and engineers.

By 1913, General Electric had built 106 single homes and offered them at moderate prices with low monthly installments. They installed utilities, street lighting and planted 1,000 trees along the streets. Additionally, the Erie and Suburban Company offered trolley service into Erie with a line down Iroquois Avenue.

General Electric also constructed the first four-room school and several commercial buildings to support their employees’ family lives.

Commercial Buildings located at 4002-4004 Main Street in the Lawrence Park Historic District – Photo by NaylorWellman.

The outbreak of World War I created a severe housing shortage for war workers and General Electric abandoned the “Garden City” concept in favor of brick row houses with garden…

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