Erie is a city located in northwestern Pennsylvania, United States. Named for the lake and the Native American tribe that resided along its southern shore, Erie is the state's fourth-largest city (after Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Allentown), with a population of 102,000. It was formerly the third. Erie's Metropolitan Area consists of approximately 280,000 residents and an Urbanized Area population of approximately 195,000. The city is the seat of government for Erie County and the principal city of the Erie, PA Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Erie is near Buffalo, New York, Cleveland, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Once teeming with heavy industry, Erie's manufacturing sector remains prominent in the local economy, though service industries, healthcare, higher education, and tourism are emerging as greater economic drivers. Millions visit Erie for recreation at Presque Isle State Park, as well as attractions like casino and horse racetrack named for the state park.
Erie is known as the Flagship City because of its status as the home port of Oliver Hazard Perry's flagship Niagara. The city has also been called the Gem City because of the "sparkling" lake. Erie won the All-America City Award in 1972.
The six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, which included the Senecas, originally occupied the lands in what is now Erie. Europeans first arrived in the region when the French constructed Fort Presque Isle near present-day Erie in 1753, as part of their effort to defend New France against the encroaching British. The name of the fort refers to that piece of land that juts into Lake Erie, now called Presque Isle State Park, with the French word "presque-isle" meaning peninsula (literally "almost an island"). When the fort was abandoned by the French in 1760, it was their last post west of Niagara. The British occupied the fort at Presque Isle that same year, three years before the end of the French and Indian War.
Present-day Erie is situated in what was the disputed Erie Triangle, a triangle of land that was claimed by the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut (as part of its Western Reserve), and Massachusetts. It officially became part of Pennsylvania on March 3, 1792, after Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York relinquished their claims to the federal government, which in turn sold the land to Pennsylvania for 75 cents per acre or a total of $151,640.25 in Continental currency. The Iroquois released the land to Pennsylvania in January 1789 for payments of $2,000 from Pennsylvania and $1,200 from the federal government. The Seneca Nation separately settled land claims against Pennsylvania in February 1791 for the sum of $800.
The General Assembly of Pennsylvania commissioned the surveying of land near Presque Isle through an act passed on April 18, 1795. Andrew Ellicott, who completed Pierre Charles L'Enfant's survey of Washington, D.C. and helped resolve the boundary between Pennsylvania and New York, arrived to begin the survey and lay out the plan for the city in June 1795. Initial settlement of the area began that year. Lt. Colonel Seth Reed and his family moved to the Erie area from Geneva, New York, and before that from Uxbridge, Massachusetts, and became the first European settlers of Erie, settling at what became known as "Presque Isle".
President James Madison initiated the construction of a naval fleet during the War of 1812 to gain control of the Great Lakes from the British. Daniel Dobbins of Erie and Noah Brown of New York were notable shipbuilders led construction of four schooner−rigged gunboats and two brigs. Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry arrived from Rhode Island and led the squadron to success in the historic Battle of Lake Erie.
Erie was an important shipbuilding, fishing, and railroad hub in the mid-19th century. The city was the site where three sets of track gauges met. While the delays required to unload and load passengers and cargo were a problem for commerce and travel, they provided much needed local jobs in Erie. When a national standardized gauge was proposed, those jobs, and the importance of the rail hub itself, were put in jeopardy. The citizens of Erie, led by the mayor, set fire to bridges, ripped up track and rioted to attempt to stop the standardization in an event known as the Erie Gauge War.
On August 3, 1915, the Mill Creek (Lake Erie) flooded downtown Erie. A culvert, or a tunnel, was blocked by debris, and collapsed. gave out. A four block reservoir, caused by torrential downpours, had formed behind it. The resulting deluge destroyed 225 houses and killed 36 people. After the flood, Mayor Miles Brown Kitts had the Mill Creek separated to another larger convert that traveled for over 2 miles under the city, before emptying into to Presque Isle Bay on the city's lower east side.
Erie's economy began to suffer in the later part of the 20th century as deindustrialization took place and Erie became part of the Rust Belt. The importance of American manufacturing, US steel and coal production, and commercial fishing began to gradually decline. Downtown Erie continued to grow for most of the 20th century, before taking a major population downturn in the 1970s. With the advent of the automobile age, thousands of residents left Erie for suburbs such as Millcreek Township, which now has over 50,000 people. Reflecting this perceived decline, Erie is occasionally referred to by residents as "The Mistake on the Lake" or "Dreary Erie".
Erie has won the All-America City Award only once, in 1972, and was a finalist in 1961, 1994, 1995 and 2009.