Erie County Historical Society

Since 1903, The Erie County Historical Society (ECHS) has been dedicated to collecting, preserving and promoting the study of our region’s history. The region is defined as Erie County, PA, the neighboring counties in northwest Pennsylvania, and the Lake Erie region.

ECHS achieves its mission by providing an active educational program, preparing and promoting a variety of high-quality exhibits based on the extensive object collections, and operating a reference library and archives.

To truly appreciate Erie’s heritage, visit the museum at the Hagen History Center to see firsthand the many exhibits including Strong Vincent’s sword, Mad Anthony Wayne’s pot and our Griswold collection.  We invite you to visit and Make History With Us!

Organization description

Whether you’re a history aficionado, novice, Erieite or visitor, the Hagen History Center has something for everyone. Explore and learn more about Erie’s rich history and limitless future with a visit to the Hagen History Center. 

The Hagen History Center campus includes the Watson-Curtze Mansion and Museum, the Carriage House Visitors’ Center with the King-Mertens Archive Building, the Education Center in the Wood-Morrison House, and a new exhibit building scheduled for completion in 2020.  

The Watson-Curtze Mansion, built in 1891, features 24 rooms, intricate wood carvings, multiple stained-glass windows, 12 fireplaces, solarium, and a 3rd floor ballroom. The mansion is listed on the National Historical Register and houses thematic galleries of Erie’s history on the 2nd and 3rd floors. The first-floor features Victorian furniture & décor. 

The thematic galleries include:

  • NEW Suffragette Exhibit 
  • NEW Iverd Exhibit 
  • NEW Expanded Griswold Exhibit
  • Ethnic Erie Gallery  
  • Hall of Architecture Gallery
  • Admiral Weschler Military Gallery
  • Manufacturing Gallery
  • Recreational Gallery
  • Civil War Gallery
  • Native American Gallery
  • Mr. Watson's Billiard Room
  • Period Kitchen

The Watson-Curtze Mansion offers guided and self-guided tours for individuals, groups and school children. The mansion is also the venue for the ECHS Educational Speaker Series, Victorian Holidays showcasing the home professionally decorated, and Civil War Roundtables Speakers. 

The Carriage House and Archive Building features a gift shop, research library, and archival storage. The Archive Building stores 10,000 square feet of treasures, including rare books, historic maps, architectural plans and photographs.   

The Wood-Morrison House, with renovations completed in early 2019, is the site of the ECHS Education Center. Exhibits are being designed and will be installed on the first-floor in 2020. The second-floor features classrooms for lectures and educational opportunities.  

Construction on the new exhibit building will be completed in the fall of 2019. The first-floor will feature an exhibit of national significance which will be installed by early 2020. The second-floor will feature exhibits on Erie County history. 

The PRD Group, which has designed exhibits for the Smithsonian Institution and Library of Congress, will design the new exhibits. The PRD exhibits will encourage critical thinking with hands-on, interactive, dynamic, big picture exhibits; develop an appreciation for our heritage and pride in our community with an understanding of Erie’s rich history; and encourage increased local attendance and large-scale tourism with the Hagen History Center being a destination point.   

This is an exciting opportunity for Erie as part of the ongoing downtown revitalization.

The ECHS also preserves and displays Erie County history in Girard, PA. The Girard Campus includes the Battles Estate Yellow House and White House which are open by appointment only.

How will donations be applied?

You can become part of Erie’s future by donating to preserve Erie’s past.

Donations to ECHS help us maintain the Watson-Curtze Mansion, Carriage House and Archives Building, and Wood-Morrison House on West 6th Street in Erie, PA.  Donations also help maintain the Battles Estate Farm Houses in Girard, PA.   

It is because of the ongoing support of the Erie community that ECHS maintains over 35,000 objects, over one and a half miles of materials, and archives of Erie County organizations. 

So many exciting things are happening at the Hagen History Center. The new programs, new exhibits, new construction, and new educational opportunities have all been developed to fulfill the ECHS mission to preserve our history and educate the public. 

Because of this, day-to-day funding operations needs your support. 

Your gift to the ECHS shows your investment in Erie's future. Your support enhances existing exhibits, helps create new exhibits, and preserves Erie's rich history for generations to come.

You are the key to preserving our region’s history and passing that heritage along to the children of our community. 

Program Participants

Currently, about 5,000 people visit the Hagen History Center annually. This includes both adults and children, residents and tourists. That’s less than 5% of Erie County. 

With the completion of the new exhibit building, the installation of hand-on exhibits on the second-floor, and the installation of the exhibit of national significance on the first-floor, ECHS expects visitation to increase by over 10,000 guests annually.  


Evaluation Methodology

ECHS will be able to track increased visitation. This will be tracked by: 

  • Inner-city school age children visiting the museum with financial assistance 
  • All other school age children visiting the museum
  • Local adults visiting the museum
  • Tourists visiting the museum 

ECHS will also be able to track the artifacts displayed in permanent exhibits and the artifacts displayed in temporary exhibits. 

In tracking tourist visitation, ECHS will also be able, with the help of Visit Erie, to determine the financial impact to the city the tourists make when visiting ECHS.