Erie has a variety of attractive church buildings. As I walked around admiring them, I was surprised to see that they were all still used as churches. I did not find a single adaptively reused church building. Given Erie’s location, relatively close to Cleveland, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh, I assumed it had similar significant population loss creating a need to either abandon, demolish or adapt some church buildings. It turns out, that at least on the county level, this assumption was false. Since 1900, the population of Erie County has grown every decade, except from 1980 to 1990 when there was a slight (1.5%) population loss, from 98,509 to 280,843 (2000’s population). Allegheny County (Pittsburgh’s county), on the other hand saw growth from 775,058 in 1900 to 1,628,587 in 1960 after which the population has declined steadily to 1,223,348 in 2010.
I could not find statistics for the population change of the city of Erie; it is possible that there was a different trend within the city. There were signs of abandonment and decay in other buildings and aspects of the town. Yet the churches are still intact and appear to be thriving. In fact, one of the larger churches was undergoing a major renovation while I was there.
Whatever the reason for the churches’ continued use, I enjoyed my treasure hunt chasing down as many steeples as I could in two hours: