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Visiting North East, Pennsylvania: Ornate Cornice Styling and Triangular Motifs at West Main and South Lake Streets

Updated on February 5, 2020
State flag of Pennsylvania
State flag of Pennsylvania | Source
North East, Pennsylvania
North East, Pennsylvania | Source

Heritage features dating from the late 19th century.

At the intersection of West Main and South Lake Streets, in North East, Pennsylvania, a row of commercial properties dating from the late 19th century exhibits a striking series of architectural features.

Characteristics of these two storey buildings include a long continuum of ornate cornice styling. Principally in West Main Street, this orately styled decorative molding continues into South Lake Street.

Other striking features are equilateral triangular pediments (1). The sense of triangularity is somewhat extended by the triangular nature of the plot of land on which the row of properties is built. (More famous, and larger, triangular plots with buildings that follow this corner pattern are seen at the Flatiron Building in New York CIty and at the similar, but smaller, Gooderham Building in Toronto, Ontario.)

The corner property at the intersection of West Main and South Lake Streets is known as the Sampson Short Building, built after a fire engulfed the Downtown of North East in 1884; this end property has often been referred to as the Corner Store. It is included in the North East Heritage Trail (2).

The photo, below, on a smaller scale than does the one supplied, above, shows the row of buildings to good effect; the triangular nature of the plot is apparent, as is the continuity of the ornate cornice styling.

As one walks in this area of Downtown North East, which would be regarded as a quiet town by modern standards, one gets a sense of a built environment which has hardly changed in places for well over a century. Even in business hours, the immediate Downtown area does not seem especially busy.

Some localities effuse a strong sense of modernity and change. In contrast, this part of Downtown North East seems to represent a notion of preservation and continuity. The citizens of North East are to be congratulated in evidently wanting to conserve their Downtown heritage area.

February 5, 2020


(1) While pediments are common in architecture, for the triangular pediments to be equilateral are more unusual.


Corner of Lake Street (to the left) and Main Street (to the right) in the Borough of North East, Erie County, Pennsylvania.
Corner of Lake Street (to the left) and Main Street (to the right) in the Borough of North East, Erie County, Pennsylvania. | Source

Also worth seeing

In North East itself, other structures and features include: Gibson Park and war memorial, the Presbyterian Church on Main Street, the Greek Revival former First National Bank building in Lake Street, Lake Shore Railway Museum, the McCord Memorial Library, Short's Hotel; and many others; while on the map the Keystone State is located substantially inland from both the Atlantic Seaboard and the Great Lakes, yet part of the Erie Lake Shore belongs to Pennsylvania, and beaches with bracing winds are located a relatively short distance from Downtown North East.

Presque Isle State Park and the Perry Monument (distance: c. 25 miles / 41 kilometres) are located on large, striking peninsular extending into Lake Erie. The Monument recalls Commodore Oliver H. Perry's naval leadership during the War of 1812.


How to get there: American Eagle, Delta Connection and United Express fly to Erie International Airport (distance from North East: 21.9 miles / 37 kilometres) from Philadephia, Detroit and Chicago-O'Hare respectively; car rental is available at Erie International Airport. North East is situated close to the I-90. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

Map of Erie County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries
Map of Erie County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries | Source

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