Union Depot in Erie, PA

Harry Kendig Writes to His Mother in Safe Harbor, PA – 1913

In September of 1913, Harry Kendig was in Erie, Pennsylvania and “so busy working, (I) hardly get time to write”.

Fortunately, Harry was able to send a postcard to his mother.

Harry’s mother was Mrs. John Kendig of Safe Harbor, PA.

(The Kendig family was among the first European immigrants to Lancaster County. Martin Kendig accompanied Hans Herr and the group of 20 Swiss Mennonites who arrived on the ship, “Maria Hope” in 1710.)

Safe Harbor is an unincorporated borough in southwestern Lancaster County, on a shallow bay where the Conestoga River flows into the Susquehanna River. The area was first settled by indigenous people who depended upon the abundance of fish at that place.

Harry selected a postcard with a hand-colored photograph of the Union Depot in Erie.

In 1913, the handsome depot was one of very few places served by both the New York Central Railroad and the Pennsylvania Railroad.

The history of the station was much more turbulent than this placid scene would suggest.

In the mid-19th century, Erie, Pennsylvania was the site of keen, sometimes violent, competition between railroad companies.

At one time, there were four railroad companies serving Erie.

An attempt to standardize railroad gauges (the width of the wheel base on railroad cars) to reduce the amount of loading and unloading of freight in Erie, led to the “Erie Gauge War “ of 1853 in which railroad lines were pulled up and railroad bridges destroyed.

This station was razed shortly after Harry mailed the postcard. A new depot was erected in the Art Deco style, one of the first railroad stations of that design in the US.

Many years ago, I passed through Erie at night on Amtrak’s wonderful “Lakeshore Limited” from New York to Chicago.

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