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General Electric (GE) Transportation Systems

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1911–1948, Harris and Richards; 1981–1982, Brubaker/Brandt, Inc., Architects, Planners. 2901 E. Lake Rd.
  • General Electric (GE) Transportation Systems (Lu Donnelly)

This 350-acre complex was one of the largest industrial complexes in early-twentieth-century Erie. The company owned land north of Lake Road to the lakeshore and built workers' housing near the plant during both world wars. Within the grounds of the present locomotive factory, half-a-dozen, four- and five-story, red brick buildings are arranged in an orderly fashion along the main, tree-lined street. Their warm brick walls and white limestone trim reflect the era's penchant for restrained classical ornament illustrative of the dignity in work. The buildings provide five million square feet of manufacturing space. The architectural and engineering firm responsible for the design began as Wilson Brothers and Company of Philadelphia. Henry W. Wilson (c. 1844–1910), the youngest Wilson brother, took on partners John McArthur Harris (1867–1948) and Howard Smith Richards (1867–1937) around 1902, and they designed railroad buildings for the Chesapeake and Ohio and Baldwin Locomotive Works, in addition to office buildings and factories for General Electric in New York and New Jersey.

The manufacturing functions of the plant have been improved and refined over the years, yet the brick buildings dating from 1910 to the 1920s continue to operate successfully. The complex has its own steam power plant, also dressed in red brick with limestone trim. Around 1941 a Colonial Revival community center, facing E. Lake Road, opened for social events as well as classes and lectures; today it houses a company-sponsored museum. The newest building is the Learning Center (1981–1982) in the northwest corner of the property, designed by Brubaker/Brandt, Inc., Architects, Planners of Columbus, Ohio.

Adjoining the plant, on approximately four hundred acres to the east, GE founded the neighborhood of Lawrence Park in 1911. The Lawrence Park Realty Company, a GE subsidiary, sold lots measuring 40 × 125 feet. Many buyers chose their house plans from one of three architects, George Wesley Stickle, C. E. Thomas, and Clement S. Kirby. Other houses were designed by engineers and draftsmen from the plant, and some were sketched by builders. These houses represent all the popular early-twentieth-century domestic styles, from Colonial Revival to Lustron homes. The newest section of housing, the Lake Cliff subdivision, with nearly 1,500 single-family houses and 494 row houses, opened immediately after World War II. A GE-owned golf course north of the plant along the Lake Erie shore was built by its employees for their use. In 1941, the company hired Connecticut golf course architect Alfred H. Tull (1897–1982) to design an eighteen-hole course, which has since been sold and refurbished by a private company.

Writing Credits

Lu Donnelly et al.


What's Nearby


Lu Donnelly et al., "General Electric (GE) Transportation Systems", [Erie, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of PA vol 1

Buildings of Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, Lu Donnelly, H. David Brumble IV, and Franklin Toker. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010, 497-498.

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