Meadville occupies a strategic location along French Creek, a main thorough-fare for Native Americans and French colonizers, and a pathway between two French forts: Le Boeuf (now Waterford in Erie County) and Machault (Franklin in Venango County). The Iroquois of the Six Nations called the place Cussewago, from Kos-se-waus-ga, meaning “big belly,” for a snake found near the creek that had just swallowed an animal.
David Mead and his brothers John, Joseph, and Darius arrived in 1788 from Wyoming County, in northeastern Pennsylvania. Mead called the place Lewisburgh, but in 1805, the name was changed to Meadville to recognize their pioneering efforts. A replica dogtrot log house in Bicentennial Park on Mead Avenue, built in 1988, commemorates Mead and his brothers. The town plots were first laid out in 1793 by Roger Alden, the first Holland Land Company agent, and then in 1795 by Dr. Thomas Kennedy, when the land company bought David Mead's holdings. By 1807, Meadville had a fledgling chamber of commerce and, in 1817, Allegheny College opened ( CR10). By 1823, Meadville was granted borough status, and it became a city in 1866, just as its streets were being paved.
Harm Jan Huidekoper and his sons were influential in Meadsville's early growth. They bought the interests of the Holland Land Company west of the Allegheny Mountains in 1836; their office survives on Chestnut Street in Meadville ( CR5). The Huidekopers built gristmills and a sawmill in Fredericksburg west of Meadville on Cussewago Creek, and started a Unitarian seminary ( CR12). Meadville became a center for the tool and machining industries, and, in the twentieth century, for the manufacture of plastics. In 1891, Whitcomb L. Judson invented the “clasp locker for shoes” in Meadville. Over the years its design was perfected, so that in 1913 Colonel Lewis Walker brought the Automatic Hook and Eye Company from Hoboken, New Jersey, to Meadville to manufacture “hookless slide fasteners.” The company grew to become Talon, Inc., the world's largest producer of zippers during the 1920s and 1930s. Part of the Talon factory is still standing at 628 Chestnut Street as the Meadville Area Industrial Park. Railroad connections to Meadville were made through the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad, which built shops here around 1862 ( CR16). The line was built during the Civil War, and the steel rails were imported from England since American steel was dedicated to the war effort.
The five-acre diamond, or town square, is ringed with Meadville's civic and institutional buildings, including the courthouse ( CR1), armory (c. 1890; 894 Diamond Park), library designed by Edward L. Tilton (1925–1926; 848 N. Main Street), and the former high school, now Parkside Commons (1921; 847 N. Main Street), as well as four churches. These are Christ Church ( CR3) and Meadville Unitarian-Universalist ( CR4), Stone United Methodist Church built in 1868 and rebuilt in 1928 after it was gutted by fire (956 S. Main Street), and the substantial Romanesque Revival brownstone First Baptist Church of 1904 by J. C. Fulton Architect (353 Chestnut Street).
The seven-story, red brick Renaissance Revival Crawford County Trust Company designed by Oil City architect J. P. Brenot, with an addition of 1930 by the New York firm of Uffinger, Foster and Bookwalter, is the tallest building in Meadville and a symbol of its economic prosperity just before the Great Depression. Today, the restored houses and historic buildings of this town of 14,500, as well as the nearby Allegheny College campus ( CR10), continue to attract visitors.
If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.
SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.