Take a historical tour with photos from the Perry Memorial House, a possible stop for the Underground Railroad: Christine’s Chronicles

by Christine Lorraine Morgan ~ January 11, 2023

Presenting an array photos showing the Dickson Tavern, aka Perry Memorial House, built in 1809, located at the corner of 2nd and French Streets in Erie, PA. It is the oldest building in the City of Erie, and is listed with the National Register of Historic Places.

Most of these photos were taken through a window in 2003 while out walking with my children. We stopped to peer inside because it was a historic spot, and we were wondering if it was open. We nearly fainted with fright when we saw two shadowy figures sitting there in the darkness.

The structure is still standing, although it no longer looks as it does in the photo collection. It was purchased in 2009 by Kidder Wachter Architecture & Design.

Local folklore and some possible indication of fact have pointed to the notion that the Perry House/Dickson Tavern was an underground railroad destination. It is situated within walking distance to the shoreline of Presque Isle Bay, which connects to Lake Erie. The Canadian shore of Lake Erie is around 10 miles due north from the City of Erie, so it would have been fairly easy to reach by boat.

Some local “historians” say this is not true, but many who have toured this structure and observed its lower level tunnel will swear the naysayers are wrong. The Wikipedia link below offers a few more details.


Standing on the French Street side of the Dickson Tavern in 2003, this view startled my children and I when we peered through the lower-level window. We knew it was a historic building, but it was sort of scary to unexpectedly observe these two shadowy figures in the semi-darkness. It is apparent the mannequin on the left is dressed as Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, for whom the Perry Memorial House was named. Unsure who the mannequin on the right is supposed to be, although some have suggested it may be a likeness of shipbuilder Daniel Dobbins, who constructed Perry’s fleet which won the Battle of Lake Erie.

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The Dickson Tavern main entrance at 201 French Street looked like this in 2003. It was purchased in 2009 by Kidder Wachter Architecture & Design.

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Here is an exterior view of the Dickson Tavern, aka Perry Memorial House, facing north as seen in 2003.

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This former view of the Perry Memorial House/Dickson Tavern is facing east at the corner of 2nd and French Streets.

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Not sure what this woodblock setup is, but it was photographed looking into the lower level of the Dickson Tavern in 2003.

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This 2003 cellar view of the Dickson Tavern, aka Perry Memorial House at 2nd and French, depicts an unusual linear brick floor design. Considering the structure was built in 1809, one might wonder if this is perhaps the original floor.

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This glimpse into the lower level of the Perry Memorial House, aka Dickson Tavern, at the corner of E. 2nd and French Streets, shows an interesting bright ray of light in the upper right. The building has since been purchased and this view is no longer visible from the outside of the structure.

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This 1970-ish postcard depicts a much more rustic view of the Perry Memorial House, aka Dickson Tavern, at 2nd and French Streets in Erie. Its purpose is to show off the landmark as well as entice visitors to come to Erie, PA.

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The back of the postcard explains, “Built in 1809, this structure was used as Perry’s headquarters during the building of his fleet.” Daniel Dobbins oversaw the construction of Perry’s fleet in the port city of Erie, PA, which was a sparsely populated settlement at the time.

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Three colorful orbs hover above Commodore Perry’s head, prompting one to contemplate that perhaps he enjoyed having his image’s photo captured so it could be shared with so many.

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About xtinethewriter

* Freelance Writer Xtraordinaire * Producer of 300+ youtube videos * Cellist and bassist * Over 4,000 photos on Google maps viewed 300,000,000 times * Army veteran stationed in Bangkok, Thailand * Creative director for trainumentary.com and pugrealitytv.com * Former Advertising Executive, REALTOR, TV Producer, and Majority Inspector of Elections for Millcreek's 5th Ward, Erie County, PA. Also check out trainumentary.com and pugrealitytv.com * See her complete video collection at: https://www.youtube.com/user/fishiesswimming
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