Historic Structures

Building Description George Colt Mansion, Erie Pennsylvania

The George Colt Mansion was a fine example of the "towered" Second Empire architectural style.

The house is 2 1/2 stories high and generally rectangular in shape, measuring 70 feet x 35 feet. The front elevation (south side) is divided into four bays, one of which is the tower at the southeast corner.

The full basement is constructed of fieldstone faced with cement. Walls are double brick laid in common bond over balloon framing. The brick was at one time painted gray, but most of that has flaked off revealing the original red color. Two small porches on the east side and rear, which were added when the mansion was converted to rental housing after 1908, were subsequently removed. Only one of the original tall chimneys with its decorated cap, survived the fire.

Fenestration is extremely elaborate. Windows in the main part of the house which consists of identical east and west bays, are large and set-off by substantial eyebrow-like segmental hoods. Those in the rear wing feature keystone arches. All the original two-over-two light, double-hung sash is gone.

The modified Mansard roof (single pitch) is made of slate. It is punctured by seven dormers: four on the west side, one on the front elevation, and two on the east side. Four smaller dormers of similar design are set in the fourth story of the square tower. All dormers contain carved "bulls-eye" pediments and scrollwork at the base of the surrounds. This "bulls-eye" motif extends to windows in the first and second stories as well.

Original layout for interior spaces is difficult to determine due to extensive alteration and fire. The wide central stairway is spiral in form and is made of black walnut wood. Wall and ceiling finish is plaster throughout although a few traces of original wallpaper are exposed in one of the second floor rooms. Door and window trim, as well as flooring are all hardwood.

The house as originally conceived stood on somewhat elevated land approximately halfway between two creeks. There were no other buildings in the immediate vicinity, which afforded uninterrupted views in all directions, particularly to the north across the Garrison Grounds once occupied by the old American blockhouse, and beyond to the entrance to the harbor. It was this dramatic vista which Colt may have had in mind when he incorporated the four story tower into his plans. The tower also looked down upon the long circular drive which entered from East Sixth Street and swept around the east side of the house to the stable in the rear.

Following Colt's death, in accordance with his instructions, all his real estate was sold and in 1910 the house along with the surrounding property passed into the hands of a local developer. By 1917 the block had been entirely built up, the Colt house itself sealed off from Sixth Street with only a narrow right-of-way access from Fifth Street.