Troika Russian Festival returns to Erie’s lower eastside and we’re taking a look at the history of the neighborhood.

The Church of Nativity, located at 247 East Front Street, has stood for more than century, serving as an anchor for community for all of those decades.

The lower east side is described as one of Erie’s oldest neighborhoods. The Church of the Nativity, which sits on East Front Street, was established in 1919 as Russians and other immigrants came to America.

“There were probably at least 100 families in our parish who lived within walking distance of the church, so we have a long-time relationship in the East Bayfront and we’ve tried to really commit ourselves not only to our worship and our religion, but also into the wellbeing of the neighborhood itself,” said Father Pimen Simon of the Church of the Nativity of Christ.

Father Simon said he grew up in that neighborhood in the 1950s with other families from a variety of economic, ethnic and religious backgrounds. Often times playing baseball.

“There was no sense at all that ‘you’re Irish or you’re black or I’m white’ or whatever the case was. It was a really neat neighborhood to grow up in and I think that it’s one of the reasons that we became so engaged in revitalization in the neighborhood as we saw it begin to deteriorate. That this is such a precious neighborhood, historic neighborhood,” Father Simon explained.

Father Simon said generations of families have called this part of the city home. His daughter Catherine is one example.

Catherine Simon said after growing up on East Front Street she continues to live on the city’s east side.

She said each year she looks forward to inviting the community into her neighborhood for Troika Festival.

“I think that there is a lot down here and it’s such a beautiful part of town. A lot of the community does really know how lovely it is down here. So, between seeing our church and also just the eastside that’s what we value,” Catherine Simon explained.