Lower Parade Street: Erie’s ‘Ellis Island’ event tonight at Jefferson Educational Society

Local News

A caption on a photo in the Erie paper from 1946, then known as the ‘Erie Dispatch Herald,’ reads, ‘Parade Street Today is Busy Place’. More than seven decades later, that still rings true.

And, while some areas of the city, such as the downtown section of State Street, have been redeveloped as times change, Parade Street remains an epicenter for people immigrating to our city from abroad.

Ed Whitbred, Member of the Jefferson Educational Society, tells us, “I am from this neighborhood, I grew up here.”

Whitbred, while born in Erie, began loosely researching the neighborhood about five years ago. He was particularly interested in the changing demographics of the immigrant population here.

“You’ll find that the actual mechanics of it are very different, where people are coming from.”

In the 1800’s, most of the immigration was coming from Europe.  Now, refugees make up most of the immigrant population in Erie. And, once they’re here, Whitbred says, “…the assimilation, the problem of moving from one culture to another is very much the same.”

While the face of Parade Street has changed a great deal over generations, some things, like faith-based organizations and a certain department store, remain a staple of this community.

Adam Nowosielski, General Manager Kraus Dept Store, tells us, “It’s been here for 133 years; still family-owned, 5th generation. Started in 1886 as like a Five-n-Dime.”

Having been here so long, many people in the neighborhood, including immigrants, depend on this store.

“Yeah.  I get people from Russia, Germany; all over the place… There’s a lot of immigrants, a lot of people who come from the churches.  [They] bring a lot of Nepalese in.  There are a lot of them that come because, of course, a lot of them don’t drive.”

Whitbred says he’s not an actual historian, but he’s always found the cultural diversity along this single stretch of road fascinating, as well as under-rated.

If you’d like to learn more about the history of Parade Street, Ed Whitbred will be giving a presentation on the subject tonight at the Jefferson Educational Society.

For more information or to register, click here.

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