Pennsylvania: Erie County

We begin our tour of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties in Erie County (pop. 280,566), in the state’s northwestern corner. It is the state’s only county on Lake Erie, and the only Pennsylvania county that borders Canada (across the lake).

The county was named for the lake, which was named by the Erie people, an Iroquoian group who lived along the southern shore. The only other Erie counties are in New York and Ohio.

The county seat of Erie County is Erie (pop. 101,786), Pennsylvania’s fourth-largest city. Erie reached its peak population of 138,440 in 1960.

Erie Land Light (1867)

The 14-story Renaissance Center (1928), formerly the Erie Trust Company Building, dominates the downtown Erie skyline.

Renovated in the 1990s

The Old Customshouse (1839) is now part of the Erie Art Museum.

The museum has five connected buildings.

The Warner Theatre (1931) closed as a movie theater in 1976. It’s now the home of the Erie Philharmonic and a variety of other concerts and touring shows.

The Grand Lobby

The Lawrence Park Dinor (a northwestern Pennsylvania variation of “diner”) has been in operation since 1948. It was manufactured by Silk City Diners of Paterson, N.J.

Known for “Greek sauce” on French fries

Erie is the northern terminus of the 343-mile Interstate 79. The southern terminus is Charleston, W.V. Amtrak’s “Lake Shore Limited” (Chicago to Boston and New York City) stops in Erie.

Union Station (1927)

The Erie SeaWolves, Double-A Eastern League affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, play at UPMC Park (1995) in downtown Erie. UPMC is the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Formerly Jerry Uht Park

Actress Ann B. Davis (1926-2014) grew up in Erie. She graduated from the University of Michigan.

On “The Brady Bunch”

The Bicentennial Tower, built in 1996 to commemorate the city’s 200th birthday, has a 187-foot-high observation deck.

Views of Lake Erie, Presque Isle, and downtown Erie

Presque Isle State Park, on a long peninsula near Erie, is Pennsylvania’s most-visited state park. It has a marina and 13 beaches for swimming.

The borough of Edinboro (pop. 6,438), south of Erie, is the home of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, a public university with about 6,000 students. It was founded in 1857 as a teachers’ college.





Maine: Aroostook County

Aroostook County (pop. 71,870), the northernmost county in Maine, makes up about one-fifth of the state. Known locally as “The County,” it is the largest county in any state east of Minnesota.

It borders Quebec and New Brunswick.

Aroostook (pronounced “ah-ROO-stick”) is a Native American word meaning “beautiful river.” In the St. John River Valley, in the northern end of the county, many residents speak both French and English.

The river separates Maine from New Brunswick.

The town of Fort Kent (pop. 6,123), on the St. John River, has a campus of the University of Maine. It was founded in 1878 as a teachers’ school.

It has about 1,000 students.

The Fort Kent State Historic Site commemorates the Aroostook War (1838-39), a border dispute between the U.S. and Canada that involved no actual combat.

The blockhouse at Fort Kent

Fort Kent is the northern terminus of U.S. Highway 1, which goes 2,369 miles to Key West, Florida.

The western part of Aroostook County includes the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, a 92-mile-long protected area of rivers, lakes, and streams in the Maine North Woods.

The Allagash River

Most of Aroostook’s residents live in the eastern part of the county, where Presque Isle (pop. 9,692), Caribou (pop. 8,189), and Fort Fairfield (pop. 3,496) are located. The area is the leading potato-growing region in the eastern U.S.

Fort Fairfield is the home of the annual Maine Potato Blossom Festival.

The festival always includes a parade.

Presque Isle (meaning “peninsula” in French), the largest city in Aroostook County, was named for the peninsula formed by the Aroostook River and Presque Isle Stream.

The University of Maine also has a campus there.

North of Fort Fairfield is the town of Limestone (pop. 2,314). Its population was almost 10,000 in the days before Loring Air Force Base closed in 1994.

It was the largest base for the Strategic Air Command.

The county seat of Aroostook County is Houlton (pop. 6,123), located in the southeastern part of the county.

Aroostook County Courthouse (1859)

Houlton’s nickname is “Shire Town,” and the Houlton High School athletic teams are called the Shiretowners.

The Maine Solar System Model extends about 42 miles (north to south) along Highway 1, beginning with the sun on the University of Maine campus in Presque Isle and ending at Pluto in Houlton.

Saturn is near the town of Westfield.

NEXT STATE: MICHIGAN (coming soon)