509 W 7th St // The Diehl-Kimmel-Caravaglia House

Photos of home and interior contributed by Patrick Fisher

509 W 7th Street was likely built around 1909 by George and Anna Diehl. George F. Diehl was born February 8, 1861 and died April 24, 1928 (at 67 years old).  His parents were Frederick and Barbara (Doll) Diehl.  Frederick owned a boot and shoe shop and George worked there when he was young.  He first married Anna Glenn (who died in 1917) and was the mother of their only child George W. After her death, George married Anna Smith (who died in 1934).  His brother was John Caspar Diehl, an educator and school superintendent for whom the Erie School is named. 

Nov 21st, 1900 Erie Times News

George Diehl took over management of the Colby Piano Company after the death of Charles Colby (George was the treasurer and bookkeeper prior to Colby’s death in 1895).  By 1915, he was employed as the bookkeeper for Jarecki Manufacturing. At the time of the 1900 census, George and Anna were renting at 809 Walnut Street and then, by the 1910 census, they lived at 509 W 7th, and George’s name appears in the newspaper associated with the address in 1909.  George died in 1928 after a fall, which resulted in a fractured shoulder and paralysis.  While the couple lived at the home on 7th street, they often took in boarders/lodgers.  After George’s death in 1928, Anna lived at the home with a widowed friend, Clara Sturgeon.  Anna continued to live at 509 W 7th until her death in 1934 and had no living relatives or heirs (aside from a brother-in-law and sister-in-law). The house was then sold to the Kimmel family who lived there for 32 years.  

1910 Federal Census showing the Diehl family residence at 509 W 7th St and that George was employed as a piano manufacturer.

Mary Schabacker-Kimmel and Ezra F. Kimmel moved into the home at 509 W 7th St after Anna’s death.  Mary’s mother’s maiden name was Doll, as was George’s mother’s and the Schabacker family was also involved with the Colby Piano Company’s management.  Likely, they purchased the home through family connections, moving to Erie from Dayton, Ohio in 1933 (They initially lived on E. Lake Road). 

Ezra was born Oct 20th, 1863 and died March 30th, 1945 at 81 years old.  He married Ida May Steffey in 1885 and they had one son, Russell (who died just two years after his father).  Ida May died in 1913 and Ezra married Mary shortly thereafter.  They had no children.  Ezra worked as a banker. Mary lived until 1973 and died at 100 years old. 

An interesting anecdote: In 1936, shortly after they moved into 509 W 7th, Ezra and Mary hosted their nephew, Hans Wittlinger, from Passau, Germany.  Hans flew to America on the Hindenburg airship less than a year before it caught fire in the famous disaster.

July 16th, 1936 Erie Times News

In 1966, the home was purchased by Mrs. Jean Van Loozenoord, who was Hamot’s chief medical records librarian.  She only lived in the home for four years (and she is still alive and living in Erie) when it was purchased in 1970 by the Caravaglia family who would live in the home for 34 years. 

Louis and Gina Caravaglia were both photographers.  Gina studied photography at New York Institute of Photography, and she and her father owned Vagnarelli Studios at 446 W 18th St.  Louis went into the army after high school and then went to Stone School of Photography in New Haven, CT. Louis was an employee at the Vagnarelli photography studio when he and Gina were married and they took over the business, renaming it Caravaglia Studios. Louis and Gina would have 9 children together.  Louis died on Dec 31st 2007 at age 85. Gina died March 5, 2014 at 87. They lived in the home at 509 W 7th until 2004.

Dec 24th, 1948 Erie Times News showing engagement announcement of Gina Vagnarelli and Louis Caravaglia

Another interesting anecdote: in 1953, Gina and Louis embarked on a 3 month tour of Italy and Sicily.  They sailed on the S.S. Andrea Doria when it was a new, luxury ship.  A little over two years later, the Andrea Doria would crash into another ship in approach to Massachusetts, upending it for over 11 hours and causing 46 deaths in what was one of the worst maritime disasters in American History. 

November 30th, 1953 Erie Times News

Lou was a photography artist and teacher, participating in public art showings where his art was displayed alongside contemporaries like John Vahanian and Gary Cardot, among many others. He often donated his art for fundraisers and worked with children in arts and crafts workshops. He was the official photographer for the Youth Orchestra.

Nov 15, 1977 Erie Times News

Yet another interesting anecdote: in 1977, three Caravaglia men (father and two sons, Louis, Chris and Kurt) were arrested and charged with aggravated assault when they took a baseball bat to the windows of the fraternity house next door.

Published by olderieonfoot

I run the Instagram @olderieonfoot about the beautiful old places in my town, Erie PA

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