355 E 9th St // Weber Studio

This home at 355 E 9th Street was built around 1880 for the Weber Family and an adjoining building was their family’s photography studio and gift shop: Weber Studios.

The home at 355 E 9th Street was likely built prior to 1880 (it appears in ownership to the Weber Family on the 1880 census but does not appear on the 1870 census). This home remained in the same family from the day it was built until 1989 when it was sold to the Benedictine Sisters who own the property currently.

This is an advertisement for Weber Studio appearing in the Erie Times News July 1910

F.W. (Frank William) Weber was born in Erie on May 15th, 1857 to Maria (Spath) and Franz Anton Weber who immigrated to Erie from Germany. According to A History of Erie County PA, Franz Anton Weber was a blacksmith by trade until his health failed then he became a grocer. “He was buried on the present site of St. Vincent’s Hospital and the body was later removed to Trinity cemetery, Erie.”

F.W.’s wife, Helen Rechtenwald Weber’s mother, Eva Specht came from France and was a dressmaker, her father, Peter Rechtenwald came to Erie from Germany and he was a tailor; the couple had a tailoring business on State Street (1016 State Street, at one point). Peter Rechtenwald served in the Civil War in Pennsylvania’s 19th Regiment. Both families (the Rechtenwalds and the Webers) were long time residents of the areas of E 8th-E 10th near Parade Street for generations.

F.W. Weber was a local photographer and specialized in portraits (family portraits and weddings). According to A History of Erie County PA: “F. William Weber grew up in Erie and after receiving his education was employed by his brother, F. J., who was a well known photographer of Erie. When he was 21 years old Mr. Weber purchased his brother’s interest in the business, which is located at 351 East 9th Street, and is now conducted by his son, H. J. Weber. Mr. Weber has been considered the leading photographer of the city for many years and is an artist in his work. He also has an interest in the Erie Picture and Framing Company.” The studio (Weber Studio) was in a building adjoining the family home (with the address 351 E 9th). He was also the Vice President of the Parade Street Market Association, which was a large building with an open air farmer’s market located at 915-931 Parade Street and was in business from 1895 until the 1960s. Helen died in 1934 and F. W. in 1946.

The couple had 14 children over 22 years (11 living through childhood) and the home was occupied by their descendants; their youngest child, Rosemary, continued operation of the Weber Gift Shop until 1970. Leanor Weber Weiderle resided there most recently with her daughter, Helen Rapp. Leanor died in 1985 and in 1989, the home was sold to the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, who own the property to this day. The home is directly next door to the former St. Benedict Academy, which was an all girls Catholic High School (where the female Weber children attended) that was established in 1869. The school was moved in 1955 to East 10th Street and closed permanently in 1988. The home at 355 E 9th is currently used as a priory for the Benedictine Sisters and appears in searches as St. Scholastica Priory.

This historic image was posted in the Project Erie Pennsylvania Facebook group in January 2021 and it was speculated that it is an early photograph of 355 E 9th Street. The footprint of the home looks very similar, although the facade has been altered over the years (and a bay window added, note the repointing of the bricks in the modern photo, as well as the replacement windows and aluminum in the gable). Given that the Webers were photographers, it stands to reason that they would photograph their own home. This has not been verified and is a speculation. See below for a side to side comparison of the photographs.

Published by olderieonfoot

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

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