The History of Frontier
The 150 acres of Frontier Place was owned by William L. Scott (1828-1891) and was called “Frontier Farm.” As per Scott’s will, the Farm was held after his death by his Trustees until the Erie City limits expanded to include Frontier Farm (April 13, 1920) and then it was subdivided into single family residential lots per his instructions and sold to individual purchasers.
Charles M. Reed (1803-1871), the grandson of Seth Reed who was Erie’s first settler, served a term as mayor of Erie (1872), was a congressman (1843-45), and a general. He was a successful shipping merchant on the great lakes between Buffalo and Chicago.
While a congressman, Reed met Scott while Scott was working as a page in the National House of Representatives. In 1844 Scott (an orphan) moved to Erie at the urging of Reed who employed Scott at the age of 16 as a shipping clerk on his Erie wharves.
Scott’s career as a businessman and politician based in Erie was extraordinarily successful and he had very profitable shipping, coal mining, iron manufacturing, and railroad businesses. He was a popular political figure who served two full terms as mayor of Erie (1866, 1871), was for many years a member of the democratic national committee (1868, 1876, 1880, 1888), and a congressman from Pennsylvania (from the same district represented by C.M. Reed when Scott was a page in the National House) where he served two terms (1876, 1884).
Scott was a prominent figure in the horse racing and breeding circuit, and held “the most notable farming enterprise in the history of the Millcreek township” for stock, studs and agriculture (Miller, Vol. 1, p. 504). This farming operation included Frontier Farm. There was one residence on Frontier Farm, the farm house (1878) which was moved from the middle of what is now Seminole Drive to its current location at 704 Seminole Drive in the 1920s during the development of the property.
Scott had an enduring love for Erie as his home city and local evidence of his ceaseless activities to create a better Erie were “many, imposing, and beautiful” (Miller, Vol. 2, p.453-455) although most have since been demolished. He sought to make it “beautiful Erie” and his efforts towards Erie’s embellishment included blocks (“The Scott Block”of 1872), elegant and commodious homes, mansions, churches, parks and avenues, Massassauga Point (a hotel at head of Presque Isle), and a cluster of highly cultivated farms (Nelson, p. 546).
At his death in 1891, Scott bequeathed Frontier Farm in trust to his daughters, Mary Scott Townsend and Annie Wainwright Strong, stipulating that it was to remain intact until such time as the plot was annexed by the City of Erie and then it could be laid out as a subdivision for “purchasers who intend to improve the same for the purpose of residence or of such business as will not in any way injure the portions of the said (farm) set apart for residences” (Scott #32385, 1891).
The executors of the Scott estate managed the property for nearly 30 years, after which time the Frontier Farm was incorporated in the City of Erie and subdivided into lots for residences. The Frontier Place subdivision was laid out by Hill & Hill Engineers in 1922 which included the tree lawns and boulevards that add to the neighborhood’s distinction today.
Frontier Farm was deeded by the trustees of Scott’s estate to the Frontier Company which was incorporated to sell the lots and develop the subdivision. Sale of lots was delegated to Roy B. Way (President of R.B. Way & Company Real Estate and Insurance) and who lived at 618 Seminole Drive.
Throughout the 1920s, 59 homes (27% of the 2008 total) were constructed and mainly reflected the Colonial Revival style. The 1930s and 1940s yielded 43 (20%) more homes constructed. This comparatively slower growth is commonly attributed to the effect of The Great Depression and World War II on the Erie area. The 1950s saw most of the remaining lots in Frontier Place developed with 87 homes built (40%) that generally reflected the single-story Ranch style.
Since 1959, 28 (13%) more homes have been built. In 1951, the City purchased the parcels of “hollow” from the Frontier Company and subsequently created Frontier Park. The development of a community park so close to the neighborhood helped to further enhance the sense of identity of Frontier Place.
On January 5, 1931, a group of property owners within Frontier Place chartered the Frontier Improvement Association to “provide for the proper care of the streets, avenues and roads, shrubbery, public places … and to promote the common good of the residents and owners of said lots and to improve the use and enjoyment thereof within the subdivision known as the Frontier Place Subdivision”. The Association is still active today and its efforts focus on the ongoing maintenance and improvement of the streets, boulevards, and tree lawns as well as a variety of community-building activities.