Editor's note: This is the first part in a series of articles based on a presentation given by area historian and photographer Ray Beimel regarding the history of the Erie Avenue area.
Throughout St. Marys' history, Erie Avenue has been patronized by local residents for a variety of reasons. Stores, hotels, and other businesses have all come and gone, but the area has remained an integral part of the community.
Local historian Ray Beimel recently gave a presentation at the St. Marys Senior Center about Erie Avenue, focusing on some of the history of the area and reminiscing about some of the businesses that used to be located along the roadway.
"The reason Erie Avenue is named 'Erie Avenue' is because it is on the Philadelphia and Erie Railroad [line]," Beimel explained. "Of course, the railroad is torn up east of town [today], but that's where the trains went, from Philadelphia to Erie, hence the name 'Erie Avenue.'"
According to Beimel, the center of St. Marys was not originally designated to be where it is today. Beimel showed attendees a map "that was made in Germany by somebody who had never been here" that had the community's streets laid out in the shape of a wagon wheel.
"Some of this actually exists," Beimel said of the pattern of roadways.
Roadways such as Center Street, St. Marys Street, and Michael Street all made up part of the design.
"If they had followed this map, the center of town would be where Silver Creek flows into the Elk Creek behind Whissel's restaurant," Beimel said.
Erie Avenue was not part of that original map though, and Beimel noted that all of the streets shown on the map "were meant for farmers who moved around in horse and buggies."
When the railroad came to St. Marys, it "chopped off this little triangle" area, and that area is now currently known as the Diamond.
"The Diamond was on the edge, the eastern edge, of the wagon wheel map, not in the middle," Beimel said.