Blast into the past at the Hagen History Center.

The highlight of the Hagen History Center ( in Erie is that it features items we can touch and feel for ourselves. While not everything is up for grabs, the center welcomes us to gently lay our hands on a select few items, giving us a ride on a metaphoric time-travel machine. Here are the top five must-see exhibits: 

The Story of Us
A fan-favorite of locals, this new exhibit demonstrates how Erie was influenced by immigration over the decades and developed into the city it is today. The exhibit includes a full-scale replica of what a recent immigrant's rented room looked like, as well as items from everyday life like old clothing, stoves and toys. Two must-see and can-touch items are an old cash register and a worker’s toolbox. 

Frank Lloyd Wright Office Reconstruction
Wright is known as the father of organic architecture, which seeks to bring structures together with their natural environments. To do so, he used 120-degree angles instead of traditional 90-degree angles and focused on natural materials and colors. He also employed “compression and release,” which saw low-ceiling hallways open into higher-ceiling rooms. All of these methods are on display in the reconstruction of Wright’s San Francisco office at Hagen, which includes drafting boards and an imitation of the view from Wright’s original office.

Watson-Curtze Mansion First Floor
Built in 1891, the Watson-Curtze Mansion boasts 12 fireplaces and a ballroom. While the upper two floors go through rotations of new exhibits, the lower level remains in its original state. Stained glass windows, mosaic fireplaces, ornate woodwork and period furnishings fill the floor. Highlights include an antique harp and piano in the living room, a grandfather clock and Victor Talking Machine in the foyer, rows of antique books shelved in the library and an Underwood typewriter that sits in the den.

The Window seat in Winifred’s Room
Among the second-floor exhibits in the Watson-Curtze Mansion is Winifred’s Room and the Children’s Gallery. One side of the room is filled with toys from the 19th and 20th centuries. The other side has a cushioned window seat with a photo of Winifred, the only child of Harrison F. and Carrie T. Watson, hanging on the wall above. The photo shows her as a young girl sitting in the same cushioned seat. The Hagen History Center invites visitors to take a photo in the window seat just as young Winifred did.

Commodore Perry’s Sword and the Perry-Harrison Telescope
Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry commanded various ships during the War of 1812, including the USS Lawrence and the USS Niagara. The sword and telescope he used during that battle are on display at Hagen. Accompanying the items is a color lithograph by Huddy & Duval in which Perry can be seen on the left side of the image.