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I-90 West: Erie, Pennsylvania
 to Cleveland, Ohio

    This route starts near Erie, PA where I-79 intersects with I-90. It continues southwest through western Pennsylvania and then into Ohio, passing the cities of Conneaut, Ashtabula, Geneva, Madison, Painesville and Kirtland. The program concludes in the eastern suburbs of Cleveland.

  • The program starts in the outskirts of Erie, the third largest city in Pennsylvania (behind Philadelphia and Pittsburgh). Shipbuilding has been an important industry in this community since it was first settled. In 1813 a fleet of battleships was hastily constructed in Erie and sent in search of the British Navy. Under the command of Oliver Hazard Perry, a young  naval officer in his late 20s, this outclassed and undermanned flotilla defeated the British. It was a crucial battle which gave the Americans control of Lake Erie and helped secure US claims on Ohio, Michigan and the territories to the west. 
     

  • This section of Pennsylvania has been the subject of intense competition: just about everybody has wanted it. First, Native Americans fought for control, then the French claimed it, then the English, then New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania all contended that this land was their land. The reason? Lake Erie. The US Congress finally awarded the so-called "Erie Triangle" to Pennsylvania since, without it, the state would have had no access to a major waterway. Erie became Pennsylvania's only port city.
     

  •  The name comes from the Erie Indians, who we might conclude were a dominant presence when white settlers arrived. But it isn't true; the Erie never even lived in this region. Western New York is as far west as Erie territory stretched. The settlers who did the naming got it wrong. So the most common Native American name in the region is of a tribe from somewhere else.
     

  • As you make your way along this highway, the path you are following has been well-traveled. Mountains to the south made it difficult to get through so just about everybody coming from the northeast used this route. They came on foot, by horse, by wagon, by stagecoach and then finally by motorized vehicles. If the traffic seems heavy now, it's nothing new: this route has been crowded since the late 1700s.    
     

  • Watch for the water tower as you approach the exit for Madison. It's just to the right of the highway and features carousel horses painted all around it. The reason? Just good old-fashioned publicity. The city figured that people would be driving down the interstate and notice those carousel horses and wonder why. Well, just like we did. The paintings are getting a little faded, but if you look closely, you might spot a company insignia on the hindquarters of each horse: those are the companies that paid to get those horses up on the water tower.
     

  • This area saw intense activity on the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was a network of blacks and whites who helped escaped slaves from the south make their way to freedom in the years before the Civil War. It was "underground" in the sense that it was against federal law to offer such assistance and so participants evolved a complex set of signs and practices to help move the fugitives along the route. On some of the older highways of northeast Ohio, there are still buildings that served as stations on the Underground Railroad.

This route is available for purchase on CD or cassette tape. The narration runs for about one hour in 4 segments that take you from Erie, Pennsylvania to Cleveland's eastern suburbs. The CDs and cassettes sell for $9.95 each.

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