THE LIGHTING PLAN FOR THE WATSON-CURTZE MANSION & CARRIAGE HOUSE IN ERIE, PA., SUBTLY EMPHASIZES THE UNIQUE ATTRIBUTES OF THE HISTORIC HOME WITHOUT STEALING ANY ATTENTION.

After a $3-million renovation of the entire property – more than $1 million of which was spent on updating the Watson-Curtze Mansion and the Carriage House – visitors and residents of Erie, Pa. have been thrilled to experience the historical property on Millionaire’s Row like never before. Part of the renovation included the construction of a 10,000-sq.-ft. archive building on an adjacent street.

Portfolio downlights installed within the existing ceiling accentuate the fireplace and provide emergency lighting. Halo surface-mounted track lighting was used for maximum flexibility to highlight the ever-changing display cases.

The project, which took several years to complete, is the largest investment in the property since the mansion was built in 1891 by Erie roofing paper magnet Harrison F. Watson. After the Watson family, the home was owned by Frederic Felix Curtze, president of the Erie Trust Company, who lived at the property until he died in 1941. The Curtze family donated the property to be used as a museum; it is on the National Register of Historic Places and owned by the Erie County Historical Society.

The Richardsonian Romanesque mansion and its carriage house were painstakingly restored to their original beauty while incorporating modern features as well as remedying the mistakes of the past, which included linear fluorescent surface luminaires and screw-base compact fluorescent lamping.

Throughout the arduous project, the design teams were attentive to maintaining the mansion’s historic look and feel. Great care was given to preserving and highlighting the intricate details of the building, such as damask wall coverings, mosaics, Tiffany glass, ornately carved and pierced woodwork, plus stenciled and hand-painted ceilings.

In the Carriage House, surface-mounted Neo-Ray luminaires are placed in between the existing structural beams and provide even illumination. The luminaires were chosen to mimic the linear appearance of the structural beams and not distract from the historic nature of the room.

The goal of the lighting design was to accentuate each space without distracting the eye from the mansion’s original grandeur. Simply, add light where it was needed. To that end, minimalistic LED luminaires and comfort-controlled recessed LED lighting achieved the design criteria.

A 2700K color temperature was selected to encourage a warm ambiance and create a home-like, yet formal, feel. Because of the original design details, providing power to the new lighting locations was a challenge. There was no access from above as all of the ceilings were existing and to be maintained. The solution was for the construction team to route the wiring and controls through nearby closets and hidden shafts in order to maintain the interior aesthetics.

Best of all, the design team estimates the property will save 56 percent on its [lighting] energy bills even while increasing the illumination levels and adding visual interest to its unique architecture. The hard work paid off with an Honorable Mention in this year’s Eaton-Cooper’s SOURCE Awards in the Professional Commercial category.

PROJECT AT-A-GLANCE

Project: Erie County Historical Society, Watson-Curtze Mansion & Carriage House, Erie, Pa.
Design Team: Marian K. Perez, LC, MIES
Architect: Jeff Kidder, AIA, Kidder Wachter Architecture & Design
Engineer: Karpinski Engineering, Cleveland, Ohio
Photography: Lisa Wilding, Karpinski Engineering

GALLERY