skip to main content
logo_fullcolour
  • Today

    MacDonald Illig is proud of our 100+ year history and is committed to serving the businesses and people of Pennsylvania. Dedicated to helping to shape and grow the community of Erie, our over 40 attorneys and 60 support staff are actively involved in the business, development, and charitable communities.

    As manufacturing jobs have declined, Erie has become a more diversified city with more jobs in insurance, healthcare, education, and tourism. Recent developments have included the Bayfront Convention Center complex, of which we were honored to play a part in.

  • 2018

    Attorneys Jim McDonald, Tom Buseck, Gary Eiben, and Brian Cressman, formerly of The McDonald Group, join the Firm.

  • 2007

    Presque Isle Downs & Casino opens, signalling the start of a new era for Erie’s tourism industry.

  • 1998

    The Erie Maritime Museum was opened on Presque Isle Bay. It became the homeport for the recreation U.S. Brig Niagara.

  • 1996

    The Bicentennial Tower was completed at the end of State Street on Dobbins Landing to commemorate Erie’s bicentennial year and provide fantastic views of Lake Erie, Presque Isle State Park, and downtown Erie.

  • 1972

    The firm outgrew the Masonic Building after more than 60 years and moved to the sixth floor of the newly constructed First National Bank Building at 717 State Street, across the street from where it had first operated 75 years earlier. At this time, the firm changed its name to MacDonald, Illig, Jones & Britton, LLP the name it continues to hold to this day.

    Also in 1972, Erie proudly won the All-America City Award which recognizes communities “whose citizens work together to identifyand tackle community-wide challenges and achieve uncommon results.” The city has been a finalist on four other occasions.

  • 1970's

    The firm continued to grow with the economy and the expansion of legal services that nearly doubled during this decade. Eventually the firm expanded to three floors in the First National Bank Building as its roster of attorneys continued to grow.

  • 1960's

    Economic expansion following World War II heavily influenced the firm during the 1960's when several new lawyers joined including John J. Potter, John D. Wilson, John J. Stroh, Norman H. Stark, T. Warren Jones, and Edward G. Goebel.

    Erie reached its peak population in this decade when the 1960 census recorded 138,440 residents. This number declined over subsequent decades as manufacturing jobs left and more and more residents moved to the suburbs.

  • 1956

    On Thanksgiving Day of November 22, 1956, Erie was paralyzed by a record 20 inches of snow. This record held until 34 inches of snow fell on Christmas Day 2017.

  • 1950's

    Irving Olds Murphy and Peter G. Schaaf joined the firm, filling up the offices on the sixth floor of the Masonic Building.

    The Interstate Highway System was created, improving Erie’s land access to the rest of the country with the completion of I-79, I-86, and I-90.

  • 1949

    WICU-TV began broadcasting as Erie’s first local television station.

  • 1948

    John Britton joined the firm. Mort Graham left to become general counsel for Hammermill Paper Company, one of the firm's largest clients.

  • 1940's

    Henry MacDonald, Orson Graham, his younger brother Mortimer Graham, Frederick Jones, and William Illig joined the firm. The partnership became known as Gifford, Graham, MacDonald & Illig.

    World War II led to an influx of lucrative defense contracts to Erie companies including Hammermill, General Electric (GE), and Lord Corporation.

  • 1920's

    Shortly after the move to the Masonic Building, John S. Rilling was appointed to the Pennsylvania Public Service Commission and moved to Harrisburg. A.O. Chapin and W. Pitt Gifford joined the firm which renamed to become Gunnison, Fish, Gifford & Chapin. Its clients included Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad, Nickel Plate Railroad, United States Steel, Second National Bank, and the William Scott Estate. Henry Fish became a leading corporate attorney, representing Hammermill, American Sterilizer and First National Bank.

    During Prohibition, Erie was a wet city with speakeasies opening up across the city. The city was an important transportation hub for rum-running. Prohibition ended when the Twenty-first Amendment was adopted in 1933.

    Erie Insurance was founded in 1925, and it has since become a Fortune 500 company and one of Erie’s largest employers.

    Presque Isle State Park was established in 1921 and remains a popular tourist destination to this day.

  • 1915

    Known as “Erie’s Blackest Day,” August 3, 1915 saw Mill Creek flood downtown Erie resulting in 36 fatalities and the destruction of 225 houses.

  • 1913

    To celebrate the centennial of the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812, Oliver Hazard Perry's flagship Niagara was raised from the bottom of Misery Bay where it had sat for 93 years. Also known as the U.S. Brig Niagara, the ship was returned to Erie where it underwent a major restoration over the following decades. The ship contributed to Erie becoming known as the “Flagship City.”

  • 1910

    Gunnison, Rilling, and Fish became the first tenant to occupy part of the top floor of the new Masonic Building at West 8th Street & Peach Street. The Masonic Building was the first building in Erie to have a passenger elevator and the top floor was designed with a library in the center for the common use of several law firms located in the building.

  • 1907

    Judge Frank Gunnison, a former president judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County, joined the partnership. The firm changed its name to Gunnison, Rilling & Fish and relocated its offices to the 2nd floor of 708 State Street.

  • 1899

    The Erie Public Library was dedicated on February 16, 1899 in a building at 27 South Park Row that also housed the Erie School District’s administrative offices, the Public Museum, and the Art Club of Erie. It was Pennsylvania’s first public library established under the state’s Free Library Act.

  • 1897

    John S. Rilling, a well-established estate attorney, and Henry E. Fish, a newly admitted lawyer, formed a partnership known as Rilling & Fish. Ahead of their time, these men realized that by pooling their talents, they could better serve their clients.