Recently I read Karin Williams' story in The Phoenix titled "Ghost hunters focus on Mansion House." I think the history of the Mansion House is more interesting than ghost tales, although I love the imaginary possibility of ghosts. The sealed rooms, also, capture me.
The Mansion House's position in front of French Creek, the Schuylkill River and the railroad station, established around 1842, made it a perfect eyewitness point to view some historical happenings - perhaps the grand ball held in the railroad's baggage room to celebrate the end of the Civil War.
Unfortunately, its location also made it susceptible to floods, such as the flood of 1972.
The Mansion House also fronted two streets, Ashland and Clay, where small, rented homes of puddlers (Iron Company employees) sprouted and flourished for a time. According to one observer, one street still exists.
In 1991, I learned the hotel had 14 rooms occupied by retired people and some younger folks who worked out of Phoenixville, but it was once the site of three row houses.
Including a stable fire in 1858, the Mansion House was the scene of many fires, and, therefore, restorations. The building was very safe because of the masonry walls within.
The Daily Republican, in an edition dated April 26, 1940, describes one: "The second fire within two weeks at the Mansion House Hotel, East Bridge Street, gutted the roof and interior, causing an estimated damage of between $7,000 and $9,000. According to reports, the fire started in a storage room on the fourth floor. An overstuffed chair in one of the hotel's rooms had caught fire from a lighted cigarette. The fire alarm was discovered to be faulty."
A contrast to the fires, the great blizzard of 1888 caused an overflow of people to flee to the popular hotel. The proprietor of those days had to turn business away!
Changing ethnic groups and entertainment itself was a trifle different way back then. Imagine this: "Professor Bolton, the horse tamer, gave an exhibition of his skill at the Mansion House on Wednesday evening to a large and admiring crowd." Five Hungarians, fresh arrivals, came to town Wednesday on emigrant tickets from New York. Scarcely a night passes but from one to half a dozen land here and go to work in the rolling mills as laborers.
I saw a sparkling water bottle made of clay at the Mansion House in 1991. It was interesting because it was used on sailing ships as ballasts. The bottles came over to our country empty and went back filled. The bottles inscription stated: "J. Friedrich, Grosskarben, Frankfurt, Ge."
The exterior of the Mansion House boasts three rusty rings where horses were hitched. They're on the wall to the left of the building.
According to Autobiography of a Pennsylvanian, page 47, by Samuel W. Pennypacker, "The tavern was owned by Major McVeigh. His wife was a most worthy woman, named Lincoln, from which Abraham Lincoln was descended."
On a long ago tour by Barbara Cohen, she explained that the restaurant hotel was first a general store. It developed because of The Phoenix Iron Company. Major McVeigh became the chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Committee and, as such, accompanied Abraham Lincoln to Gettysburg for his famous address.
So, whether you go ghost hunting at the Mansion House or dining, enjoy this gem. Hey! You could do both at the same time.
As for the other notable hotels in the area, a rare map reveals that the General Pike Hotel was "established," and the Fountain Inn (still standing today) was being "proposed."
According to the Pennsylvania Historic Resource Survey form, the Mansion House is a building of Federal style, brick/stucco, with a two-story porch of Eastlake design, and its "integrity" is rated excellent-fair.
Now, although, February's almost done, I continue to wish you Valentine love the whole year through. I have a collection of 75 bells, but you can still add a ring by calling 610-933-0669, Keystone Connie.