Twenty-two years have passed since the Friends of Cornwall Iron Furnace thought a tour of historic homes around Christmas time might be an interesting fundraiser. On Saturday, December 2 from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. we will sponsor our 22nd Annual Christmas at Cornwall House Tour, with an array of older historic homes and a newer one as well. You will also have the option of purchasing lunch at Gallery 770, Lebanon Valley Council on the Arts at 770 Cumberland St., Lebanon.
Tour tickets may be purchased for $15 in advance at the following locations: Cornwall Iron Furnace, Cornwall Manor Office, Bluebird Inn, all in the Cornwall area, and at Inn 422 in Lebanon. Tickets will be $20 on the day of the tour and will be available only at the Cornwall Iron Furnace.
Cornwall Iron Furnace, which operated from 1742 until 1883, is the host site that day. This furnace is the only cold blast charcoal burning furnace to survive intact in the Western Hemisphere. Light refreshments will be available there throughout the day and the museum store will be open for shopping. The tour booklet, which serves as your ticket, also entitles the bearer to a guided tour of the furnace. This tour of the furnace will be available until December 29th, 2017 if you decide not to take it on house tour day.
Just across the street from the furnace on the campus of the Cornwall Manor Retirement Community, visitors are invited to visit the tiny Victorian Paymaster’s Office. This building was erected by the Coleman family in the 1860’s to serve as the office for the Cornwall Iron Furnace’s paymaster and his clerks. It was renovated by Cornwall Manor in 1993 and is currently used as a resident art studio.
On the Cornwall Manor campus, don’t forget to visit some of the public rooms on the first floor of the Buckingham Mansion, the historical centerpiece of the property. The original home was built around 1773 by Curttis Grubb, son of Peter Grubb, who founded the Cornwall Iron Furnace. Robert Coleman took responsibility for the property in 1798 and in 1865 Robert’s son William engaged an Italian architect to extensively remodel the 19-room home. The mansion was more recently changed in 1996 to carve out seven apartments for Manor residents.
We will offer two other homes in Cornwall this year, close to the furnace. The first is the historic home of Pat and Vicki (Paul and Victoria) Freeland at 101 Old Furnace Road and the second is that of their daughter and family across the street at 102 Old Furnace Road.
The Freeland Home was built in 1869 of locally-made bricks; the walls are four bricks thick. The house was on part of a 300+ acre tract of land which included the land now owned by Cornwall Manor. In 1919 the tract was sold to Bethlehem Steel by the Freeman/Coleman/Buckingham families. The house was used thereafter as the residence of the manager or one of the senior engineers of the mines. The last Bethlehem Steel occupants were the family of Harold Olsen, who bought the house from Bethlehem Steel in 1973 after mining ceased. Pat’s mother Catherine Freeland bought the house from the Olsens in 1976; Pat and Vicki moved back from Massachusetts to live in the house in 2002, after she died and Pat’s father entered a nursing home.
All four floors of the home will be open to tour. A two-story outbuilding, more than 200 years old, was originally a carriage shed.
Construction of the new house across the street, owned by Catherine (Cavi) and Steve Miller, was completed in December, 2016 on a tract of land which originally was the site of a series of chestnut log houses for the families of the more junior workers of the furnace. Their goal, in building their home, was to erect a house with the conveniences of new construction, but with the aesthetics of an old house. The house is modeled after the Federal Period, a popular style in Massachusetts, where Cavi grew up. In the kitchen a large chimney houses the family’s wood burning beehive oven. The idea for this addition to the home was inspired by a similar oven in Cavi’s childhood home. Brick oven pizza night is a favorite with family and friends.
In nearby Mount Gretna the home of Tim and Dianna Nieman at 109 Birch Ave. will be open for touring. The Niemans know that the house was built around 1915 by the Packer family. It is located in Mount Gretna Heights, more commonly known as “The Heights”. The Heights was developed by Abraham Lincoln Kauffman, who purchased land adjoining the Mount Gretna Camp Meeting Grounds in 1907. He initiated construction of his own resort which he named “The Willows”. A store and hotel appeared as well as Kauffman’s own home, now the Mount Gretna Inn. In 1926 he opened a park just east of the C & L park, adjoining the railroad, with a large swimming pool, a carousel and other attractions. Much of this information comes from an article written by Jack Bittner, local Mount Gretna historian.
You may also visit the Bronstein Cottage at 406 Pennsylvania Ave., Mount Gretna. For the past 17 years Dr. David Bronstein has found one-of-a kind furnishings to decorate his lakeside cottage that he purchased in the mid-90’s from Mr. and Mrs. John Buch of Elizabethtown. The home, built around 1940, previously belonged to the Wertz (Candy) family of Lebanon. Noted Mt. Gretna designer Glin Atkinson helped to create a light, homey comfortable feel while maintaining iconic Gretna staples, such as Philadelphia bead board and refinished original wood flooring.
Dr. Bronstein sought out a Lancaster-area craftsman to build the fireplace mantel façade in the “tramp art” style, a type of folk art primarily created at the end of the Civil War through the 1930’s. The style comes from even older carving and decorating methods which originated in Germany and Scandinavia. The technique appears throughout the cottage in the doorway and window cornices as well as in saw-tooth trim upstairs and downstairs.
While you’re in Mount Gretna, don’t miss the home of Stephen Gibble who lives at 207 Harvard Avenue. This historic home was built in the late 1800’s by Lebanon carpenter and self-taught architect John H. Cilley, who also built the Mount Gretna Playhouse and the Camp Meeting Tabernacle. He designed the home for himself, with his trademark circular design porch, offering a privileged box seat to performances at the Playhouse.
The Victorian turreted rooflines and gingerbread trim are typical of that era and inside an impressive collection of craftsman-style furniture and a wide array of mission pottery are displayed. The living room is home to the fireplace and hearth of the former Conewago Hotel, preserved when the hotel was torn down. The staircase bannister leading upstairs was salvaged from the Beaux Arts Capitol Building in Harrisburg.
We also offer the home of Tim and Michelle Auman at 2330 Quentin Road, Lebanon which is located on the original Fairview Farm, bought by Coleman family heiress Margaret C. Freeman in 1879. The home is estimated to have been built in the 1750s. The current barn was built in the 1830s.
The farm was known for the Guernsey dairy herd that was kept there. Margaret’s son Edward C. Freeman inherited the land in 1894 and he in turn willed the farm to his sister Margaret C. Buckingham in 1912 upon his death. Trustees of the Buckingham Estate sold Fairview Farm to South Meadows Development Corp. in 1957 and Irwin and Elizabeth Auman in turn bought close to 10 acres of the farm in 1958. The elder Aumans did extensive renovations to the farm buildings and lived there until Irwin’s death in 2008. Timothy and his wife Karen (now deceased) bought the farm where he spent the first 19 years of his life, in 2009, after living on a farm in Jonestown for 36 years. After additional renovations, Timothy and Karen moved to the farm in 2011.
Timothy and his current wife Michelle now reside on the farm. Plantings and statues on the grounds are the work of Michelle, as well as decorating throughout the home.
In Lebanon, the Lebanon Valley Council on the Arts will offer lunch for purchase from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at its headquarters, Gallery 770, located at 770 Cumberland St. The Council, which organized in 1975, purchased the former St. Joseph’s Convent on Willow Street and renovated it for an art and cultural center. This enabled them to host cultural events, classes and organize the monthly First Friday Art Walks in Lebanon and Mt. Gretna. In 2016 they sold the Willow Street property and bought the former Northwest Bank at 770 Cumberland Street to move the art and culture center downtown. The building, at one time known as “Central Building” dates back to 1813 and has a history of housing a bar, pharmacy, radio station and loan and financial services. When the building was purchased the upper three floors were unfinished storage space. Hardwood maple floors recently refinished on the second level reveal “bird’s eye” and “tiger striped” figuring.
Luncheon offerings will include homemade soup, sandwiches, hot and cold beverages and dessert.
Robert Harnish, who lives at 205 Hathaway Park, bought a neighboring property at 207 Hathaway Park in 2014 with the purpose of renovating this historic building from a commercial facility back into a family home. This house was built in 1899, designed by Architect Abner A. Ritcher for first owner John Ruth, a court reporter for the Dauphin County Courts. The Ruth family lived there until 1941, when Mrs. Ruth died. In 1944 Ruth’s daughter and family came to live with her father until his death in 1955. The house was then sold and went through a succession of several owners who both lived in the house and had businesses in a portion of the house.
In “A Brief History of Hathaway Park” written by Christine Ruth Grier, daughter of the original owner John Ruth, she says that J. Taylor Boyd, superintendent of the Cornwall Ore Mines purchased the land in 1887 to be referred to as Hathaway Park (sometimes called Highland Place). At the beginning Hathaway Park was a gated community, with gates at 4th, 2nd, Walnut and Locust Streets. All the homes built through 1899 were designed by Architect H.A. Roby and his apprentice Abner A. Ritcher. All buildings had to be offset from the street at least 40 feet. The streets were lined with Carolina Poplar trees.
Aiyana and James Ehrman are only the third owners of the stately home at 2 E. High St. in the same area of Lebanon. This Spanish Colonial home was designed in 1925 by Architect Abner Ritcher for the original owner Judge Charles V. Henry and his family. It has an impressive center hall and stairwell.
In their first year of ownership, the Ehrmans have made some significant cosmetic updates to the first floor, highlighted by accents by Aiyana’s own decorative arts firm. If you exit through the center hall’s back door, you pass a wall hanging holding the original landscaping plan. From the back porch breezeway you can view a magnificent silver beech tree which has graced the property since early in its history.
The home of Sharon Zook at 525 S. Broad St. is a former school house which dates to the 1800s. It was converted into a residence before the mid-1900’s and by the 1960’s there were several “lean-tos” attached to the original brick structure. Since Zook purchased the house in 1996 she added a new roof, a two-story addition, replaced the old carport with a garage, a sunroom behind the garage which runs the length of the original south side of the house. In 2013 a two-story addition was built onto the back of the house. The interior is finished with locally-sourced salvaged doors, moldings, architectural columns, beaded wainscot, flooring, fireplace mantel and other items to maintain the feel of a 100-year old home. Much of the furniture and cabinetry has been built from scratch or rebuilt and reupholstered from curbside finds, family auctions, basements and garages.
Cornwall Iron Furnace, State Historic Site located in Cornwall, PA
History | Visitor Information |
Furnace Tour |
Calendar of Events
Educational Resources |
Links of Interest
Cornwall Iron Furnace Associates
Cornwall Iron Furnace
94 Rexmont Road
P.O. Box 251
Cornwall, PA 17016
Administered by the
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
Tom Wolf, Governor |
Nancy Moses, Chairman
Executive Director, Andrea Lowery
With generous support of
the Friends of Cornwall Iron Furnace.
Copyright. All rights reserved.
Site design and hosting by
Reading Eagle Company Internet