Extraordinary Stories

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The "Abbeville: A Historic Mansion" Story

Abbeville Mansion, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
It was an ordinary day.  Traveling on what is known as the Lincoln Highway which passes through the center of Lancaster, PA.  Used to be Rt. 30, but after an east-west expressway was added to the north of Lancaster and was labeled Rt. 30, the old Rt. 30, or Lincoln Highway, also known to Lancasterians as Columbia Pike, was relabeled as Rt. 462.  I approached the city of Lancaster from the west when I passed one of the most beautiful old homes in Lancaster County known as Abbeville.  
Photo taken from the side of the mansion.
It's majestic entrance leading to a circular drive in the front of the house frames the house that at one time was known as Mt. Pleasant.  About a quarter mile to the north of Abbeville stands the stately mansion known as Wheatland which I have written about before.  Wheatland was the home of Pennsylvania's only United States President, James Buchanan and is located on President Avenue.  
Historic Wheatland, home of President James Buchanan.
Wheatland was built on wheat covered fields in 1828, but Abbeville predates Wheatland by 38 years having been built in 1790.  Before Abbeville occupied the land at 1140 Columbia Ave., a much smaller stone building was built there in 1756.  34 years later a very prosperous miller, John Stoner, enlarged the building to a 2 1/2 story, five bay by three bay Georgian style home which he had built in front of the earlier stone building.  
Wrought Iron fencework meant to
prevent people from me from entering
Mr. Stoner sold his home to Langdon Cheves in 1826 who added side-wings on either side of the home.  Mr. Cheves used the home as a summer retreat to escape the heat of South Carolina.  Langdon served three terms in Congress starting in 1810 and was the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means as well as Speaker of the House.  Cheves named his home at 1140 Columbia Ave. Abbeville Mansion in honor of his home in South Carolina.  He eventually sold the home to Lancaster County/Lebanon County Ironmaster William Coleman in 1829.  Then from 1835 to 1840 the home was used as a private school run by Dr. William Augustus Muhlenberg who was co-rector of St. James Episcopal Church, my family's church.  
2004 photo of the Maple Grove grist and saw mill.  It
originally was also known as Abbeville.
1140 was also home at one time or another to Johnannes and Barbara Steiner who owned a grist and saw mill near Abbyville, Judge Alexander Hayes, local businessman Christopher Hagar who founded Hager's Department Store and also build the Fulton Opera House, Dr. John W. Appel Jr., C. Dudley Armstrong who was vice-president of Armstrong Cork Company, Dr. John Farmer and now Robert and Ruth Ecklin who purchased 1140 Columbia Ave. in 1995.  
November 24, 2005 photo showing Maple Grove mill burning.
I naturally had to stop, turn right into the winding driveway and take a few photos of this magnificent mansion.  But wait, the story doesn't end here.  John Stoner who purchased the property in 1790 also purchased a grist and saw mill about a quarter mile to the west of Abbeville in 1729.  He bought the mill from Hans Brubaker who had built the mill sometime between 1717 and 1729.  As far as I can determine, the Steiners must have bought the grist and saw mill from John Stoner, since a datestone at the mill indicates that a new mill was built in 1767 by the Steiners who owned Abbeyville Mansion at the time.  
Photograph I recently took showing the lastest mill building.
It too passed through a few families and later was called Maple Grove since one owner, Aaron H. Summy had planted many maple trees near the mill.  In 2001, Robert Ecklin, the current owner of Abbeville, bought the mill from Lancaster County., planning to turn it into an office building.  On November 24, 2005 the mill was destroyed by a fire allegedly started by a homeless person.  The mill was rebuilt in 2013 and stands vacant at present.  My story has finally come to an end after also stopping at the new mill for a few photos.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

1 comment:

  1. I literally owe my life to Dr Farmer. He delivered me in March 1945.
    Immediately next to the mill was the Maple Grove swim pool, the largest pool in the county.