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Thursday, November 7, 2019

The John Harris - Simon Cameron Mansion in Harrisburg

The John Harris - Simon Cameron Mansion is located at 219 S. Front Street in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The residence was built by John Harris, Jr., the founder of Harrisburg in 1766. Over the years the mansion has changed its architecture and home ownership many times until 1941 when it became home to The Historical Society of Harrisburg. Here's some information about the mansion and its history.
The John Harris - Simon Cameron Mansion in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

The stone residence of John Harris, Jr. (1727-1791), the founder of Harrisburg, which he erected at the end of the French and Indian War in 1766. In 1785, the Borough of Harrisburg was laid out in the house's front parlor by Harris and his son-in-law, William Maclay. Upon Harris' death, the house passed to his sons, first to David Harris and then to Robert in 1805 who resided there until 1835 when it was sold to Thomas Elder, a local attorney. After Elder's death in 1853, the house was used by Reverend Beverly Waugh as the Pennsylvania Female College. Civil War turmoil and Waugh's death in 1861 forced the College into bankruptcy. College board member Simon Cameron, President Lincoln's first Secretary of War and organizer of one of the most powerful political machines in U.S. history acquired the property in 1863 for use as his home. While traveling through Europe during his tenure as Lincoln's Minister to Russia, after being War Secretary, he acquired many fine furnishings for the house including 14-foot high pier mirrors from France, the installation of which resulted in lowering the home's first floor by three feet for sufficient ceiling clearance. Upon Cameron's death in 1889, the house was passed to his daughter, Margaretta Haldeman and then in 1915 to her son, Richard. His death in 1933 ended the home's use as a private residence. In 1941, Haldeman's sister donated the house to the Historical Society of Dauphin County, which has since maintained the property as a museum featuring rare antiques, significant 19th Century furnishings, and archives of the nation's, Harrisburg's and Dauphin County's rich heritage. (information taken from the historical marker located on the property).

The Historical Society of Dauphin County offers tours of the Mansion, and you can also rent the public rooms of the Mansion for personal or business events. You can visit their official website HERE to learn more about the Historical Society, the tours that are available, and to learn additional history about the mansion itself. They have some fantastic photographs on their website that show a lot of the interior rooms.
John Harris Mansion Historical Marker in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

There is an official historical marker that's part of the Pennsylvania Historical Marker Trail that gives you a little bit of history about the mansion too. Here's that information:

John Harris Mansion

Built by John Harris Jr., founder of Harrisburg, in 1764-66. It was Simon Cameron's home, 1863-89, and many famous people visited there. It is now home of the Dauphin County Historical Society.

By: 1946 by Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

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