Saturday, November 29, 2008

Fort Hunter

In a nearly insurmountable effort to distance ourselves from the sugar-laden Thanksgiving day leftovers (namely apple and cherry pies), we decided to tour the grounds and mansion at Fort Hunter.

This fertile land nestled between Blue Mountain and the Susquehanna River was originally occupied by the Susquehannock and Lenape Indian tribes.

In the 18th c., British settlers built a chain of forts throughout Pennsylvania, among which Fort Hunter, built in 1755 to protect settlers from Indian attacks, was centrally located.

In 1787, the land was purchased by Captain Archibald McAllister, who served under General George Washington during the Revolutionary War and who built the Tavern House (photo 3), Stone Stables (photo 4), Mansion House (photo 5), and other outbuildings on the plantation.

From 1788 through 1807, Archibald distilled alcohol and ran the tavern at Fort Hunter (among other businesses, including a sawmill), where travelers could stay for a night or two. The stable was constructed in "an unusual English drive-through form."

His son, Captain John McAllister bought the estate in 1833 and sold it to Daniel Dick Boas in 1870, who owned a saw and planing mill, for use as a gentleman's farm and summer home.

Boas built a traditional Pennsylvania German bank barn (photos 1 & 2), but with elaborate Gothic Revival details, for use as a dairy barn.

The property passed to Boas' daughter Helen and her husband and later to Helen's niece, who helped turn the estate into a museum.

Most of the furniture in the mansion was Victorian era (which I find frightening*), but a few pieces were older.

A large secretary in the parlour that was built in 1790 with flame-figured walnut (I think), features fan designs in figured maple (I think).

A little box with very thin dovetails, measured about 10" tall and sat atop a dresser.

At the time the mansion became a museum, a medicine box was found to contain laudanum—an opium-based painkiller widely used in the Victorian period for many ailments in both children and adults. It was also used to quiet babies. And it was highly addictive.

In the spring kitchen, our tour guide displayed an ice saw, used to break up ice on the Susquehanna River.

There was also an enormous dollhouse in the mansion which totally creeped me out. And because creeped-outedness loves company, I'm sharing it with you.

After the tour, we returned home and I managed to stay away from the pies. But tomorrow's another day...which might mean another historic home tour.

*My sincere apologies to those who love Victorian era f
urniture. But it reminds me of scary Vincent Price movies from my childhood.