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.


will said...

You certainly live in an area with a rich history. BTW, are you familiar with the books of Eric Sloane?

Kari Hultman said...

Bill, you're right about that. In fact, Fort Hunter is only about 7 miles from my house!

I have one or two Eric Sloane books and his museum is on my list of places to visit. Only about a 4.5 hour drive.

Anonymous said...

I hope you took a few photos and measurements of the miniature blanket chest. It looks like a great project. Maybe you could send some to me? I wonder if there is a little till inside?
"Running for the shelter of mother's little helper"

Vic Hubbard said...

This is great! It's just like having my own host of some PBS show to give me a private tour of historic places. Thank you, Kari.

Presbyfruit's History Bits said...

Those photos are gorgeous (except for the creepy dollhouse).

will said...

I think Eric Sloane was a master of many things and his accomplishments should be better known. His interest and explanations of Early America are wonderful. Also a gifted artist and his range of interests - old barns, rural school houses, the weather, old tools - amazing. I wish I could go with you to his museum. He's Number One with me.

Kari Hultman said...

Mike, that's the only photo I took of the little dovetailed box--sorry. It was only about 10" tall and maybe 14" wide. Hopefully, that might give you enough info to build one. You could probably just scale down a full size one to the size you want. And adding a little till would be cute. : )

Vic, my pleasure!

Presby--shocker! You actually read one of my posts????? heh heh

Bill, I'll take lots of photos whenever we go and can send them to you if you want. I think the museum reopens in the spring.

Woodbloke said...

Kari - interesting link to Fort Hunter. My daughter is an archaeologist (or 'mud monkey') and has done a couple of 'Time Team' programmes on the TV (not sure whether you'd see them on your side of the 'big wet')...the stuff on that link looks very familiar, I get chapter and verse on it when she's home - Rob

Anonymous said...

Kari -

I come from Western NY state, also an area rich with history, and it's been some time since I've been able visit many of the heritage-rich places. Your blog evoked a lot of good memories, despite the "Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor" (Bach) that I can't get out of my head now...

Kari Hultman said...

Rob, how fun to have a daughter who's an archaeologist!

Mack, thanks for letting me know the title of the music. I had been referring to it as "Freaky Nightmare Concerto in C Major." Obviously, way off...

Anonymous said...

Kari, it was a day to remember and the pictures are exquisite!! It was a beautiful place. Thanks for taking me. Lynn