Preservation Williamsport, a nonprofit organization that aims to restore and preserve Williamsport's rich architectural heritage, is planning a special tour of the Rowley House and Museum for area seniors Aug. 18, by appointment only.
According to Dr. Oscar Knade Jr., vice chairman of Preservation Williamsport, the Rowley House, 707 W. Fourth St., which was built in 1888, is one of the finest examples of a Queen Anne Victorian Home in the state.
The house was designed by renowned architect Eber Culver, for city resident and businessman Edwin A. Rowley.
Preservation Williamsport will offer tours of the Rowley House and Museum, 707 W. Fourth St., for area seniors on Aug. 18.
Dr. Oscar Knade shows off the original newel post lights that are attached to the main staircase in the Front Hall.
In addition, the lights also include the original Russian-cut glass globes. At far right is the most impressive window in the home. Located at the top of the main staircase, the window depicts Renaissance Revival scenes with
hand-painted, fired and faceted jewel glass.
The East Parlor has a maple floor and the original fireplace with gas logs. Mr. Rowley owned the company that made the gas logs, the Backus Manufacturing Co.
At the time, Rowley was one of Williamsport's most influential people and was considered one of the wealthiest men in the state. He was president of the Edison Electric Illuminating Co. and owner of the Backus Manufacturing Co., which manufactured woodworking machinery.
The 19th century millionaire businessman spared no expense when it came to building his home, Knade said. The mansion included 13 bedrooms, a master ballroom on the third floor that ran the entire length of the house, an east and west parlor, library, sewing room, baking room and carriage house.
Most of the wood that was used to construct the home was lumbered locally, Knade added. Cherry, oak and walnut all were prevalent throughout the area, and Rowley presented these precious natural resources throughout his home in abundance.
The entrance features an impressive front vestibule with its solid cherry front doors and large Tiffany-style stained-glass windows.
A little further into the Front Hall, two separate parlor rooms can be seen extending to opposite sides of the home. Both parlors contain original lighting fixtures with ceiling medallions, magnificent plaster moldings and a fireplace made from extravagant English Minton tiles.
During the time the home was built, Rowley installed only the finest gas and electric lighting available, according to www.preservationwilliamsport.org.
The Front Hall also contains original newel post lights with Russian-cut glass globes on both sides of the staircase and an original hall light with a hand-blown neilsie blue shade.
One of Rowley's favorite rooms was the library, which is done entirely in walnut and contains Renaissance Revival English tiling. A tile bust of Ulysses S. Grant is a centerpiece of the fireplace, the site said.
The dining room has beautiful English anaglypta wallpaper adorning the walls. Anaglypta wallpaper was made by steam-pressing several sheets of wallpaper together to give the wall a textured look and feel.
Knade said throughout the years the wallpaper was damaged and painted over, but that it has been restored to look as it did originally.
A highlight of the mansion includes a huge stained-glass window at the staircase landing that incorporates beveled, hand-painted and fired glass. The stained-glass window was positioned and set in the east to capture the morning sun.
Furniture throughout the home is on loan by Robert Kane Jr. from his personal collection and many pieces are original to Williamsport.
According to Knade, the Rowley House is a fine example of how a "true" millionaire lived and worked during the "Lumber Boom" era.
Modern conveniences of the home included water closets, dumbwaiters, speaking tubes and gas-electric lighting.
"It gives people a glimpse into the proud history of our city," Knade said. "It is important to protect and preserve our city's historic district."
According to Preservation Williamsport officials, Williamsport has gained a lot of recognition and interest in tourism in recent years.
"One way we can secure the future of Williamsport is by protecting its past," Knade said. "Many businesses, hotels and restaurants have benefited from the interest generated by our historic district."
Knade said there were more than 52 commercial tours booked last year to visit the Rowley House and Museum.
One of the main reasons the Rowley House has stood the test of time is because, after its original owners, it was bought by the Diocese of Scranton.
For the next 70 years, the home was used as the living quarters for the nuns that taught across the street at St. Joseph School.
"The nuns kept the home in pristine condition," Knade said. "They took magnificent care of the home for many years and are one of the main reasons the restoration project was possible."
Future plans for the house include a media room on the second floor, where visitors can watch films and view pictures of Williamsport's proud past.
According to Knade, Preservation Williamsport obtained the funding for restoration of the Rowley House through private donations, grants and numerous smaller donations.
Knade said an annual membership drive and various fundraisers are conducted each year in order to continue to secure monies for future restoration projects.
For information on private tours or to check availability of tour dates, call Preservation Williamsport at 323-8080.