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Russell Inn was center of action in downtown

First house, tavern and jail.

The Russell Inn was the place to be in early Williamsport.

James Russell was an Irishman by birth and came to America in 1774.

He died soon after completing his public house, leaving a young widow and six children, who kept the inn going for a short time. In 1804, Russell’s widow married Joseph Dumm, and they conducted the house for more than half a century.

It came to be known as the “Affie Dumm House,” born under the roof of the venerable inn, according to John F. Meginness, author of the 1892 “History of Lycoming County.”

In 1797, the building was host of the first public officials meeting, serving as the first courthouse in the frontier village laid out by Michael Ross.

That year, there were only three houses — all of them built by logs and lumber.

In 1798, the first brick house in Williamsport was erected on Front Street, between Market and Mulberry, by Andrew Tulloh, a lawyer. Bricks for it were made on the banks of Grafius Run, where that natural channel of water crossed Hepburn Street.

A vintage photograph of the inn in archives shows a poster on the front door which reads: “Fun, Mirth Music, Frank R. Buck’s Wheeler’s Throupe”

It was the first house in Williamsport, first tavern, and remained as a landmark until it was destroyed by the great fire of 1871.

It was first school as a one-room log addition was put to the building, which eventually became the first Lycoming County Courthouse.

Bill Nichols Jr., city finance director, said he has a love for all things traditional.

Nichols, who also serves as the general manager of River Valley Transit, the bus system and tourism agency, said he’d like to see part of the East Third Street/Old City Gateway honor Russell Inn and the heritage of the city.

Russell Inn and Heritage Park is the envisionment of Nichols and others working on the Gateway project.

Its design features a steel structure outline of the historic inn at its original site, the corner of East Third and Mulberry streets, a prime but vacant downtown parcel for years.

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