Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Magnificent McHenry House Part 1: A City Arrives

A crowd gathered to greet one of the inaugural A & GW trains. Note the Depot in the background.   
As time progresses forward it becomes increasingly difficult to imagine the grand structures that once dominated the landscapes of our community. While a long list of such buildings could be compiled for Crawford County, few would compare to the magnitude and grandeur of the McHenry House and the adjoining depot of the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad in Meadville.

The McHenry House was a premier dining hall and hotel, named in honor of James McHenry, Esquire, the London financial agent sent in 1859 to ensure the successful construction of the Atlantic and Great Western (A & GW) Railroad. McHenry couldn’t have imagined the challenges that awaited him, but even so, he managed to secure needed resources, albeit controversially, despite labor shortages, political infighting, and the Civil War.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Famous Allegheny - Big Names from a Small School

Bentley Hall, Allegheny College

Nestled away at the top of the hill overlooking Meadville, Pennsylvania is Allegheny College which holds the title of 32nd oldest in the United States, having just celebrated it’s 200th birthday in 2015. The college came into being when Timothy Alden, a Harvard graduate, traveled to Meadville with hopes of founding an institution of higher education. He, along with other gentlemen of the town, took on the momentous effort of securing the school’s first trustees and petitioning the state for a charter for their institution. Alden would become the first president, as well as professor of Oriental Languages and Ecclesiastical History. The first freshman class was admitted on July 4, 1816, although at this point the college only really existed in name, as there was no set building for another four years.  Bentley Hall, the school’s oldest and most iconic building, was not built until 1820. By this time, a number of major contributions had been made to the school allowing the project to be possible, including a generous land grant by Samuel Lord Esq. (part of the original estate connected to the Baldwin-Reynolds House Museum). From these humble beginnings came a school that soon flourished and served to educate a number famous faces from the last two centuries.