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Mount Saint Macrina Retreat Center (Josiah V. Thompson House, “Oak Hill”)

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Josiah V. Thompson House, “Oak Hill”
1903–1904, Ernest Woodyatt. 500 W. Main St. (U.S. 40)

Josiah Thompson commissioned Daniel H. Burnham to design his bank building in downtown Uniontown ( FA3) and a mansion for his second wife, “Hunnie” Hawes. Burnham sent drawings for a Chicago residence by his deceased partner Charles Atwood, calling them in a July 1903 letter to Thompson, “the most exquisite ever made since a hundred and fifty years ago.” Thompson rejected them, and Burnham, already overcommitted, suggested that he hire his nephew-in-law, fellow Chicagoan Ernest Woodyatt, to design a new mansion. The lavish Flemish bond, red brick house in a Classical Revival mode has an overscaled, semicircular, Ionic-columned portico facing south toward a wooded hillside and the National Road. A porte-cochere at the rear welcomes guests from the driveway. Stone quoins, splayed lintels, cornices, and balustrades define all the elevations; viewed from any side, each could be mistaken for the facade. The interior was designed to encourage circulation for the many social events hosted by the couple. The main rooms open off a large T-shaped hall furnished with oversized pieces and Tiffany floor lamps and light fixtures. Most of the original mahogany woodwork survives, but the wall coverings and fabrics have been replaced.

In 1915, after his 1913 divorce, Thompson's bank failed, and by 1917, he was bankrupt. He sold his holdings to Andrew Mellon's Piedmont Coal Company, which hired him as a salesman and allowed him to continue to live in the house. For the final two years of his life, the Sisters of St. Basil, a Byzantine Rite Greek Catholic order, owned the house and also consented to him living there. Today, they use the estate as a retreat center, nursing home, and school. At one time, the grounds of Oak Hill encompassed two thousand acres, and included a power plant, pumping station, racetrack, swimming pool, greenhouse, and stables, the last of these connected to the main house by a tunnel. Today, the order owns approximately one hundred acres. Also on the grounds and west of Oak Hill is the former Fox Hill (c. 1904), a smaller Colonial Revival brick house built for the Howell family and purchased for Andrew Thompson, Josiah's son. Its architect is unknown.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Lu Donnelly et al.
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Citation

Lu Donnelly et al., "Mount Saint Macrina Retreat Center (Josiah V. Thompson House, “Oak Hill”)", [Uniontown, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/PA-01-FA7.

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of PA vol 1

Buildings of Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, Lu Donnelly, H. David Brumble IV, and Franklin Toker. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010, 241-241.

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