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Free Public Library (Gibson House)

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Gibson House
1856. 210 Liberty St.

Dr. William L. Gibson, a local entrepreneur in coal, lumber, and railroads, met Mark Twain on a trip abroad in 1867 and was later lampooned in his book Innocents Abroad (1870). Gibson, a civilian with a letter of recommendation from the Smithsonian Institution, signed aboard the ship Quaker City as the “Commissioner of the United States of America to Europe, Asia, and Africa.” Twain recommended that sending “a dignitary of that tonnage across the ocean … would be in better taste, and safer, to take him apart and cart him over in sections, in several ships.”

The two-story brick house from which Gibson traveled is a three-bay cube with deep bracketed eaves, and a cupola in the center of the roof. An elaborate frame and glass porch wraps around the east and north elevations. A very large, brick carriage house lies to the north. The legend that Twain visited the home is apparently untrue, but the Gibsons did travel twenty miles to hear him speak in Sharon in 1869, despite Twain's calling Gibson a “complacent imbecile.” To further secure his pompous reputation, Gibson built c. 1887 a sixty-five-foot high, $100,000 granite monument to honor himself and his wife, Susan, in Jamestown's Park Lawn Cemetery. The house later became the Mark Twain Manor, an inn, and then a restaurant. Today it houses Jamestown's Free Public Library.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Lu Donnelly et al.
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Citation

Lu Donnelly et al., "Free Public Library (Gibson House)", [Jamestown, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/PA-01-ME21.

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, 544-544.

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