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Olmsted Manor Adult Retreat-Renewal Center (George Welsh Olmsted Estate)
George Welsh Olmsted was born in nearby Ridgway and was the son of the first Elk County sawmill owner. He came to Ludlow to work in a general store, and ultimately bought the tannery here. He married and raised two children in Ludlow. After electrifying his tannery, Olmsted began investing in electric companies and later served as the first president of the Long Island Lighting Company. This house is a testimony to his savvy investments.
He commissioned New York City architect Albert Bodker, who reluctantly agreed to spend a year in the small town of Ludlow, to build this steeply roofed and multigabled Tudor Revival house. It features a stone first story, half-timbering above, and leaded casement windows. The comfortable interior has oak paneling, a cork-floored game room, and two small bowling lanes on the third floor. Bodker must have adjusted to life in the northern woods of Pennsylvania, because the following year, he designed a house at 500 W. 3rd Avenue in Warren ( WA5).
The hillside site was sculpted by landscape architect Alling Stephen DeForest (1875–1957), who worked in the Brookline offices of the Olmsted Brothers (no relation to George Olmsted) for three years before opening his own practice in Rochester. He designed gardens for George Eastman in Rochester and Harvey Firestone in Akron. DeForest began designing the Olmsted gardens as early as 1912, and he maintained a friendship with the Olmsteds for twenty-eight years. The grounds included terraced flower gardens and cascading fountains. Seven gates for the 325-acre property were crafted by metal craftsman Samuel Yellin. DeForest also designed nearby Wildcat Park east of Ludlow on U.S. 6, beginning in 1922. Olmsted donated a gate and gatehouse to the park in 1929.
Mrs. Olmsted remained at the house until 1960. In 1969, the estate was transferred to the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church for use as an adult retreat and renewal center. In 1976, Groves Lodge, a three-story hotel and dining area, was added. The church built Hickman Hall, a director's residence, and restored the gardens in 1979. An annex was added in 1997 to provide three stories of rooms accessible to wheelchairs. None of the additions has directly affected the estate house itself, as each is located along the hillside to the south.
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