The keystone of Williamsport 's historic
district and Millionaires Row is this building known originally
as the Herdic House Hotel.
Commissioned by lumber baron Peter Herdic,
the historic hotel was built by Eber Culver, the architect who
designed most of Peter Herdic's and the City of Williamsport's
historic buildings. Herdic hoped to capitalize on the business
from the newly constructed Pennsylvania Railroad Depot at the
rear of the hotel and at the same time stimulate growth in this
section of town, of which he had substantial land holdings. He
would be successful on all accounts.
Construction of the hotel began during
the Civil War in 1864 and completed just after the close of the
war in 1865, the building officially opened in September of that
year. Completed at a cost believed to be $225,000, though no one
knows the actual cost since Herdic asked Culver not to submit
an estimate, for fear the cost might prevent him from actually
building it. The completed project was a four story hotel built
in the Italianate style and capable of housing 700 guests.
Situated in the middle of a five-acre park
filled with oak trees and flowers, the hotel had a deer park fronting
it, containing no less than six deer and a large decorative fountain.
Materials obtained locally were utilized throughout, such as the
necessary lumber and marble from Mosquito Valley , which is evident
in the First Floor Hall and North Lobby. The Hotel contained every
convenience for guests such as a telegraph office, barbershop,
cigar and newsstands and several first class restaurants. Herdic
also built a streetcar line to connect the hotel with downtown
The Hotel got off to a shaky start when
a gas works built especially to light the hotel burned to the
ground only hours before the official grand opening. This sent
Herdic and his staff scurrying through Williamsport to buy every
oil lamp and candle they could find. Despite this, the opening
was a success and the Hotel quickly flourished and gained a reputation
as one of the finest hotels on the East coast. Unable to survive
the financial panic that hit the United States in 1878, Herdic
filed for bankruptcy and the Herdic House Hotel was sold at auction
It was purchased by Mr. R. J. C. Walker,
the son in law of Herdics' largest creditor William Weightman
and the husband of the woman who would be rumored to be the wealthiest
woman in America , Anne Weightman Walker. The Walkers renamed
the building the Park Hotel, and performed extensive renovations
to the building and grounds while continuing Herdic's tradition
of making the Hotel the center of social activity in Williamsport.
As the local economy and train travel thrived,
Williamsport became a popular place for conventions and the Hotel
a favorite place for visitors and vacationers. In 1889, the building
was rented from Mrs. Walker's estate by Col. Charles Duffy. The
Park Hotel remained a successful establishment and in 1930 was
purchased by William Budd Stuart.
In 1937, Mr. Stuart began the process of
converting the building from a hotel to a retirement home for
elderly women as a memorial to his mother, Laura Van Ness Stuart,
and established a foundation in her name to operate and maintain
the building. During this time, as a result of the state building
code that prevented retirement homes from being over three stories,
the Third and Fourth Floors of the Park Hotel were removed. This
was done while still maintaining the buildings' original roof
line and architectural features such as the massive Italianate
roof brackets. Mr. Stuart opened the Park Home for elderly ladies
In 1993 the Park Home Board determined
that the Park Home needed to be modernized and the best way to
accomplish this was to demolish the building and replace it with
a new facility. While opinions were varied, the overwhelming attitude
within the city's preservation community was that the integrity
of the historic district was in jeopardy should this be allowed.
It was during this time of legal battles to 'demolish vs preserve'
the building that Dr. Randall Hipple dubbed the building 'The
Flagship of the Historic District'. This battle went all the way
to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and set the standard for preservation
in Pennsylvania .
Unable to obtain the necessary approvals
from City officials and Historical preservationists, the Board
of Directors of the Park Home decided to vacate the building,
relocate the remaining tenants, and put the building up for sale.
The building faced an uncertain future and was eventually placed
on the state's list of top 10 endangered historic structures by
the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
In July of 2000, three local businessmen,
former congressman Allen E. Ertel, businessman William Brown and
local preservation architect Anthony H. Visco, Jr., purchased
the Park Home and began extensive renovations and selected restoration
to the now, newly named, Park Place. All three men located their
businesses in Park Place .
Due to the passing of time, several owners
and various renovations, much of the Hotels' original interior
had changed. Ornamental plaster such as cornices, moldings, ceiling
medallions and original light fixtures disappeared. Interior elements
were largely depleted, but items such as a few room fireplaces,
the black and white marble tile in the first floor main lobby
and main hallway, the main lobby monumental stair, the interior
lobby columns, and the early Twentieth century matching cornice
and center medallion tin ceiling located in the south dining room,
Significant exterior architectural elements
that remained were the massive outside wall lanterns located at
the north, east, south and west entrances, porch columns, and
the Italianate roof and window brackets. Park Place is now primarily
professional office space, maintaining some of the building's
historic grandeur while the infrastructure has been updated and
restructured to accommodate modern office requirements.
So that while care has been taken towards
preservation, using period paint colors, furnishings and fixtures,
the remodeling has also been progressive and practical by updating
for computers and the internet, new heating, air conditioning,
plumbing, electrical, and security systems. Several businesses
located in the building have used period furnishings in order
to maintain the historic ambiance. Wall finishes, painted borders
and antique collectibles are evidence of pride in the building's
At present, all three floors are occupied.
There are eight businesses and two apartments located within Park
Place . With the addition of a small catering kitchen and public
restrooms, the building and grounds are in high demand for weddings,
receptions, anniversaries, showers, parties, proms, cultural events
Entering the 21 st century the Herdic House
Hotel is, once again, active with people doing business and enjoying
social events within its grand walls.
Preservation Awards: 2001 - Williamsport
Historic Architectural Review Board awarded Park Place the HARB
Achievement Award for Historic Preservation.
May of 2005 - Preservation Pennsylvania,
in partnership with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission,
awarded Park Place the 2005 Pennsylvania Historic Preservation
Award for the Herdic House Hotel restoration.