The Rowley House represents great historical value as is evidenced
by the story of Edwin A. Rowley’s life and the extent to
which the house has escaped the passage and ravages of time.
Designed and built in 1888 by renowned architect Eber Culver
it was prominently located along West Fourth Street among the
homes of millionaire lumber barons and entrepreneurs.
At the time, 18 of Williamsport’s 19,000 citizens were
millionaires and more millionaires resided along West Fourth Street
than on any other street in the world. This was at a time when
Williamsport was known as the Lumber Capital of the World.
The 13-bedroom residence was noted as one of the most architecturally
significant houses at the time. It is known today as one of the
few remaining Queen Anne Victorian mansions containing original
elements of grandeur. Examples of this are the very rare electrolier
newel post lights and the large electrolier in the east parlor,
both with original Russian cut glass globes. The only other examples
of these globes known are in the Corning Glass Museum in Corning,
The original lighting in the home is rare electric lighting that
is not often seen elsewhere. As president of the Edison Electric
Illuminating Company he had these high quality fixtures installed
in his home. As an owner of the Backus Manufacturing Co., he equipped
each fireplace in his home with modern gas logs, which are still
found in the east parlor and library fireplaces.
The house has many fine Tiffany-quality stained glass windows
that represent all of the glass maker’s art, such as, stained
glass, jewel faceted, etched, beveled, hand painted and fired
glass, etc. The dining room has an ornate oak sideboard made in
Williamsport that contains a magnificent stained glass window
facing west to capture the late day sun. Rowley’s initials
are etched in a beveled crest found in the largest window in the
house facing east to catch the morning light.
Rowley used many indigenous woods lumbered locally in the construction
of his home. His woodworking company showcased their skill and
expertise at machine and hand carving as is seen in the beautiful
woodwork found throughout the house.
At the time the house was built, the Gazette and Bulletin noted
the residence had the finest plaster moldings and ceiling medallions
in the city.
Also noted were the expensive English Minton Tiles (in each fireplace
and the vestibule) imported from Stoke-on-Trent, England. (Stoke-on-Trent
is one of 6 small towns in an area known as ‘the Potteries”
famous for its fine china, notably Royal Doulton and Wedgewood.)
The tiles depict Renaissance Revival figures and contemporary
heroes, such as Ulysses S. Grant. (During restoration work it
was found that each tile was signed by its crafter.)
The article mentioned conveniences such as gas and electric lighting,
water closets, dumbwaiters, and speaking tubes. The floor plan
includes an enormous ball room on the third floor, a library,
double parlors, a sewing room, a baking room, a butler’s
pantry, a carriage house, carriage keeper’s quarters, etc.
This home is a unique survivor where circumstances save the house
like a time capsule. This happened because after the two original
owners, the home spent the duration of its existence as the convent
for the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The nuns kept
the house in pristine original condition. The speaking tubes,
dumbwaiter, original lights, domestic help quarters, carriage
keeper’s quarters etc. shed light on life at the time and
give us an accurate glimpse of how affluent society lived. Elements
such as the sewing room, baking room, laundry, etc. give us a
stark contrast as to how the hired help managed a home such as
this in a time when the industrial age gave people many employment
opportunities and domestic help was hard to find and harder to
This home can continue to yield information about this era through
research and study. There are many areas of study such as the
original sponge painting that exists in a closet off the dining
room or the heating system conversions over the years as this
house was originally heated with steam piped in through underground
wooden pipes from a steam company owned by another well known
entrepreneur, Peter Herdic.
The house is incredibly intact and is situated in a certified
Historic District. It is a magnificent time capsule that cannot
be reproduced and stands as a tribute to Williamsport’s
opulent 19th century history
Tour information and reservations are made by contacting the
Preservation of Williamsport Foundation, Inc.
960 West Third Street
Williamsport, PA 17701
Phone: (570)323-8080 or 323-2144