Time travel to the Heblick mansion!
What a ride! Pottsville’s 317 South Centre Street is the southern twin of those two majestic red brick mansion houses across from Union Station perched high on the hill. As I drove by I watched Nicholas Heblick and his wife Rosina walk down from their splendid home. “The trolley will soon be here,” I heard him say loudly. I realized that I was transported back to the Victorian Age as trolley transportation started in Pottsville in 1890. Moustached Heblick was a lawyer in his early 40s whose family immigrated to the United States in 1852. His father had been a distiller in the Kingdom of Bavaria before becoming an anthracite coal miner in Schuylkill County. The family settled in a patch called “Bushy Tract” near Middleport. An atrocious murder happened there in 1889, but that’s another story for another day. Nicholas, a graduate of the Middleport schools, was fortunate and bright enough to attend Millersville State Normal School. He had a liking for the law and became close friends with the Oliver Bechtel family. Bechtel had been a county judge since 1877; he was preceptor for Nicholas before his election, assisting Nicholas in his career. The two remained friends for life. The friendship was so close that Nicholas named his only son, Oliver, after his preceptor; the families would live side by side with Bechtel residing in the northern twin mansion house, currently known as the Partridge House.
Both homes had such Victorian charm. Driving by it was hard for me to figure out the ages of these elegant homes. Time travel adds to the confusion. The assessment records indicate that the Bechtel northern house to have been completed about 1840 and the Heblich southern house around 1860, although to me both look as if they were built simultaneously. Nevertheless, both mansion houses are old and exhibit great Gothic revival design. The Bechtel home appeared to be somewhat larger. From a distance I admired the fine workmanship of the craftsmen and builders. The builder of the Bechtel property was Daniel Lindenmuth, and I believe he must have built the Heblick house, but I can’t confirm that fact. Remember this is a blog and not a treatise! If you have more info, then let the Society know.
On my return trip south on Centre I again approached the 317 Heblick home. There was no trolley on the street, just electric vehicles without human drivers. I now realized that I had been transported ahead to the year 2042! I looked at the house; the roof of the building was missing. Bricks, lumber, broken glass, and trash were strewn on the steep bank.
I heard two men on the sidewalk speaking to one another. The tall bulkier man, casually dressed in a Superbowl LXV sweatshirt, said, “Years ago a fortune was spent on Union Station but look at this eyesore across the street…Now I hear that a federal grant will help clean-up the neighborhood. Thank you President Lebron.”
The shorter man responded, “The idea was for Union Station to promote tourism. The house caught fire in 2017and the decay slowly spread around. No one cares about these architectural gems. It’s on a hill and that requires one to actually look up. No one looks up anymore. People all have their eyes locked downward upon their cellphones. You are looking at your phone now! I hear that when the demolition’s done, the city will place a 3D holographic image of the building so as to give tourists an illusion of what was once there.”
The heavier man retorted, now lowering his phone, “That home was too bourgeois for me. We have an image here to protect. We are the coal region and we relish soot and dirt. It could have been converted into a halfway home, but no one wants to walk anymore…look at these steps! I’d never make it to the top. I say level the whole block and plant trees. The place next door once had a beau-ti-ful pink magnolia tree that blossomed every May. If you want to see old homes, the County Historical Society has a great collection.”