Alden Villa, also known as Millwood, is a historic Gilded Age three-story mansion spanning 11,223 square feet in Cornwall.

Its official address is 1012 Alden Way, Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

It was built in 1881 as a wedding present, and its property originally included 520 acres of land. The building was designed in the Queen Anne and Shingle architectural styles by prominent American architect Stanford White, and it was one of his early designs and his only work in Pennsylvania.

The structure has survived with most of its original configuration intact, including the intricate interior woodwork, casework, trim work, fixtures and hardware.

Historic interior photos, from top left clockwise: Master bedroom with fireplace; partial view of the main staircase; view into the staircase hall and Drawing Room from the Great Hall, and the Great Hall facing the wall of windows at the front entrance. (National Register of Historic Places, taken ca. 2011).

The library room was added on the northeast section in 1910.

Alden Villa is one of 31 properties in Lebanon County currently on the National Register of Historic Places. It was added on April 20, 2011, because of its historic architectural significance.

The mansion offers a glimpse into the lifestyle of a wealthy 19th-century Pennsylvanian aristocratic family. 

After years of sitting idle and suffering from deterioration, vandalism and a real threat of meeting the wrecking ball the mansion is currently undergoing a bold restoration project that will likely offer it a bright and useful future. 

The ultimate wedding present: A summer mansion

Far from the typical wedding presents that usually include cutting boards, kitchen ware, personalized wine glasses, custom marble coasters and maybe even a honeymoon cruise – the Alden Villa mansion was surely an extravagant gift.

The mansion was gifted by Anne Coleman Alden (a member of Lebanon County’s legendary Coleman family dynasty) to her son Robert Percy Alden and his wife Mary Ida Warren. The couple used the mansion as a summer home.

The last family member to own the mansion was John “Jack” Percy Coleman Alden, who died on Dec. 24, 1948.

The first floor drawing room in Alden Villa. Restoration of the building is currently ongoing.
The entrance to the stairway on the first floor in Alden Villa.

Additional historic uses

In 1949, Alden Villa and its 520 acres was purchased for $88,000 ($1,097,441 in 2022 dollars) by the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union of America (ACWA). The building and property was repurposed and opened in 1955 as an education center and vacation resort for the area’s 18,000 union shirt workers.

During the union’s ownership the Alden Villa mansion was left mostly intact, as only its kitchen was upgraded and some new bathrooms were installed. The estate was known then as Union Center and the Alden Villa mansion as Millwood.

Read More: Union Center: How a 520-acre Coleman estate was converted into a “worker’s paradise” for 20,000 union members

Due to declining union membership and other financial concerns, the ACWA offered the Alden Villa estate for sale in the early 1980s. Plans by several church groups to purchase the property and reportedly repurpose it into nursing home facility did not materialize.

In 2009, plans by the Millwood Foundation to turn the Alden Villa mansion into a museum featuring Coleman family artifacts also did not materialize. In a June 14, 2009, Lebanon Daily News article a representative of the Cornwall Borough stated, “Museums and tours are not single-family dwelling uses. The conversion or use of the mansion as a museum and tourist destination is a violation of the zoning ordinance.”

In the early 2000s, a large part of the estate was developed into the housing community of Alden Place. The Alden Villa mansion now sits on a lot that has been reduced to 5.439 acres. 

The Alden Villa mansion seen from the north side, prior to any restoration work. (WikiMedia, taken ca. 2014)

Interesting mix of historic architectural styling

The Alden Villa mansion was designed using features from the Queen Anne and Shingle architectural styles with a definite English Tudor style influence as well. The Tudor style was popular in the United States from the mid-1800s to 1940, and is technically a revival of Medieval and post-Medieval English domestic architecture dating from 1600 to 1700.

Queen Anne architecture style used elaborate shapes and textures to produce the most picturesque of the late 19th-/early 20th-century domestic architectural styles. It was characterized by a variety of forms, textures, colors and materials, usually executed in wood framing and was also irregular in plan.

Restoration photos, from top-left clockwise: Fresh paint on exterior wall; new brick pillars; restored weather vane on east side gable roof; and the restored weather vane on west side dome roof. (Harvey Turner)

Distinctive features of Queen Ann-style houses that were built in the United States included asymmetrical massing, a dominant front-facing gable, overhanging eaves, patterned wood shingles shaped into varying designs, classical columns, spindle wood work, towers and dormers.

The style emerged during the Victorian era (the period of English Queen Victoria’s reign, from June 20, 1837, to Jan. 22, 1901). It was introduced to the American public during the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, and became widely publicized with the use of various illustrations in major news media sources. It quickly became fashionable with American architects and reached its peak of popularity in the United States in the 1880s and 1890s.

The Shingle architectural style was popular in the U.S. from around 1880 to 1900. It was influenced by a combination of the English Tudor styling and Colonial American architecture. Shingle style typically featured large wood framed horizontal structures that blended into their natural surroundings. Two of the notable architectural firms who helped popularize the style were McKim, Mead and White (New York, New York) and Peabody and Stearns (Boston, Massachusetts) who were commissioned by wealthy clients with hefty budgets to design many large-scale “seaside cottages.” 

The impressive interior floor design

The first floor rooms include a back hall, dining room, pantry, drawing room, great hall, kitchen, butler’s pantry, large library, porte cochere/staircase hall, side entry and study. Second floor rooms include a master bedroom and changing room, study, second floor hall and two smaller bedrooms. Third floor rooms include a hallway, closet, loft, men’s restroom, women’s restroom, and four bedrooms.

A small stairway leads to a lofted room and the attic space. The basement includes a coal room, electrical room, furnace room, hallway, laundry room, hall closet, four storage rooms, and a billiards room which includes a powder room and closet.

A bold multi-year restoration project

In 2021, Lancaster native Harvey J. Turner IV purchased the Alden Villa property with intensions of restoring it to as close to its original condition as possible.

“The home deserves an owner who will bring it back to life,” ” Turner said. “I believe I am the man for the job.”

Restoration of Alden Villa is currently in process. Here, the exterior west side of the mansion can be seen.

Initial restoration efforts starting in 2021 were planned to protect the building from the elements and ensure its structural integrity.

One of the first things that had to be addressed was repairs to the roof, which was partially collapsed and leaking in several areas. The pillars that hold up the second-floor extension over the east entrance had to be completely rebuilt due to deterioration of the original materials. Vandals damaged several doors, windows, the orchestra gallery’s wood panels in the ballroom, and a prized mirror over the fireplace.

All of these items have since been repaired or replaced.

Work on preserving and restoring the mansion’s 23 scarce stained glass windows (most of their panels are clear, but many are various shades of blue, green, orange, red, and yellow) has also begun. So far, there has been considerable progress toward the structure’s restoration; however, there is an undetermined amount of work to be done which could take several more years to complete. 

The future use of the Alden Villa mansion depends on various factors including the amount of money invested on its restoration, business forecasting, and local code regulations.

Epilogue: Architect Stanford White and his tragic fate

Stanford White (Nov. 9, 1853 – June 25, 1906) was an American architect noted for progressive design principals associated to the American Renaissance (a period of American architecture and the arts, popular from 1876 to 1917, that was influenced by a renewed national self-confidence).

He learned architecture as an apprentice, and had no formal training in the field. He began an apprenticeship at the age of 18 under Henry Hobson Richardson, one of the most preeminent architects of his time who was known for his personal style (often called “Richardsonian Romanesque”).

White spent a year and a half touring Europe where he learned historical architectural styles and trends. In 1879, he formed the renowned architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White in New York City.

In 1884, White married Bessie Springs Smith, daughter of J. Lawrence Smith (the socially prominent American lawyer, politician, and judge from New York). They lived in a lavish New York City estate named Box Hill, which White used as a model for prospective clients.

Throughout his career White was known for designing many civic, institutional, religious and large imposing houses for wealthy clients.

In 1901, White began assisting 11-year-old Evelyn Nesbit, with her mother’s approval, acquiring modeling jobs for New York society artists and photographers. When Evelyn was 16 she testified that White raped her in his apartment after she passed out from drinking champagne laced with drugs that he served her.

For the next six months Evelyn acted as White’s lover and companion. She then left him and married Harry Kendall Thaw, a Pittsburgh millionaire with a history of severe mental problems. Thaw became intensely jealous of White and considered him a rival.

On June 25, 1906, during the premiere of Mam’zelle Champagne in Madison Square Garden, Thaw walked up to White and yelled, “You’ve ruined my wife.” Thaw then shot White twice in the face and once in his upper left shoulder, instantly killing him.

White’s body of work was so creative and influential that it guided the development of later distinctly American architecture.

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Randy Jaye is an historian and Lebanon, PA native. He has recently researched and nominated four properties that have been successfully added onto the National Register of Historic Places. He is the author of three recent history books, and writes articles for historical journals, local newspapers, magazines,...