Lemon House and Coal Mine
Historic Structures Report (Part I—Historical Data)
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The early 1850's experienced the decline and demise of the railway that founded Samuel Lemon's fortune. New and more economical routes were located and the so-called Old Portage gave way to the New Portage which, by 1853, eliminated a number of the expensive inclined planes. But 1853 was fatal for the Portage route, even with all its modifications. The "iron horse" of the Pennsylvania Railroad, that very year, pushed through its Mountain Division from Altoona to Johnstown by punching a tunnel through the summit. The state spent over two million dollars to improve the Portage Railroad -- the effort was doomed.

The public clamored for the disposal of the wasteful piece of property. In 1857 it got its wish. That year the Portage Railroad and the entire canal system was sold at public auction for 7-1/2 million dollars.

Samuel Lemon was no longer located as well as he had been. His front door no longer opened on to the "main line." He no doubt continued to sell his coal but he was getting older and his entrepreneurial spirit was waning. The assessment on his land decreased in 1856 to a fifth of what it had been ten years earlier. Thereafter it stabilized and the description and value was carried over from year to year. [36]

It was probably during the first few years after the sale of the Allegheny Portage Railroad that Lemon retired to nearby Hollidaysburg to pass his remaining days. At the age of 72 he died February 25, 1867. [37]

Upon his death the estate transferred to his family. Thereafter, the Lemon House became a summer cottage for the family and friends. [38]

Samuel Lemon's son, John, was noteworthy in his own right. A longtime resident of Hollidaysburg he rose in political circles of that town. His constituents, who affectionately called him "Uncle John," elected him State Senator from the Cambria-Blair district. Eventually he became Auditor-General of the Commonwealth. His older brother, Samuel H., Jr., resided in Philadelphia and, following his father's trade, became a noted railroad contractor. [39]

About the turn of the century, the Lemon property was sold to J. C. Weston who operated it as a farm and may have been responsible for constructing the barn which lies immediately east of the Lemon House. His son, J. Clyde Weston of Bruceton, Pennsylvania, inherited the farm in 1912. [40] Early in the 1950's Byron Roberts purchased the property and undertook many efforts to preserve the Lemon Mansion besides modernizing a section of the house for use as living quarters. Mr. Roberts recently passed away and his widow sold the property to the Federal government.

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Last Updated: 03-Nov-2009