LEWISTOWN - A stroll along the tree-lined sidewalks of Lewistown's North Main Street reveals a number of well-preserved brick structures, like the building at 24 North Main, current home of Clear Concepts Counseling. Merchant Joseph McFadden moved into the new two-story dwelling house on the lot in 1875. Over its 135 year history, the McFadden House has been occupied by prominent local merchants, businessmen and law offices.
The property was included in the first plan of lots for Lewistown. It was part of lot numbers 122 and 123 of that 1792 survey done by Samuel Edmiston, James Potter and Samuel Montgomery. Robert Forsythe, an early settler and very successful Lewistown merchant, acquired this and other tracts of land in Mifflin County.
Sentinel photo by BUFFIE BOYER
The McFadden House on North Main Street has housed businesses and merchants since it was built in 1975.
In 1824, a carpenter named Christian Hoffman bought the property. He was one of the builders of the first Lutheran Church in Lewistown and died in 1836. His son Frederick J. Hoffman (1816-1880) owned the site by 1842.
He built the brick house next door at 22 North Main in 1856 as his family residence. (In later years, it was owned by Dr. J.R.W. Hunter and served as his medical office.) Frederick was a retail merchant who sold groceries and hardware, plus operated a drugstore, at the corner of the Square on East Market Street now occupied by Wilson's Gifts and Jewelry.
The property changed hands in 1861, bought from Hoffmans by George
Frysinger (1811-1901), editor of the Lewistown Gazette. The newspaper office was located on the other side of the site at 26 and 28 North Main. A frame house was located on the site by this time and the Frysingers lived there for a period of time until it was sold to Mrs. Louisa Carothers in 1867.
By 1874, Mrs. Carothers removed the Frysinger frame house and began construction of a new brick house completed in 1875. The property was transferred to Mrs. Carothers' daughter, Frances McFadden, by a deed dated April 26, 1876. A two-story frame addition was added sometime prior to 1904 and a full pediment porch or portico with ionic columns graced the portion facing the street.
The McFadden House
Joseph McFadden (1833-1892) was the youngest of three children born to John McFadden of Derry Township and wife Sarah. Both parents were dead by the time Joseph was 15 years old. He lived with his older sisters Mary and Sarah McFadden according to the Census of 1850, and was listed as a "clerk" in tax and census records. He was a Civil War veteran, serving as a hospital steward, Co. F, 205th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.
He married Frances Maria Carothers (1834-1911) in January 1855. The McFaddens had three children, Flora, Howard and Charles. Two of these lived at the "new brick" house at 24 North Main until they left Lewistown in later life.
Over the years, upgrades to the McFadden House were noted in the newspapers. An individual's home improvements aren't necessarily newsworthy today, but a hundred years ago, it was news.
The house was connected to the sanitary sewer system in 1901, reported the Lewistown Gazette in its March 28 edition. The year 1908 was noteworthy for 24 N. Main, appearing in the news numerous times.
In April: "The McFadden House on North Main street, which has been brightened with paint and paper inside during the past two weeks, is now being painted outside"
In June: "A new sidewalk has been laid in front of the McFadden property on North Main street"
"A new brick pavement has been laid in front of the McFadden property on North Main street, and that portion of Dr. Hunter's pavement adjoining graded to avoid an objectionable rise between the two pavements at that point"
In a notice appearing in the Lewistown Gazette dated March 2, 1870, Joseph McFadden and brother-in-law A. J. Atkinson joined in a business partnership at the former F.J. Hoffman shop. The men purchased the entire stock of his business located in what was then the McClay building, later known as the Selheimer building, which today is Wilson's Gifts and Jewelry. They continued here for about a year before moving to the corner of East Market and North Main, known as the Hamaker building, although now it's the parking lot of the Juniata Valley Bank.
A news item in the same newspaper edition explained, "The new firm which took hold of the establishment of F.J. Hoffman are already showing, by attention to business, and general enterprise, that they intend to make things move in trade. Being both accommodating gentlemen, no less than experienced salesmen, the old customers find the change agreeable, while new purchasers are made to feel at home."
The enterprise did sell a wide variety of goods. A Gazette advertisement touted McFadden & Atkinson's range of merchandise, including: coal oil, patent medicines, prescriptions and prepared medicines, teas of all kinds, coffee, Sunday School books, Bibles, paper and stationary, pure cider vinegar, tobacco and "segars", tinware, cedarware (churns, tubs, buckets, butter bowls, ladles, etc.), and brushes of all kinds, from tooth brushes to brooms.
By 1876, Atkinson left the partnership and McFadden continued as sole proprietor. Atkinson opened a drug store under the name Dr. A. J. Atkinson, while McFadden continued at their former location. The McFadden business, Central Grocery, was also referred to as simply "The Central" and was known by that name in advertising as late as 1891.
Central Grocery had it all. Canned goods, like tomatoes, corn, peas, beans, peaches, salmon, mackerel, crabs and sardines show up in McFadden's ads in the Gazette, too. Dried fruits of all kinds, plus fresh fruits like Florida oranges and lemons were among the "Bargains for ALL at the Central." A line of china termed "Queenware" was also advertised, with "Chamber Sets a Specialty." In those days before indoor plumbing, a chamber set might include a washbowl and pitcher, soap dish and toothbrush cup, a chamber pot with lid, and a waste jar with lid.
Joseph McFadden died suddenly at 24 North Main on July 22, 1892. His widow Frances lived there until her death in November 1911. Both are buried in the McFadden-Lind family plot in St. Mark's Cemetery, Lewistown. The couple died without benefit of a will, and their children inherited the house and lot. The children's ownership continued until the death of their son, Dr. Charles J. McFadden in 1913.
The Frysinger family next door purchased the property from the McFadden estate in 1914 for $4,500. Actually Mrs. Frysinger was the owner of record according to Mifflin County deeds filed at the courthouse. The Lewistown Gazette in January 7, 1915 noted, "what is known as the McFadden property, on North Main street, is being wired for electricity and fitted complete with a modern heating plant and will be shortly for rent. For terms inquire next door, No. 26, N. Main"
Within three years, in 1918, Elizabeth Frysinger sold 24 N. Main to Victoria L. Renalds for $5,000. She and husband, William T. Renalds came to Lewistown from Cumberland, Md., in 1902. He was employed as a window dresser for E. E. McMeen & Co. on Market Street and co-owned and managed a dry goods store at 137 East Market for about 15 years under the name Flisher & Renalds. In later years, Renalds served as a buyer for B.W. Kauffman & Sons furniture store in Lewistown.
The partnership purchased the stock of John M. Starr, then the proprietor of a well established business known as the "Iron Front" store. A photo of the store with the sign Flisher and Renalds was published in 1909 in a booklet promoting Lewistown as "The Gem of the Juniata Valley."
During Renalds' tenure with McMeen's department store, his window displays made news, once in 1904, when his rendering of a famous bridge grabbed headlines. Lewistown Free Press, December 21, 1904: "It is well worth your time to inspect the structure resembling the Brooklyn Bridge. This piece of architecture is to be found in the large store of McMeen on Market Street. It was constructed by able display and advertising manager, W.T. Renalds. Many complements are heard upon Mr. Renalds' work as a decorator"
Mrs. Renalds died of an apparent heart attack at 24 N. Main in 1937. William found his wife alone, collapsed on the second floor. She was 58. Interesting commentary appeared in an article on her funeral in the Lewistown Sentinel, Friday, November 12, 1937:
"Burial was in William Lind Memorial Cemetery. That choice for the grave of Mrs. Renalds was made by her husband in recognition of the open hospitality manifested by Northern people toward two typical Southern persons, Mr. and Mrs. Renalds, during their 35-year pleasant sojourn in Lewistown, after coming from the South, thus removing from their minds all thoughts that there might be a lingering feeling of hostility between residents of two parts of the nation, once at war against each other"
Mr. Renalds lived on as a widower at 24 N. Main until 1939 when he sold to members of the McMeen family.
A. Ralph McMeen took ownership of 24 N. Main in January 1939. He owned the property for approximately twelve and a half years, although he did not reside there. The McMeen family home, purchased in 1921, was known locally as "Ridgewood", a large stone house located west of Bratton Avenue at the end of Woods Lane. From 1939 to 1951, 24 N. Main saw a number of tenants, including: Elmer and Josephine McMeen, Harold W. and Irene Houck, and Fred B. and Jane McMeen Fiigon. McMeen and Fiigon were buyers for E.E. McMeen & Co.
In 1951, Harold Houck bought the property from McMeen and maintained it as his family residence and law office. He served as Mifflin County district attorney and died unexpectedly in 1973 at age 65. He was in the law firm of Houck, Barron & Zimmerman, which included his brother Albert, David McNitt Barron and Lester H. Zimmerman, Jr. The law office remained at this location from the 1950s through the 1970s. His widow, Irene Rabinowitz Houck, returned to 24 N. Main from Reedsville after Harold's death until her own passing in 2001.
In August 2001, Irene's heirs sold 24 N. Main to David W. and Lentha W. Barron. In 2007, the property, which houses Clear Concepts Counseling, received a design grant as part of the facade renovation to this early brick residence. Downtown Lewistown, Inc. supported the project, through the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development grant program. At that time, Clear Concepts owner Lentha Barron noted, "The building was badly in need of a faceliftIt looks fantastic now"
The McFadden House has been a feature on N. Main since 1875, with a chain of ownership with connections to Lewistown's business and legal community. The building has been maintained faithfully over the generations and remains a noted presence in the community today.