Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Visiting Lancaster's Conestoga House and Gardens


Garden lovers still have time before the summer season ends to visit the Conestoga House and Gardens located at 1608 Marietta Avenue in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Once home to James Hale Steinman and his wife Louise McClure Tinsley, the gardens of the plush, 20-acre property are open to the public through September.

The couple purchased the land, including the original house and several outbuildings, in 1927. Philadelphia architects Mellor, Meigs and Howe were commissioned to design extensive additions and modifications, creating what has been described as an outstanding example of Colonial Revival architecture. The work was completed in 1929, and the Conestoga House itself has remained essentially unchanged since then.
Mr. and Mrs. Steinman
The Lord of the Manor
Col. James Hale Steinman was a Yale graduate, a practicing attorney, a WWI veteran and an entrepreneur, with a keen interest in radio and television. By the 1930s, he and his brother owned nine AM stations in eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware and in 1949, the brothers founded WGAL-TV as one of the first VHF television station in the country. At the peak of their interest, the Steinman brothers owned six stations.

Steinman could be described as a "media mogel" in his neck of the woods and developed an interest in print, as well, serving as President and co-publisher of Lancaster Newspapers, Inc., which today is known as LNP Media Group, Inc.

After Colonial Steinman’s death, the house and grounds were incorporated as part of the James Hale Steinman Conestoga House Foundation.

The Lady
Louise McClure Tinsley Steinman was born in Nashville, Tennessee to a direct descendant of Charlemagne. Her interests included showing saddle horses, traveling, antiques and, of course, flowers.

A civic-minded individual, Mrs. Steinman served on numerous boards and in 1974 created the Louise Steinman von Hess Foundation to preserve historically significant buildings in Lancaster County. One of her first endeavors was to restore Columbia's Wright's Ferry Mansion to its original state.
She also helped establish the Louise von Hess Foundation for Medical Education to provide continuing education for Lancaster area physicians.

Ms. Steinman passed away on November 12, 1980, nearly 18 years after her James Hale Steinman's death.

The Parties

Louise and James became known for their bridge parties, tennis matches and other outdoor entertainment in the gardens. The couple hosted international celebrities and high-ranking business and government officials and invitations were highly prized. Said one social columnist in 1946, “Everyone who visits the James Hale Steinmans in Lancaster hints like mad for a return invitation. The reason one casts the amenities to the wind and resorts to such out-and-out measures is the combination of beauty, comfort and fun that Conestoga House offers to every one of its continuous stream of weekend visitors.”


The Grounds
Today guests can stroll the grounds and imagine what it was like to snag a coveted invitation to the place where the rich and famous frolicked at what was then known as one of the largest residences in Lancaster County.

160 rose bushes representing 20 varieties of roses can be seen on the grounds. 
The current horticultural collection includes 3,300 annuals, a collection of bonsai, 400 tropical plants, 160 varieties of perennials and more than 20 types of roses. A selection of topiary, flowering Urns, and window boxes add a bit of a European flair, providing additional visual interest.
Passion Flower


outside garden room

sitting area
Sitting area outside at Conestoga House and Gardens

One of the first in-ground pools installed in Lancaster County

The pool "complex," with its 60-foot swimming pool, bathhouse and dance floor is used today by various civic groups for picnics and special events. Nearby, guests can relax in a shady sitting area built atop a lime kiln in view of a collection of tropical plants.

One of the newest installations includes a water garden featuring hardy lilies, aquatic plants and thriving koi.
Water Lilly 

Tours are self-guided for groups of 15 or less. Groups of more than 15 can make arrangements for a guide by calling in advance. Gardens are open from mid-June through September. Directions and hours can be found on the website at https://conestogahouse.com