Experience history around every corner with a visit to the beautiful Fort Hunter Mansion. This 18th century mansion, located in Harrisburg PA, was once the home of Revolutionary War officer Archibald McAllister. Situated on the banks of the Susquehanna River, this stunning mansion holds a great deal of history and charm. Visitors can now explore and learn more about life in the 18th and 19th centuries at the mansion and the surrounding Fort Hunter Park.
History of Fort Hunter Mansion
Situated high atop the bluffs of the Susquehanna River, the historic Fort Hunter mansion boasts a rich history dating back to the French and Indian War. Built in three sections, the mansion was erected by Archibald McAllister, an officer who served under General George Washington in the Continental Army.
The grand front house, made from locally quarried stones, was constructed in 1814, and the middle “cabin” section, dating back to 1786, was the first of McAllister’s homes. In 1870, the next owner, Daniel Dick Boas, added a two-story, timber-frame wooden in the rear. The mansion features a stunning entrance hall with an elliptical staircase and furnishings belonging to the Reily family, creating a vivid portrait of 19th-century life.
The mansion also houses a variety of interesting artifacts and displays. Be sure to ask to look in the closets, if the docent tour guide doesn’t offer it! Representatives from the Trustees of Fort Hunter will provide visitors with a guided tour of the estate and share the many stories of its past. I found this particular house tour to be one of the most engaging I’ve been on, a testament to the rich history of the families who lived in the mansion, as well as the many personal belongings still in the mansion.
The McAllisters Enslaved People
Between 1786 and the early 1830s, the McAllisters enslaved more than 20 men, women and children. In fact, the McAllisters were one of the largest enslavers in the region. Although not much more than names of those the family enslaved remain, a slave cemetery has been discovered on land previously part of the estate.
Signage at the mansion tells the story of one elderly enslaved woman, Sall Craig, who fled the estate in 1828 when she was about 60 years old. Despite having worked for the McAllisters since she was a little girl, the McAllisters were experiencing financial reversals and callously planned to sell her. The sales advertisement described her as “strong and active of her age…an excellent washer, baker and cook.” Nothing more is known of Sall Craig’s story, so perhaps she was able to find refuge among the small communities of free Black people that had formed in Harrisburg and Halifax.
The claims of supernatural occurrences at Fort Hunter Mansion are scant and have not been verified. Nevertheless, some have seen lights flickering and reported strange noises coming from the mansion. Sightings of mysterious figures and portraits inexplicably moving have also been reported.
Perhaps most poignantly, some modern-day children have claimed to see a child in old fashioned clothes while touring the mansion. Many believe this child spirit is the ghost of a young girl that once lived in the Fort Hunter Mansion.
Know Before You Go
Call ahead to schedule a tour of the mansion. Plan on spending about 1 hour touring the mansion. At the park, there are other historic buildings, including a tavern, a gorgeous late 1800s barn and a covered bridge. There is plenty of parking both within the park and near the mansion.
Getting there: 5300 N. Front St, Harrisburg PA
Hours: Tours are offered May 1 through December 23 each year, Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Sunday noon – 4:30 p.m., closed on Mondays.
Website: Mansion and Park
For other fun things to do in the Harrisburg region, check out the articles below: