With its imposing Greek Revival columns, iron-master Elias Baker meant for his mansion in Altoona PA to serve as a statement of his power and prestige. And indeed it was. Elias built his home between 1844 and 1848 for his wife, Hetty, and his two sons and two daughters. Bakers lived in the mansion until 1914; in 1922, the Blair County Historical Society purchased it to serve as a local history museum.
For over a century, the Blair County Historical Society at Baker Mansion has conveyed regional history and the story of the Elias Baker Family. Settling in the area in 1836, the Bakers became a very affluent family thanks to their rising dominance in iron-making. Theirs is a story of ambition, perseverance, wealth, and power – all topics that retain great influence in modern society.
As you tour the mansion, it almost feels as if the family has just left for an afternoon outing. I was fascinated by the detail and color of the ceiling medallions.
Baker Mansion’s Ghosts Connection
When you tour the restored mansion, which retains a great number of original furnishings from the Bakers, you’ll learn the link to the hit series, Ghosts, and why there are two characters named Hetty and Elias on that show! It turns out that one of the show’s writers is from Altoona. The writer has hidden many Altoona-related “easter eggs” onto the show.
Baker Mansion’s Actual Ghost
There is a tragic story associated with Baker Mansion, which reportedly has ghosts of its own. Anna, Elias and Hetty’s eldest daughter, was in a relationship with a poor steel worker that Elias disapproved of. She purchased a wedding dress and planned to marry this young man, but Elias discovered their plans and forced Anna’s fiancé to move away from Altoona.
Anna locked herself in her room, refusing to socialize and turned down other marriage offers she received. She kept that wedding dress, even though she never had a chance to wear it. She died in 1914, the mansion’s longest resident.
Now, both visitors to the mansion and the tour guide volunteers have reported sightings of Anna’s sad ghost, who has appeared walking around in her wedding dress.
While we were there, in tribute to Anna and her tragic story, the museum had a display of 100 years of wedding dresses, all curated from donations of local Altoona residents. That was a fun exhibit!
Know Before You Go
There is parking on site at Baker Mansion. Be sure to check the website below for hours and tour times.
Getting there: 3419 Oak Ln, Altoona, PA
Hours: The tours are available seasonally. Check the website below for opening times.
Website: Blair Historical Society
Do you enjoy visiting house museums? Check out the house museums MidAtlantic Day Trips has visited.