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The abandoned Hood Mansion in Montgomery County is available for free, but must be moved

On a large site near the Philadelphia Premium Outlets in Limerick stands an abandoned brownstone mansion that was once a summer home for the family of a prosperous Irish immigrant.

Built in 1834, the house features 17 rooms and eight fireplaces in approximately 5,000 square feet. It was owned by John McClellan Hood, who came to the United States in 1799 and built his reputation with Hamilton and Hood, a wholesaler and wine merchant based in Philadelphia.

The 113-acre property near Route 422 will be redeveloped into a series of warehouses with a planned reservoir on the site of the mansion. Anyone who wants to save the graffiti-covered house can get it ‘for free’, but the catch is that it has to be uprooted and moved.

“We’ve received some quotes from about $700,000 to $1 million (to move it),” said Tyler Schumacher, president of the Eastern Pennsylvania Preservation Society. “Renovations would probably cost about $400,000. It’s not as bad as it looks. There’s a lot of vandalism, but structurally the building is very sound.”

Schumacher began fighting to save the property in 2017 and founded his nonprofit two years later. The mansion is located on Lightcap Road, near Possum Hollow and Sanatoga roads. The land, which has been heavily subdivided over the years, was once the proposed site of the project that would eventually become Valley Forge Casino and had also been part of the original plans for Philadelphia Premium Outlets.

“It’s a very prime piece of real estate,” Schumacher said.

The mansion has been abandoned since 2008 and has fallen into disrepair. Every window is broken. The door is wide open. The only reason it hasn’t been occupied by squatters may be its remoteness. But the “bones are rock hard,” Schumacher said, and it’s a testament to an inspiring family history.

❗️FREE FOR ANYONE WHO CAN MOVE HER❗️ The historic Hood Mansion, built in 1834 by John McClellan Hood in Limerick, PA, is…

Posted by Eastern Pennsylvania Preservation Society on Thursday, May 30, 2024

“They built the Hood Mansion as their summer home to escape yellow fever during the summer months in Philadelphia,” Schumacher said. “They had an incredible collection of antique furniture and books housed in the mansion that came out every summer.”

Hood and his wife Elizabeth had eleven children. One of their sons, Washington Hood, was a West Point graduate and captain in the Army Corps of Engineers. He was involved in drawing state lines in the Midwestern areas and worked with Robert E. Lee, who later became the commanding Confederate general during the Civil War.

“As fate would have it, he eventually died of yellow fever,” Schumacher said. “His parents had his body brought back to the Hood Mansion, and they had him buried and erected a monument in his honor.”

Members of the Hood family occupied the mansion as a summer home until the 1940s. It was then maintained by a series of caretakers who lived in the property until it was auctioned in the 1980s. A plan for a golf course never got off the ground. The new owners rented out the home until the property was purchased by Boyd Gaming – the owner of the Valley Forge casino – for approximately $17 million in the early 2000s.

Because the land is subdivided, tracing its recent history in Montgomery County property records reveals only a patchwork of information, including nominal transactions that hide its value. When real estate prices soared in 2020, Boyd Gaming sold the property to a Reading developer. That developer had considered subdividing the mansion and donating it to Limerick for restoration, but when an apartment project fell through, the property was resold to its current owner for the warehouse project.

At a hearing in September, the Eastern Pennsylvania Preservation Society attempted to delay the development timeline. The city asked the Brooklyn-based developer to grant the nonprofit access to the mansion. Schumacher and his team visited a few weeks ago and reasoned with the developer about a solution that would allow the house to be moved.

“Originally he said no,” Schumacher said. “Then he came back and said, ‘OK, if you can get someone to take it off the property, I don’t have to be involved. I don’t have to pay anything, they can have it.’ He didn’t give us an actual timeline. When I asked him directly, he said he wasn’t sure, but he wanted it done quickly.”

Estimates Schumacher received from contractors indicated that moving the house as it is now would take at least one to two months. Dismantling it for rebuilding elsewhere would be a more complicated and lengthy process.

Removing the mansion from the property seems to be the only option to save it. Although the house qualified for the National Register of Historic Places – which provides protection against development – ​​the Hood Mansion’s nomination did not pass. The current developer paid a company to complete the partially completed nomination, and Schumacher believes it was rejected because the case was based on the architectural significance of the house rather than the Hood family story. The house is also not protected by the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission.

“It’s just that so many of the interior elements have been so badly destroyed and missing that it is not as architecturally important now, in its current state, as it was when it was built,” Schumacher said.

The good news is that there is some interest from people who may be willing to move the mansion.

“We had a semi-serious party that would take the house apart and move it to Chadds Ford,” Schumacher said. “Unfortunately the prices were just too high and they couldn’t make it work.”

In addition to his role at the nonprofit conservation organization, Schumacher serves as site manager of the Linwood Estate, the sprawling Gilded Age mansion in Elkins Park that is headed for a major restoration project.

Schumacher keeps the hope alive that someone will step in to save the Hood family mansion from the wrecking ball before it’s too late.

“The lesson we’re trying to convey is that if more people had spoken up sooner, or if we had better preservation laws in this country, developers wouldn’t be able to buy these types of historic properties and just let them stand . We could do more. There is so little a historical society or conservation organization can do to stop this that it becomes almost impossible.”

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