Travelers crossing the Susquehanna River into Lewisburg immediately come upon an imposing structure, the Packwood House Museum. The building is one of the oldest and most historic structures in town, with its clapboard facing hiding the original log cabin structure. The Packwood House is an integral part of the rich history of Lewisburg and is truly “a Gem in the Susquehanna Valley.”
Packwood House Museum is among the oldest log-built structures of its kind in Pennsylvania, originally constructed as a two-story log cabin between 1796 and 1799.
- It initially served as a tavern and inn for river travelers along the Susquehanna.
- In the early 19th century, with the construction of the Pennsylvania Canal’s crosscut at Lewisburg, the tavern evolved into a hotel known as the American House.
- The hotel eventually expanded into an impressive three-story 27-room structure in the mid-19th century.
- In the 1860’s, with the arrival of the Pennsylvania Railroad to the downtown, interest in river travel faded and the hotel soon lost much of its business.
- The American House closed in the late 1880s, and the structure was converted into three townhouses.
Packwood House Museum founders Edith and John Fetherston lived in the old hotel building from 1936 through the 1960s and ’70s. Born in Lewisburg as Edith Kelly in 1885, Edith obtained both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Bucknell. It was while teaching in Baltimore in 1916-17 that she met and married John Fetherston, a prominent New York civil engineer. They lived in various places on the East Coast before returning to Lewisburg in 1936, purchasing the 27-room building as a retirement home. They decided to name their new home “Packwood” after a Fetherston family ancestral home in England.
Packwood House Museum
The Fetherstons had no children. John died in 1962, Edith died in 1972, and in accordance with their wills, a trust was established and Packwood House Museum opened to the public in 1976 as “a Public Museum for the educational benefits of all persons.”
Today, visitors see not only the historic building, but the Fetherstons’ treasures of glass, ceramics, textiles, furniture, paintings, Pennsylvania German decorative arts, and Oriental art. Edith’s 1930’s Oriental/Pennsylvania woodland garden also boasts the area’s only collection of century-old cryptomeria trees, also known as Japanese cedars.
It truly is a world-class museum in a small town.