NEMACOLIN CASTLE

nemacolin-castle

NEMACOLIN CASTLE, ALSO KNOWN AS BOWMAN Castle and Nemacolin Towers, is located in historic Brownsville near the Monongahela River, thirty-six miles south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The castle was constructed in 1789 by Jacob Bowman, a pio- neer who migrated from Hagenstown, Maryland, settling in Brownsville in February of 1786. The site of the castle had once been occupied by Redstone Old Fort, also known as Fort Burd, built by Colonel James Burd for the British and visited by many Indian traders and hunters in its day. Previous to building the castle, Bowman had erected a log dwelling on the site, which Fayette County deeds show he purchased in the summer of 1788 at a cost of twenty-three pounds. This log dwelling was used as a trading post that Bowman called Nemacolin, after a famous Indian chief who had once lived on the property. The fort and the trading post existed for several years as an important stopping-off point for western immigration and trips down the Monongahela River. With many settlers waiting to travel west, the trading post soon became a thriving business, and it was eventually incorporated as a room in the castle during its construction.

The castle is built of brick, primarily on two floors with a three-story, octagonal tower to the left of the main entrance, and a square, third-story tower room at the rear of the building opposite the octagonal tower. The castle has twenty-two rooms, with battlements, balconies, bay windows, high-arched porches, and roofs varying in elevation and design. The battlemented, octagonal tower rises one story above the two-story principal building with windows located in alternate locations on its three floors. Four arched windows are on the upper tower floor, with rectangular windows on the floors below all having louvered shutters, as do numerous other windows throughout the castle. A small balcony on the tower’s second floor level has balustrades and a heavy rail- ing similar in design to the other balconies on this facade. Adjoining this tower is the centrally located main entrance, above which is an arcaded balcony that provides an excellent view of the valley and river for some distance. A series of battlements span the roof perimeter of this central portion of the castle that joins a two-story wing perpendicular to it. This wing is of higher elevation than the rest of the castle, except for the towers, and gives evidence of the 15- foot-high ceilings within some of its rooms. Like its lower, adjoining, two-story portion of the castle, the roof of this higher wing is pitched with a noticeable roof overhang surrounding it, not found elsewhere on the castle. The large bay window of this wing, to the right of the main entrance, is a projection of the first floor with a balcony occupying the roof space above this window. The square, third-story tower room on the rear of the lower building portions has a low-pitched, pyramidal roof with narrow, twin, arched windows Modern facilities added to the castle include on its walls.

Below this tower room extension, on the plumbing, electric lighting, refrigeration, and furnace second floor, is an oriel window with a tiny bal- heating facilities. Ornate gas lamps outside the cas- cony projecting to its immediate left from the ex- tie have electric lights, but still maintain their oldterior wall. High, latticed woodwork, designed in a time charm and character. The castle gardens have series of arches, rises to the roof extension of an open walks and several large shade trees whose great porch to the right of the rear tower room. The win- spreading branches add to the Old-World atmosphere dows of the castle are generally rectangular in their of the place. Other structures on the property include framing with a variation in dimensions. a greenhouse and stables. Within many of the castle’s spacious rooms are Bowman was an active person during his lifetime, glass chandeliers and a variety of fireplaces differing In 1794 he was commissary to government troops in design and materials. All brick and stone fireplaces during the Whiskey Rebellion, and in 1795 he was contrast to those of arched marble, and beautiful commissioned as a justice of the peace. Also in 1795 carved oak mantels supported by twin corbels and Bowman was appointed by President George Washcolonnette as in the sitting room. The library con- ington as Brownsville’s first postmaster, a position he tains an extensive collection numbering several thou- held for thirty-four years until 1829. Bowman sand books and magazines, some of which are first founded the Monongahela Bank in 1814, and was its editions that belonged to the Bowman family. president until 1843 when he retired. His other activiSeveral of the rooms contain fine, mahogany fur- ties included the building of machinery and construcniture that blends well with the rooms. Some imported tion of boats. furnishings include three grandfather clocks, each Some notable persons who visited Brownsville were eight feet in height, which were brought from General Lafayette, who was given an enthusiastic re- England, and two four-foot-high Carrara marble ception there in 181 1, and General Andrew Jackson, statues, one a replica of the Marble Faun, the other of who was also warmly received by the inhabitants in a Grecian figure, brought from Venice, Italy. Tapes- 1837. Bowman was very well known over all of westtries and other fine antiques are also found in the ern Pennsylvania as a community leader until his various rooms. death in 1847. In the high-ceilinged hallway a circular staircase The Nemacolin Castle remained in the Bowman leads to the second floor, which is occupied by several family for many years. The castle, now operated and spacious bedrooms, many with beautiful, large, Louis maintained by the Brownsville Historical Society, XV four-poster beds. Other items of interest in the exists today as a reminder of America’s early pioneer bedrooms are the heavy marble washstand, pitchers, days when many buckskin-clad settlers stopped there basins, and other toilet articles and other pieces of before heading to the dark, unknown West, fine furniture. Nemacolin Castle, built in 1789 by Jacob Bowman, is still standing in Brownsville, Pennsylvania. The castle has 22 rooms with towers, turrets, and battlements. Courtesy Brownsville Historical Society. Rear View of the castle displays an oriel window and square tower. Old-time lamps on the grounds are now fixed with electric lighting. Courtesy West Penn Power Company. Interior room of Nemacolin Castle displaying interesting fireplace and antiques. Courtesy West Penn Power Company.
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