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John Harris-Simon Cameron Mansion

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The history of the Mansion is one of change for both its ownership and architecture. The Mansion has undergone numerous additions and significant renovations since it was first constructed in 1766. It has had no fewer than eight owners before the Society first called it home in 1941. In 1976 the Mansion was designated a National Historic Landmark. The Historical Society of Dauphin County offer tours of the Mansion. You can also rent the Mansion for personal or business events.

The story of the Mansion begins in the early 1700's with the arrival of John Harris, Sr., the first European immigrant to this area. John, Sr. was an associate of the Penn family and he received a land grant as an inducement to come here. The Penns wanted Harris to establish good relations with the local Indians and to facilitate the settlement of the central and western portions of the Penn's colony.
Upon his arrival, Harris built a house and trading post on the bank of the river in the area where the large, arched railroad bridge is today. He was successful in establishing good relations with the local tribe. In a few years, as more settlers began to arrive, Harris started to operate a ferry service to aid travelers during times of high water levels in the river. This was the origin of the Harrisburg area as the crossroads of the state.
John Harris, Sr. continued to operate his businesses successfully until his death in 1748. He is buried across the street in the small, cast iron fenced area. Upon his father's death, John Harris, Jr. inherited his businesses and continued to operate them with success.

About 1766, after the end of the French and Indian War, John, Jr. decided that it was about time for his family to have a more substantial house than the one that his father had built. The old home's location by the river had meant that the family had to leave during the periodic flooding. From this experience, John, Jr. knew that the river had never reached the top of a certain rise of ground even during the worst floods. So he chose the current site and had the front section of the house built with locally quarried limestone.

John, Jr. lived until 1791 and upon his death the ownership of the house passed to his sons, first to David and then to Robert in 1805. Robert lived in the Mansion with his family until 1835 when he sold the house to a local attorney, Thomas Elder.

It was during this time period, in the early 1800's, that the rear wing was added to the house. No documentation is known to exist to tell whether it was added by Robert Harris or perhaps by Thomas Elder before he assumed residence. Prints and maps of Harrisburg made after 1840 show the house with the extension.

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Details and Specs

Hours of Operation:
Mon9:00 AM4:00 PM
Tue9:00 AM4:00 PM
Wed9:00 AM4:00 PM
Thr9:00 AM4:00 PM
Fri9:00 AM4:00 PM
Notes: None Listed


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