Stop #17 on our Presidential Neighbors Tour brings us to 128 North School Lane, “Edenson”
Date built: 1896-1899 Style: Italian Revival / Beaux Arts / Chateauesque
This magnificent edifice is unique in many regards. Although its architectural styling is not traditional for Lancaster, it seems almost blasphemous to postulate that it doesn’t belong in School Lane Hills.
At the turn of the 20th century, wealthy citizens sought to create their homes outside of cities and establish residences away from the conditions of urban life with all of the industry, clamor, and dense population. Like President Buchanan’s Wheatland, many desired a place in the country where they could establish a domain under their own control. A string of prominent families found that this area west of Lancaster offered fertile soil to cultivate the achievement of these dreams. These “Presidential Neighbor” mansions all seemed to be one-upping each other and ostentatious opulence became the goal. Roslyn, Upland Lawn (see Stroll June 2023 issue), the Hedges, and this home -- Edenson -- each seemed to be clamoring for the attention of our 15th President who’d died decades before their construction.
In a way, these shows of wealth developed into a topography of celebrity and influence. Whatever family home was closer to Wheatland or more visible from its porches was striking a claim for influence, propriety, and stature. These fanciful homes predated the 1920s School Lane Hills Development Company and certainly set standards of massive lot size, imposing viewscapes, and epitomes of artful architecture among Lancaster homes at the time.
A later chapter in the era of local development was that of Woodlawn, with its high architectural stylings, although on a much more relatable scale. The business model of the original School Lane Hills turned out not to be sustainable and suffered slowdowns from the Great Depression and World War II. Speedier and more spendthrift construction replaced the grandeur of the erection of these early mansions.
Local architectural historian Gregg Scott offers his comments: “The Edenson Mansion, on North School Lane in Lancaster and designed by architect James H. Warner in 1899, represents his interpretation of the famous Marble House cottage in Newport, Rhode Island, and remains the only Italian Renaissance Revival/Beaux Arts mansion in Lancaster County.”
This house was built for the Davidson family, beginning in 1896 and fully completed in 1899. John Davidson was a Lancaster shoe manufacturer. The building's exterior is primarily a red sandstone. In addition to the monumental portico, evocative of the then-new “Marble House” in Rhode Island, Warner designed an octagonal cupola, topped with a copper roof and weathervane. A fire destroyed or damaged parts of the interior in 1927. However, much of the original interior woodwork survived. Generations of Davidson family members occupied the home. Last year, the property was placed into a revocable trust, along with the neighboring 144 North School Lane.