Location: Mellon Hall, Woodland Road. Built by George Laughlin in 1887, bought by A.W. Mellon in 1917 and a part of Chatham University since 1940
Featured guest: Molly Tighe, archivist and public service librarian at Chatham University
3 things that surprised me:
1. At one point, this house was one of the fanciest mansions in America. It included an intercom and elevator far before that was the norm. A.W. Mellon, who was once one of the richest men in the U.S., added an indoor swimming pool, a bowling alley and tennis courts. Mellon was also an early investor in ALCOA, so when he built a home office, he made it entirely out of aluminum, which was considered a much fancier material than it is today.
2. The wood paneling in parts of Mellon Hall was originally part of Hamilton Palace, a Scottish castle that dates back hundreds of years. In the early 20th century, coal mining under the Scottish estate threatened the castle’s foundation. The owners decided to sell its contents and demolish the building. The wood paneling was bought at Christie’s auction house in November 1919 and reconstructed in the mansion’s library.
3. A.W. Mellon and Nora McMullen (an heir to the Guinness beer fortune) were married in 1900 and had two children. They separated in 1909 and divorced in 1912. Due to their famous families, their relationship was well chronicled in tabloids of the day. Molly suggests that Mellon bought the expansive estate on Woodland Road as a sort of getaway.
One thing that didn’t make the final cut: Molly explained that when looking at original plans for the house she noticed that, in addition to a dining room for the family, the plans also include two separate dining rooms for the staff — one for the kitchen staff and one for the rest of the home’s staff. Molly wonders whether they were serving different food in these two dining rooms.
Additional info: You can learn more about the history of the university and its campus at the Chatham University website.