A House Is Not A Home

The Mystery on Bushkill Hill - Part I

The William Castle-directed cheesefest  The House on Haunted Hill (1959) stars Vincent Price (who was always better than the material he chose) and the decidedly creepy titular abode, the façade of which was actually the historic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Ennis House in the Las Feliz section of Los Angeles.

Easton has a similar house on a hill, but to me, it’s more sad than scary, and as it turns out, it has a bit of history itself.

Mt Jefferson, which was originally known as Bushkill Hill is one of , and is located at the top of North 5th Street behind the Easton Library.  The name was changed as a tribute to Thomas Jefferson upon his election as President.

It’s also arguably one of Easton’s prime pieces of real estate.  Although impeded somewhat by trees & foliage, it has views of Route 22, and most of Easton itself.  Sitting in disrepair at the bottom of that piece of property is the subject of our mystery.

To be continued...

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Pamela Porter July 22, 2011 at 10:27 AM
Bob: Thank you for your comments. I work in NJ and was unable to attend the auction (I would have like to have done so). I was afraid it would not attract any bidders, but from what I've seen personally (which is confirmed by your observations as a potential investor) I seriously doubt anyone will buy the place with an eye towards restoration. At best, they'll tear it down and build something else, but with the incline and vegetation and all the cistern/holes/wells, etc., it would be a challege, to be sure. When you think of it, that makes the existence of that huge house even more impressive...imagine hauling that quantity of building materials up there with horses and carts, which must have been the case back then. The view up there over Route 22 is spectacular. Thanks very much for reading and commenting Pamela
Pam July 22, 2011 at 02:49 PM
Hi, I looked at the auction website last night to see if it sold, and it said high bid was $93,000 so I assumed someone bought it. If you were there & no one bid--maybe the high bidder changed their mind! I'm also surprised the city wouldn't be interested, if only for the land.
Pamela Porter July 22, 2011 at 02:52 PM
That's a possibility, Pam - especially with the land being adjacent to the library. I just wonder, though about (a) liability - you'd have to fence in all along the perimeter because that's one heck of a drop from up there!, (b) parking/traffic if it were to be turned into a park of some sort, and (c) all those underground issues - cisterns, wells, old basements, etc. A strange piece of property to be sure.
Jared July 22, 2011 at 05:39 PM
I was at the auction yesterday, and it sold for 93k to a real estate agent. I got her number, and from her zip code, it looks like she's NYC based. I'll let y'all know if I learn anything of her plans...
Pamela Porter July 22, 2011 at 05:49 PM
Jared - thank you very much for the update...and thanks for reading here. Pamela
Bob Steinert July 24, 2011 at 03:17 AM
Glad to hear it sold. The auction web didn't show any bids. Surprized it went for that much. It had been listed several months ago for $84K and Iassume they would have taken less.
Emilie Coppola July 31, 2011 at 01:09 AM
It was re-listed on the MLS site... did the sale not go through?
Pamela Porter July 31, 2011 at 01:47 AM
Hmm. I'm not sure, Emilie! Zillow shows it has an erratic listing history: 2.2.11 - listed for sale by auction company 3.26.11 - listing removed 5.5.11 - listed by realtor 5.13;11 - price reduced 6.17.11 - listing removed by realtor 6.17.11 - listed by auction company 7.22.11 - listing removed by auction company 7.22.11 - listed by realtor (again!) Curiouser and curiouser!
Emilie Coppola July 31, 2011 at 01:50 AM
Yea, that is what I was looking at as well. If you do a little digging through Google, the auction site has been running the property through auction since April of 2010... It seems it just will not sell... It makes me wonder why...
Pamela Porter July 31, 2011 at 02:14 AM
Well, from what I've seen, and what others have reported - it's basically a tear-down. The location is amazing, but I just don't know what could be done with it. I'm going to call the auction company (will try tomorrow, but being a Sunday...dunno) and see what's up. Thanks too, Emilie, for reading the blog. I appreciate it.
Pam July 31, 2011 at 05:52 PM
Hi all, I also noticed it is still on the mls, but assumed that they would not pull it off until an agmt was finalized. The listing date is still 5/4/11, so it's the same listing.
Pam November 09, 2011 at 04:19 AM
Hi, just a follow up on this house--it apparently sold a few weeks ago for $68,250. I believe it is the realtor referenced above who bought it. I saw it in the property transfers listed in the newspaper. I can't wait to see what is done with it--I'm still hoping for a restoration! And maybe part 2!
Pamela Porter November 09, 2011 at 01:49 PM
Pam: Thanks! I have just been really remiss in posting Part II. It sits in my out box; I need to send it to my far more knowledgeable friends for a once-over. I will make it a goal to have it up this month. Thanks for reading - and being patient! Pamela
garutna March 17, 2012 at 05:55 AM
Interestingly, I stumbled across this site on another Easton matter. I can indeed shed some light on poor Mount Jefferson. My grandmother, Mabel Simmons Steckel lived in that house. Her son, Henry Franklin Steckel II was my father. He grew up there as well. His father, Daniel Edwin Steckel died when my dad was just a boy, so I never got to meet him. He, Daniel, was a lawyer like his father Henry Franklin Steckel (who was also a member of the Pennsylvania State Legislature). Our family goes back quite a long way in Pa. history. We are descended from the Daniel Steckel that built the home in Bath that is now 'The Steckel House' b&b built in 1804. That Daniel lived to be 101 years old and lived through the Revolutionary as well as the Civil wars. He's buried in the cemetery in Bath. We, my sister Elisabeth Ingham Steckel Armstrong and brother Henry Franklin Steckel III have many wonderful memories of the house on Mt. Jefferson. It was a wonderful, comfortable home with the best of everything available at the time. When my grandmother became too old to stay there alone, my father was forced to make other living arrangements for her and we eventually had to sell the property. My great grandfather, Henry Franklin did live in the upper main house that was lost in a fire long before I was born in 1952. The structure at the NE corner of the property was originally the carriage house that was converted into a garage when the auto took over. (continued)
garutna March 17, 2012 at 05:57 AM
There is much more I could say about my childhood memories of the place. All were pleasant. It was a lovely home and it breaks my heart to see it in such a state. All things pass. Best, William Bradford Steckel, Calgary Alberta Canada. 3.16.12
Betsy Armstrong March 17, 2012 at 02:51 PM
I am Brad's sister, Betsy Steckel Armstrong, and am amazed by all these posts about Mt. Jefferson. I have so many wonderful memories of being with my grandmother, Mabel (Marnie) Steckel and her sister Marion Simmons Newell, who lived with my grandmother until the late sixties when they became too old to continue living there. It was a charming, gracious home filled with many stunning antiques - a lovely property. I spent many weekends there and my family celebrated all the holidays at Mt. Jeff. It is so very sad to see it literally rotting away. The house was built for my grandfather and grandmother when they married, I believe in 1908. I think that Bob Steinert has is right. The house was most likely a Gate House that was re-built for my grandparents as a wedding present. My understanding is that the Big House on top of the hill which my great-grandfather built was torn down and did not burn down. My grandfather's sister, Jennie Steckel, lived there until she died but I'm not sure when that was. When my grandmother left, the property was sold to Rock Construction Company which planned to build an apartment building or maybe condos on the summit. My understanding is that the sight would have been too difficult for such an ambitious project. The company then sold the property. I live in California and last saw Mt. Jefferson about 7 years ago. It broke my heart to see what has happened to that lovely place.
garutna March 17, 2012 at 04:52 PM
This rather long url below has a picture of my great grandfather's "big house" on top of Mt. Jefferson. Whether torn or burned down, it's gone! I have a great picture of Henry I in a carriage in front of that house too. Best, Brad Steckel, Calgary http://digital.lib.lehigh.edu/cdm4/beyond_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/bs&CISOPTR=7659&DMSCALE=6.25&DMWIDTH=500&DMHEIGHT=500&DMMODE=viewer&DMTEXT=&REC=1&DMTHUMB=1&DMROTATE=0&ptr=7896&searchworks=cat30items
garutna March 17, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Oh, and I never saw, heard or even considered the possibility of any haunting in the old place. It was too happy a house. So those so inclined can relax on that issue. ;) Cheers, Brad Steckel
Walt March 17, 2012 at 08:09 PM
I am close friends with Ms. Porter. She asked me to post on her behalf She is very grateful for the families responses to her article. She is having some computer issues at the moment and will respond when those issues have been solved.
Betsy Armstrong March 18, 2012 at 06:18 PM
According to realtor.com, the property sold last October for $68,000. I'm very curious what the new owners plan to do. I hope they will restore rather than tear down.
Pam March 18, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Hi I was at the Easton Library yesterday & noticed that there are signs of renovations in progress :-) A tarp was over the roof and there were rotted boards outside leaning against the stone porch. I too am hopeful that the new owner has a rehab planned.
Pam March 19, 2012 at 02:32 AM
Also thanks to Brad & Betsy for sharing a bit about your family and your home with us! You can tell this was a beautiful home in it's day, and we'll hopefully be able to see it restored.
Pamela Porter March 19, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Betsy & Brad: Thank you so very much for taking the time to read & comment on the blog post - I'm honored you are here! Would it be possible to speak to both of you - either by phone or email - so I can write my (long overdue) follow up piece? I have some additional questions I'd love to ask you. If you would be interested, please email me at pamelabporter@yahoo.com I *can* say I have spoken to the new owner of the property who told me she has every intention of renovating it. She also said that we should take everything we think is wrong with the property and multiply it by about 100. There are over 70 individual leaks in the roof, and that's just the start. Thank you again - *so* much for participating here! Pamela Porter
Betsy Armstrong March 19, 2012 at 06:42 PM
This is a test to see if my account has finally been activated.
Betsy Armstrong March 19, 2012 at 06:43 PM
And it has. Yay.
Pamela Porter March 19, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Betsy: Double "yay"! I am so looking forward to putting everything you've sent me into my next blog posting - I've already started working on it!
DOCurmudgeon March 20, 2012 at 02:21 AM
Please do keep it going, Pamela. It hurts me every time I leave the library. So happy to see a tarp and now can we have real hope? I'd love to have a closer look, but the "keep out" signs do keep me out.
Betsy Armstrong March 21, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Oh, boy, here's a long shot.....Does anyone know of an Ed Shaneberger who purchased the property in 1994? He was written up in the E. Express (11/30/94) and in the article he said he had a photo album of my father's that said Henry F. Steckel, Sept. 1, 1924, on the front. I would love to know if he still has that album. According to the article, which my mother had saved, he would be about 50 today and in 1994 he was an "independent audio and video producer." Maybe he's still in Easton and all you sleuths might have some ideas about tracking him down!
Pamela Porter March 26, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Watch this space - updates to "The Mystery On Bushkill Hill" will be published later this week!
Tammy Brunstetter January 29, 2014 at 04:18 PM
Betsy Armstrong the Ed Shaneberger you are talking about belongs to a group on facebook called you know you're from easton, he talked about the property there hope it helps.


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