The John Harris-Simon Cameron mansion is one of Harrisburg's most intriguing buildings.
What do you get when you combine an over-the-top bathroom, a secret closet filled with forbidden liquor, and a monstrous mirror that's a bit too big for its britches? It's one of the most unusual historic homes in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and a hotbed for political history.
The John Harris-Simon Cameron Mansion was built in 1766 by John Harris Junior. Harris was the son of the first European immigrant to the area and the family made their fortune in trade and industry. Harris was determined that his family have a substantial home that reflected their prestige and chose the location for both its prominence and its practical position above the flood line of the adjacent river.
For nearly a century the mansion was filled with influential families but none could compare to Simon Cameron. A trusted adviser to Abraham Lincoln and a prominent leader in his own right, Cameron's style, personality, and political career would leave a lasting mark on the Harris mansion.
It might be a bit of a stretch to call Cameron a scoundrel but not by much. He was a man who clearly enjoyed the perks of his political appointments, including international postings, and spent much of his time in Russia, England, Italy, Germany, and France on a shopping spree.
Shipping costs clearly weren't on his mind when he purchased two enormous 14 foot mirrors in France, the monstrous proportions of which required some major renovations back the mansion. So if you find antiques and home decor items irresistible when you're on the road, take heart. It's unlikely your purchases will require you to lower the floors of your house, as Cameron had to!
Cameron hoped that his opulent home would impress his political colleagues and his spending and renovations knew nearly no bounds. I was a big fan of the grandiose bathroom and the library, which book lovers will fall in love with. Be sure to check out the tucked away liquor cabinet, which may have contained forbidden drinks! I'm not sure if Cameron's associates felt suitably awed and intimidated but I was surely impressed!
Harrisburg is a city that oozes history from every brick and beam and the stately manor homes and mansions lining its most prestigious streets reflect that. If you only have a chance to visit one historic home in the area, make it the Harris-Cameron mansion. You really get a true sense of the area's history and one visit will make you want to come back for more.
Share your travel memories with us! What's the coolest historic home you've visited?
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Our visit to Harrisburg was facilitated in part by the local tourism board and we thank them for their support.