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Lafayette Hall

At 512 State Street, Lafayette Hall was constructed by Harry Cook around 1870. Cook, described as "the typical representative character of the element, a world to itself, that made the Eighth Ward of Harrisburg . . . notorious throughout the State," had ambitious plans for his structure.

A restaurant was constructed in the basement and a barroom was installed on the ground floor. The barroom was "more elaborate with its massive marble bar and other ornate adornments than anything in the State outside of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh." On the second floor, Cook planned a "free-and-easy dance hall," and the stable was to be a "dream of art superior in construction to a majority of the dwelling houses of that day."

Although his enterprises were meant as sure money makers, Cook found his plans disapproved by local officials wanting to clean up Harrisburg after "the demoralization of Camp Curtin days," and Cook's liquor license was revoked. Cook died not long after, and his funeral was attended by many "women of the underworld and Harrisburg's leading gamblers." Along the funeral route, many of the Old 8th's residents lined the streets, for Cook was known to have "given lavishly to the poor and needy."

After Cook's death, his widow traded Lafayette Hall to Kahnweiler for several rental properties. The lavish property was never profitable, and it stood empty for many years while local residents thought it haunted. (See Cook's Grave)

State Street Rescue Mission

After several years, John W. Brown opened a rescue mission in the old Lafayette Hall building as a home for the "unfortunate and erring." The stable was used as a wood house where kindling was prepared for sale by the mission's charges. Much of the hall's original grandeur was left intact to stand as a warning to the mission's residents.

Paxtang Electric Company

In 1903, the Paxtang Electric Company began using the old Lafayette Hall building as a supply station.

 

(Summarized from an article written by J. Howard Wert for the Harrisburg Patriot newspaper on January 13-20, 1913, and reprinted in Harrisburg's Old Eighth Ward, edited by Michael Barton and Jessica Dorman, (Charleston: Arcadia, 2002), 46-52.)


 

 


 

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