*** ONLINE AS OF AUGUST 5, 2011 ***
    



Lawrence County Home (Hill View Manor) - Shenango Twnp PA

In June 1925 the city of New Castle, Pennsylvania, started accepting bids to build the new Lawrence County Home for the Aged, essentially a “poor house” for the county’s mentally ill, severely destitute, and elderly residents with no known family. This joint city-county home, to be built in Shenango Township on the New Castle-Ellwood Road (Route 65), would replace the aging New Castle City Home and consolidate various smaller institutions around the county.

The New Castle City Home, a working farm and collection of buildings located on Old Pittsburg Road near the present day site of the Shenango Elementary School, had been around since opening in November 1867. The facility had been built on forty-four acres donated by Charles Philips of New Castle. Although there was initially a three-man board of “poor directors,” one of them, a man named Robert Reynolds, largely kept the home in operation with his own financing and tireless efforts behind the scenes. I believe Reynolds was the son of Robert Reynolds Sr., who was born in Boonsboro, Maryland, in 1776 and was one of the earliest settlers in New Castle when he settled in the area in 1805.

Over the next three decades the home usually maintained only two full-time staff members and housed about ten “inmates” (as they were called) at any given time. By 1900 the resident population (at its peak) had increased to twenty-seven inmates, but was down to eighteen in 1920. The institution was for New Castle residents only and was run by a superintendent, who was elected to a four-year term by the city commissioners. Assisting the superintendent was a similarly-elected “matron,” who personally oversaw all the female inmates. Perry D. Snyder and his wife Mary A. Snyder, first elected in March 1913, would serve in those respective posts for the next three decades.

The state-of-the-art County Home also included vocational rooms, a smoking room, several lounges, a bomb shelter, a laundry, a four-car garage, a large garden, a small working farm, and a cemetery. An excerpt from an article about the county home in New Castle News of October 23, 1925, explains that, “…aged people, without a friend in the world, will be able to spend their declining years in comfort.” Most of the inmates were wards of the county and “sentenced” to confinement at the home.

Construction was behind schedule but the facility finally opened on Tuesday, October 19, 1926. On that day the Snyder’s and their two children, about a dozen staff members, and the first twenty inmates left the old City Home and took up residence in the nearby Lawrence County Home. The new home did not generally take children, although a young boy was among the first twenty residents. Some of the work was still awaiting completion and the long driveway was still being paved. The old City Home was abandoned soon after and was later sold.
The new County Home worked in conjunction with several other facilities, including the Margaret Henry Home and the Almira Home. Orphaned and other similarly disadvantaged children were handled at the Margaret Henry Home, known as the Holy Family Home prior to 1921, on Cunningham Avenue in New Castle. The Almira Home on East Washington Street in New Castle was a haven for elderly woman. Under the Snyder’s long reign the number of inmates steadily grew but fluctuated over the years from seventy-two inmates in December 1928, to 176 in December 1934, and 136 in December 1939.

In June 1944 county welfare officials and the Snyder’s came under fire during a rather heated public hearing held at the county courthouse investigating claims of incompetency at the home. The Snyder’s were both in their late seventies and probably not suited to operate such a challenging facility. In the wake of the hearing the Snyder’s were basically retired with pensions, but allowed to stay on at the home with reduced roles. By late August, with Perry Snyder sick in bed and Mary tending to him on many days, the Snyder’s were given three weeks to vacate the premises. I believe their daughter Jeannette, who had lived at the home for many years, also passed away at about that same time. That vacate order ended the Snyder’s run of over thirty years of service to the local community. Mantz B. Hogue, the longtime director of the county’s welfare department, took over operation of the home.

The Lawrence County Home continued in operation for many years and in the latter half of the 1960’s, while under the supervision of Director Clarence E. Covert, was remodeled and morphed into a skilled nursing center. By 1970 the home was facing severe overcrowding issues and was housing an average of about 115 elderly people at any one time. Covert, who also dealt with criticism and complaints regarding alleged discrimination practices in regard to his admission policies, became bitter about a lack of county support and resigned in protest in January 1973.

In December 1974 the county decided to update and expand the home by adding a whole new section and remodeling some of the existing floors. The new three-story addition (with an additional basement floor), to be built off of the woman’s department, would allow the home to accommodate another thirty or so residents. A new kitchen and dining room and other occupational rooms were also included in the construction. The new “north wing” cost $1.7 million and opened in mid-1977. Meanwhile, after a contest to find a more suitable name for the antiquated-sounding Lawrence County Home for the Aged, it was renamed as the Hill View Manor on March 22, 1977.

Due to financial constraints the county shut down Hill View Manor in January of 2004. The building and its twenty-two acres went on the market for about $1.7 million and was bought by Triko Enterprises of McKees Rocks about a year later. The building sat vacant with an uncertain future and in July 2007 thieves broke in and stole approximately $150,000 worth of copper wiring and pipes. This further clouded the building future as replacing the wiring/pipes would prove costly. The site has become of particular concern to the Shenango Township Police as burglars, vandals, and teenaged thrill seekers often attempt to sneak into the abandoned building.

The old home has gained quite the notoriety for being touted as one of the most haunted locations in all of Western Pennsylvania. In 2008 local paranormalist Candy Braniff began leasing the facility and conducting “ghost tours” for the public. Braniff is more than just a ghost chaser as she has a genuine interest in preserving the facility and all its rich history. Many nationally renowned paranormalists have visited the location and have recorded some strange sights and sounds. Of particular interest is the third floor of the main administration building where the old hospital was located. Numerous people have died in the home and at least 100 were interred in the small cemetery located on the grounds. A handful of residents were known to have committed suicide, usually by jumping off the roof. Also known to haunt the halls are several colorful characters said to have died at the home including Jeffrey, a young boy who has a room full of toys, Mary Virginia, a elderly woman with a fondness for dolls and trinkets, and the slick Jimmy Snaps, who would charge a dollar to take your photo although his camera had no film.

The property is under constant surveillance by security cameras. Do not attempt to visit this location without permission as the police may arrive on hand soon after.



To read about a woman “disappointed” because she had to return to the old city home in 1898 click on: DISAPPOINTED ARTICLE. To read about a visit or inspection of the old city home in 1900 click on: VISIT ARTICLE. To learn more about a suicide at the old city home in 1902 click on: SUICIDE ARTICLE. To learn more Perry Snyder being elected Poor Warden in March 1913 click on: SNYDER NAMED POOR WARDEN ARTICLE. To read an article from 1917 about the cemetery at the home click on: LONE TOMBSTONE WILL RISE UP ARTICLE. To read about how the sick cows of the city home were slated to be euthanized in 1923 click on: SICK COWS ARTICLE. The following item is not about the city home but is somewhat related in a mental science kind of way. To read a rather amusing article about the folks of Pittsburgh going crazy in 1923 click on: PITTSBURGH GOING CRAZY ARTICLE. To learn about how a model of the new county home was on display at an expo in Philadelphia in 1926 click on: COUNTY HOME MODEL ARTICLE. The new county home was almost ready to open in the fall of 1926. To read more about it click on: NEARING COMPLETION ARTICLE. To read about how Perry Snyder would continue on as superintendent of the new county home click on: SNYDER STAYS ON ARTICLE. To learn about how the first twenty-eight residents have settled into the new county home in November 1926 click on: FIRST RESIDENTS ARTICLE.


A drawing of the proposed Lawrence Couny Home for the Aged from 1924. The woman’s wing is on the left and the men’s department is to the right.


An overhead view c2010 showing the “north wing” addition made to the facility in the mid 1970’s.


The center administrative section of the home. The third floor, where the hospital was located, is a hotbed of paranormal activity. (Aug 2010)


The left wing of the facility, which housed the woman’s department, is visible. The modern addition built in 1976 is located behind this wing. (Aug 2010)


Full Size(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


Full Size(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


Full Size(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


Renowned paranormal investigator Bruce Tango. (Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


Full Size(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


The second floor room of “Jeffrey,” a young boy who reportedly died at the home and haunts its halls. (Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


The room of Mary Virginia, an elderly woman who died at the home and is said to be very active in the spirit world. She was known to like trinkets and guests have left various items on her bed. (Oct 2012) Full Size


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


The infamous and creepy boiler room located down in the basement. (Oct 2012)


The boiler room. (Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


Full Size(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)


(Oct 2012)

---

Comment

  1. My mother worked on 1north when I was a child and use to take me to visit the people that lived there it was amazing to talk to these people and hear there story’s I can remember the 1lady that lived there was the weather man ray tanahills mothershe was so much fun always singing Xmas carols I would love to tourthebuildeing to bring back some of my childhood memoiris

    Shawn sanders · 06/10/2013 09:54 AM · #

  2. What a shame this building is empty. Could it be gutted and renewed and made use of? And all that property. How beautiful this site is off the New Castle Road. Although I have never been in the building and have never walked the property, I somehow have a warm feeling and even a longing every time I drive that way. It would be really nice to walk outside and inside the building.

    Nancy Laszlo Welsh · 06/24/2013 09:31 AM · #

  3. When my grandmother was put into hill view manor, I always went to visit her! She had passed away back in 2001! When hill view manor closed down I had found this website about hill view an at that time there was a picture of my grandmother on the main page! I hurried an called the number that was on that website an contacted candy Braniff! I explained to candy about my grandma living there for years! She then asked me if I remembered what room my grandmother was in, an I responded I sure do! I’ve visited my grandmas room an done evp an got responses! Nobody knew about my mother an grandmother having a nickname that they use to call each other which was magil! Between my brother an I our mouth had dropped when we heard on the evp…magil! We experienced alot of stuff every time we stayed the whole night! I believe there are spirits that never left hill view manor! That was their home an it still is!

    Tiffani camerot · 07/31/2013 05:27 PM · #

  4. I worked at Hill View for 12 years. A co-worker passed away suddenly, and we all missed her very much. One night, on the midnight shift, another house keeper and I were in the dining room n the 2nd floor. We heard someone at the vending machines, getting a soft drink. Turned to look, and it was Arleen, the nurse that had passed away. She raised her hand, waved & said “hi” and then just disapeared. Chris and I went back downstairs in a hurry! But-yes, the home has many, many spirits in it!

    Barbara Cooper · 10/23/2013 07:56 PM · #

  5. I remember coming with my mom to deliver an AVON order to one of her customers who worked there. This is before they closed it.

    Kimberly Dengler · 10/29/2013 12:01 AM · #

  6. I remember many of the people from the home as my mom worked in the laundry and my dad ran the farm there. I spent lots of time there as a kid as we lived right below the home. I remember some of the administraters such as Mayberrys and Jim Doyle was the maitenance man there.

    willis richeal · 10/06/2014 03:52 PM · #

  7. I worked at Hill View Manor for 15 years under Mr. Covert, Sister Carmen Puhl, and then a young man whose name I don’t recall. I retired and moved up by Chicago in 1983. My husband transferred with LTV STEEL in East Chicago. I never saw or heard anything and I worked 4-1230 and sometimes all night. I was the 4-12 charge nurse and got called all over the building. I was out to the cemetery many times. My brother-in laws mother is buried there as many other residents. The 3 commisonhers. MR Vitril Paul Tanner and John Meehen used to come out to check up on things. I loved it there. They were part of my family

    virginia reider · 04/18/2015 04:29 PM · #

  8. My great aunt lived there in the 1930’s I am trying to find out what happened to her if there are any records left or know if someone has those records it would be greatly appreciated

    tracey almond · 12/02/2015 03:11 PM · #

  9. Thanks for all your research! However, one correction is needed. The resident who charged to take pictures of people with his “ film-less” camera was Jimmy Marker not Sparks. He and my uncle were best friends and roommates at Hill View for several years.

    Susan M · 05/02/2016 07:51 PM · #

  10. I have a relative, Clarence Lumley, who was a long time resident and who is buried in Hill View Manor Cemetary. Could you please tell me how I can visit his grave. I believe he was abandoned by the family and I would greatly like to pay my respects. Thank you!

    Theresa Purcell · 05/14/2016 12:37 AM · #

  11. My great grandfather, Samuel Cutler, was the superintendent of the Lawrence County Home for four or five years in the late 1940s before becoming an alderman and justice of the peace in New Castle. He was also one of the founders of the little league in New Castle and coached Chuck Tanner! My aunt spent the first few years of her life living on the grounds of the Lawrence County Home and the family has fond memories of their time there:-)

    Molly King-Smith · 08/25/2016 08:26 PM · #

  12. Any idea where the orphanage records are at the present time?
    My grandmother (Florence Gaub born 1921) was an orphan and we believe she was there. She has 3 siblings > Robert, Virginia , and John. Her birth parents are Gordon Gaub (age 32 in 1921) and Anna Tanner (age 31 in 1921).
    Many thanks.
    Kristie

    Kristie Helfer · 04/18/2017 04:34 PM · #