The Cameron Estate started out as a 314-acre (1.27 km2) tract of land north of and adjoining the Donegal Presbyterian Church glebe (acreage set aside for the support of the church) in Lancaster County. The Cameron Estate was the summer home of the Cameron family and was affectionately referred to as "Donegal" . James Stephenson acquired the property in 1738 from the William Penn land grant and received a patent (deed) in 1749. The land passed to James' son Nathaniel. As Nathaniel died without issue, the property passed to Nathaniel Sister Hannah (Hannah Stevenson was the great-great grandmother of President McKinley). Ann Stephenson, Hannah’s sister, married into the Watson Family whose son David Watson, grandson of James Stephenson, was deeded the property in 1780. David Watson was a prominent patriot, and a justice of the Court of Common Pleas and his two grandsons, David C. and Nathaniel, became physicians with large practices in Donegal.
In 1872 Cameron bought the estate which contained the red-brick farmhouse built in 1805. Simon Cameron and his family transformed it into one of the most magnificent estates in Lancaster County. Behind a pair of ornamental iron gates  that once secured the Pennsylvania State Capital is what remains of the Cameron Estate (Donegal) located in rural western Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The massive entry gates to the estate once provided access to the state capital in Harrisburg and were moved to the estate by Simon Cameron. Two sets of gates were relocated to the estate; one positioned on Mansion Lane and the other on Colebrook Road near the intersection of Donegal Springs Road and Colebrook road. At present only the pair of gates on Mansion Lane has survived. The estate is currently a 15.25-acre (61,700 m2) tract of land south of Rheems and midway between Elizabethtown and Mount Joy, Pennsylvania (GPS coordinates 40° 6’ 11” North 76° 34’ 2” West). The estate was once the summer home of Simon Cameron, President Lincoln’s first secretary of war and four times a United States Senator and James Donald Cameron, President U. S. Grant’s Secretary of War. The drive through the gates meanders through the ancient towering trees to slowly reveal the impressive mansion which sits high on a knoll facing south in a park-like setting of great ancient natural beauty.
Dr. John Watson, son of David Watson, was deeded the property in 1785. Dr. John Watson owned and resided on the Cameron's "Donegal", then called the Stephenson (sometimes spelled Stevenson) farm at Donegal Springs. Dr. John Watson built the original part of the Cameron Estate farm house in 1805. At its time of construction, the "Mansion House" was the largest brick structure on the western frontier. The 1805 structure was a two story Federal style classic four-square with a dining wing thus forming an L-shaped structure. The front porch of the farm house faced south overlooking the Donegal Presbyterian Church and Donegal Spring. The house rests on a knoll rising from Donegal creek and surrounded by ancient poplars, oaks, black walnuts, hickory and maples.
Dr. Watson owned and occupied the farm until his death, which occurred on November 16, 1843 (buried at Donegal Presbyterian Graveyard, grave No. 43). His son, Dr. Nathaniel Watson, sold the farm to the Hon. Simon Cameron in 1872. Although Simon Cameron had already amassed several estates near Harrisburg prior to the Civil War, he set to work purchasing the old glebe farms surrounding the Donegal Presbyterian Church on which his grandfather and great-grandfather had worked. At its peak, the estate comprised 1,200 acres (4.9 km2) of fertile Lancaster County farm land. In addition to purchasing numerous farms surrounding the estate, Simon Cameron purchased the state fish hatchery housed on Hoover’s spring one of the group Donegal springs, for $2,000 on June 12, 1883. The purchase was for 1-acre (4,000 m2) of land, a wood framed hatchery building and the water rights to the Donegal Spring. The source of the water for the hatchery was from a spring in the basement of Michael Hoover’s house. To facilitate the building of the hatchery in 1873 a stone reservoir next to the house was built to raise the water level to assist the water feed to the hatchery. From its description it appears to be one of the two farm houses behind the Cameron Estate.
The current mansion is a graceful three-story barn-red-brick mansion in the Colonial Revival Federal style. This country residence was one of Simon Cameron’s five summer homes and occupied by his family from 1872 until 1959 when the last Cameron, Mary died. During Simon Cameron’s tenure, few changes were made to the farm house and it was not until his son James Donald Cameron (Don Cameron) acquired the house was it enlarged to its current size of over 12,500 square feet (1,160 m2). It is purported that Don Cameron’s first wife was not pleased with the house as it was not grand enough for here liking and stature. Don Cameron set out to transform the house and in 1889 removed the roof and added the third floor and expanded its footprint northward. While the fashion of the time was to add mansard roofs, Don Cameron kept the Federal style but unified the house with Colonial Revival embellishments. Of particular note is the addition of the stylized “Pennsylvania Keystone” above the windows on the West side of the mansion. The last expansion was in completed in 1914. While the grandeur of the house was enhanced, the smell from the barn on the west side of the house was found to be most offensive to Don’s wife, and therefore the barn was dismantled and moved to another part of the farm. The barnyard yard was then filled in and a rose garden planted. “Donegal” was a working farm with the major crops being tobacco and watercress. In addition to crops J. Don Cameron bred award wining Trotting Horses, Thoroughbreds and Welsh ponies for show and racing. Don Cameron was so fond of horses he planted 100 acres (0.40 km2) in blue grass to breed his Thoroughbreds. The estate currently has five remaining buildings, underground armory, and an impressive water tower. The buildings still present are the main house, summer kitchen, carriage barn, tool shed and pump house. An old drawing of the estate shows several other buildings whose remains can be seen during the summer when the foundations heat up and burn through the grass. The main house was built in 1805 and expanded over the many years to its current size of approximately 12,500 square feet (1,160 m2). The house was a private residence until Mary Cameron’s estate bequeathed 15.25 acres (61,700 m2) of the property to Elizabethtown College in 1961. The college used the property for many purposes. It served as a dormitory for men on the Dean's List and a school for special needs children. In 1975 Mrs. G. Howland Chase, a great granddaughter of Simon Cameron funded a restoration of the mansion which Elizabethtown College uses it as a conference center with lodging in the mansion. The mansion was converted into a country inn in 1981 by Lancaster County culinary celebrity Betty Groff along with her husband Abe. The Groff's sold the inn in 1996.
The summer kitchen sits 15 feet (4.6 m) north of the mansion. The wood frame structure with a slate was expanded to include an office and converted to owner’s quarters in the 1980s.
The carriage house located 100 yards from the mansion once house Mary Cameron’s Packard car collection and in the attic was the chauffeur’s residence. The carriage house was converted to a conference center in the 1975 restoration. In 2002 the carriage house was renovated and is now the wedding reception venue capable of seating 250 guests. The tool shed, 18 by 35 feet was just west of the carriage barn and was incorporated into the Carriage barn.
A very unique pump house for its time sits across the creek north east of the mansion. When the 10 ft by 10 ft building was built in 1889, it was constructed in a new experimental technique, poured-in-place concrete. The window sills and corbels are of stone and the floor, walls and flat roof are all poured-in-place concrete. The pump house sits atop a seep cistern where a gas fired piston pump transported the water to a massive water tower located on the ridge above the property. The water then gravity fed back to the house as its water supply.
Just north of the summer kitchen is what appears to be a root cellar with a concrete door frame. While this structure was thought to be a root cellar, this underground structure was an armory built by James Donald Cameron While he was Secretary of War under U. S. Grant. Cameron Estate was Headquarter for Don Cameron when he was in Pennsylvania and while he hosted U. S. Grant. Since the both frequented the property, an armory was needed to store munitions for the troops protecting the President. The entrance faces north toward the creek with a roof height of 3 to 4 feet.Upon Mary Cameron's death in 1959, the "Cameron Estate" was dissolved and sold as 9 separate farms.
The Current State of the Estate
Today his home has been transformed into the Cameron Estate Inn an authentic Bed and Breakfast Inn and Boutique Hotel (B&B) in Lancaster PA, which presents a world of perfect solitude with its giant shade trees of hemlock, oak and maple, spring gardens of irises, peonies and bleeding hearts and a walled rose garden. An old stone bridge arches over a meandering stream that bisects the 15-acre (61,000 m2) estate. The Inn houses a five star restaurant for its guest and the general public in the boutique hotel and offers catered banquests for special occations, business conferences and weddings in the Inn's carriage house.
The mansion became an Inn in 1981 and the current owners have delivered a style to the Inn reminiscent of the grandeur demanded by Simon Cameron himself. Though the Inn is filled with antiques from the 1800s, one experiences a relaxed calm and welcoming atmosphere at the inn. Abe and Betty Groff converted the large mansion into a boutique hotel and Inn in 1981 which was one of the few Inns in Lancaster Pennsylvania at the time.
James Donald Cameron, who expanded the mansion to its present scale, succeeded his father as Senator and served as Secretary of War under President Ulysses S. Grant; James McCormick Cameron, grandson and president of the Cameron's Dauphin Deposit Bank; and Mary Cameron, granddaughter, civic benefactor and last of the clan, all made their contributions to the family homestead. No major exterior alterations have been made since 1918.
Visitors at the Cameron Estate Inn may wander the beautifully landscaped grounds of the Inn and those of the historic Donegal Scottish Presbyterian Church. Outside the gates, one can saunter along an avenue of towering maples planted by Cameron, who got wind of the imminent passage of a bill encouraging farmers to beautify the roads by offering $2 for each tree planted. He proceeded to plant thousands on the roads leading to Donegal, only to find the new law stipulated that the trees had to be inside one's fences. James Donald Cameron, the eldest son of Simon Cameron and U. S. Grant’s Secretary of War, died at Donegal on August 30, 1918.
- ^ New York Times Article
- ^ Donegal
- ^ These gates can be seen in “View of Harrisburg, Penn.” a lithographed daguerreotype of 1855, by J.T. Williams.
- ^ AN AUTHENTIC HISTORY OF Donegal Presbyterian Church LOCATED IN East Donegal Township, Lancaster Co., Pa. J. L. ZIEGLER, A. M., M. D.
- ^ Donegal Fish Hatchery Purchase
- ^ Penn Fish Hatchery
- ^ Horse breeding
- ^ Caneron Estate Inn http://www.Cameronestateinn.com
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Lancaster Pa Bed and Breakfast
Rediscover the genteel spirit of 19th century America at the Cameron Estate Inn bed and breakfast in Lancaster PA. Stroll through the circa 1805 Mansion and explore our 15 acres of lawns, rose gardens, babbling streams, and woodlands. No matter the reason for your visit, you will recapture a time long lost, a time when grace, elegance and hospitality were the hallmark of the great American Inns and Bed and Breakfasts.
Pamper yourself and your companion in our 17 spacious guestrooms at the Bed and Breakfast near Lancaster, many Inn rooms have fireplaces and grand views of the gardens and ground surrounding the Bed and Breakfast. A fixed-menu hot-served breakfast is complementary with each night's stay at the Lancaster PA Bed and Breakfast. Note: Inn guest rooms are not suitable for children under age 12 but allowances are made for wedding parties.
Relish an evening of fine dining in our 80-seat restaurant in rural Lancaster County where our chef’s creations will tantalize your tastebuds.
Restaurant serves dinner only. Available for both "Bed and Breakfast" Guests as well as the general Public, Wednesday to Sunday 4:00 PM to 8:00PM.
Our five star award winning restaurant is available for large group lunches, banquets, weddings, parties and showers.
Since our restaurant reservations go early at the Inn to both "Bed and Breakfast" guests and the general public, it is important you make dinner reservations at the time of your room reservation, as we may not be able to accommodate you at the last minute.
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It is an honor and privilege to be considered to assist in the start of your lives together. You can trust the most important day of your new lives together to The Cameron Estate Inn, where we will attend to each detail of your wedding reception at the Inn. Our packages offer you spectacular settings for making your wedding day dream come true. The Cameron Estate Inn has been an ideal destination for couples exchanging their vows since 1981, so allow our wedding professionals to create your wedding fantasy. With our guidance, your special day will include peace of mind, culinary magic and experienced support from start to finish. Each detail of your special day will be professionally managed.
Our devoted special event consultants take pleasure in personalizing life’s magical moments at our unique property in Lancaster County near York, Hershey, Harrisburg and Lancaster and will keep you at ease as they inspire you every step of the way. Our extraordinary team is committed to designing an unforgettable memory of your wedding for you and your guests.
We look forward to creating an unforgettable wedding reception for you filled with a lifetime of memories. We hope you will return again and again to celebrate with us in our restaurant of for an overnight stay and wish you many years of love and laughter.
Recognizing that this once in a lifetime privilege comes with certain responsibilities, we feel it is our duty to provide you with a fair understandable price that is both straightforward and uncomplicated. We are very specific about the extensive list of items that are included in our seamless single price wedding and liquor package. Further, we guarantee that there are no hidden or non-disclosed fees or charges.
Many venues charge you for the linens, china, glassware, chairs, tables, setup, teardown, cleanup, cake cutting, labor, iced tea, and individual food items, we do not. Our prices are inclusive of many items charged separately by other venues.
We proudly stand behind our simple straightforward pricing model as well as our commitment to providing you exceptional and unparalleled customer service.
Plan the wedding of your dreams at our mansion estate near Lancaster, York, Harrisburg and Hershey. Every tiny detail will be custom-designed to meet your needs and desires for a bed and breakfast destination wedding near Lancaster. Pa. Weddings up to 250 guests.
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