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The Hostetter House in Potter Township

Milestones Vol 24. No.3

By Denver Walton


One of the finest mansions in Beaver County was located in Potter Township on the site of the Nova Chemical Plant, (formerly Koppers, then Arco Chemical).

Here stood the country home and estate of Theodore Hostetter of Pittsburgh, who became quite wealthy from the sale of "Hostetter's Bitters", a popular patent medicine. (There were a number of brands of "Bitters" on the market before the turn of the century. While they may not have cured all of the ills that they were intended for, no doubt their high alcohol content made the pain easier to bear.)


The legendary Hostetter house was built of California redwood for more than $100,000, and was designed as a replica of the California State Building on exhibit at the Chicago World Fair in 1893, a few years earlier. Within the house was a banquet hall, a huge drawing room, and twenty-five bedrooms.

Stately poplars lined a long curving lane leading from the covered bridge on the old state road to the mansion. (Part of this lane remains at the west end of the present Potter Bridge. One abutment of the old covered bridge stands a few hundred yards upstream.)

The mansion was located where the AES power house stands today. Before the massive foundation for the power house was laid, a number of wine cellars, and tunnels built by Hostetter under his home had to be filled in.

Part of the Hostetter legend holds that "the Circular Staircase" in Mary Roberts Rinehart's novel was located in this house, but similar claims have been made for other mansions nearer to Pittsburgh.

West of the house Hostetter had laid out a polo field, which was the scene of much activity in its time. There were also three large horse barns on the estate, providing shelter for Hostetter's sorrel riding horses.

Originally, Hostetter and his guests traveled from Pittsburgh to Monaca by steam boat, thence to the estate by coach. Later, a steam boat landing was built near the present coal docks.

Upon the death of the Hostetters, the estate passed into the care of a trust company, who installed a caretaker in the house.

In 1936, a fire started by a child resulted in the complete destruction of the house and its contents. The estate soon became overgrown with woods and briars and remained that way until it was sold to the Defense Plant Corporation in 1942 for construction of the Kobuta Plant, now Nova Chemicals.