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Brockerhoff House
History of Centre & Clinton Cos - 1883

BROCKERHOFF HOUSE

Pennsylvania Mirror August 1987

"When Dunlop and Harris laid out Bellefonte in 1795, the Diamond was established as the center of commercial and community activity. James and Elizabeth McClanahan, Baltimore, and Nathaniel and Sarah Simpson bought lot no. 46, where the Brockerhoff now stands, for the munificent sum of $40. Israel Pennington, who had procured a liquor license in 1803, was quick to see the possibilities of heavy overnight traffic in the newly established town, so he grabbed this choice southwest corner of the Diamond in 1806. He was only a stone's throw from the courthouse and a block away from Spring and High streets, where the Halfmoon Valley road from Centre Furnace and Rock ironworks came into town.

In 1812, the Rock ironmaster, Philip Benner, acquired the property for the sum of $2,400. During his ownership some of the managers were Samuel Morrison, Thomas Hastings Jr., Joseph Musser and Evan Miles, a son of Capt. Richard Miles, of the Milesburg clan.

The log cabin which Benner built on the site before 1800 was eventually hauled down to the corner of Allegheny and Bishop streets and placed on what was known as McBride's corner. The best description of the Pennsylvania Hotel (forerunner of the Brockerhoff Hotel) comes from an ad in a local paper, dated 1833:

FOR SALE: Brick Tavern Pennsylvania Hotel and lot of ground, at present occupied by Samuel Morrison, situated on the southwest corner of the Diamond, The house is 60 foot front on Allegheny Street and 60 foot front on High Street. It contains a large bedroom and dining room with two large parlors divided by folding doors. There is a large kitchen on the first floor, also a large and elegant ballroom with fashionable antirooms at each end and two additional rooms on the second story; six rooms on the third story and can be conveniently divided into many more. There is also attached to the building a two story brick store, 25 foot front by 30 deep and a large two story log house-the whole having suitable stabling, sheds and carriage houses attached."

In 1850 Henry Brockerhoff bought the Pennsylvania Hotel and added it to his commercial block on the south side of Allegheny Street, known as Brockerhoff Row.

Henry was one of the town's largest real estate owners. A son of wealthy parents was born in Dusseldorf in 1794 and educated in Paris. When he decided to join Napoleon, he was too young for the army and was appointed an under-secretary. The battle of Waterloo in 1815 brought the banishment of Napoleon, and Brockerhoff decided to try life in Australia. His transport ship was wrecked and the passengers were transferred to an American vessel.

After four months at sea, during which time he learned English, the ship docked in Philadelphia. He spent a year learning merchandising in the Quaker city and moved on to Snyder county. He came to Bellefonte in 1825 and in 1830 went into business with F. Kechler, where the Hotel Do-Dee stands.

An old pictorial map of the Centre County Library, shows Capt. R. B. Cummings as proprietor of Brockerhoff's hotel. On Jan. 20, 1864, fire destroyed the hotel and Brockerhoff Row, which housed the John Harris Drug Store, William McClellan tailoring shop,, Livingston's Book Store, Montgomery & Sons and the Brockerhoff store.

In 1866, at a cost of $50,000, Brockerhoff rebuilt the Pennsylvania Hotel and renamed it the Brockerhoff Hotel.

For the next half century the Brockerhoff became the hub of uptown Bellefonte's activities. All three governors used its balcony for political speeches. Fourth of July orators harangued holiday crowds from this vantage point and parades stepped by for judging.

In 1894 when Andrew Gregg Curtin, Pennsylvania's Civil War governor, died; thousands lined the streets from federal and state governments and the military to view the procession. Most of them made their quarters in the Brockerhoff.

Court week packed the hotel's dining room and overnight guest accommodations. Dances and musicals were held in the diningroom. Many of the political coups of the era were plotted in the hotel saloon.

After Brockerhoff's death on October 6, 1878, his widow, Margaret Mullen Brockerhoff and his four children inherited an estate of close to one million dollars.

H. S. Ray, Bellefonte, was an early 20th century manager of the hotel for the Brockerhoff family. From 1938 to 1948 Mr. and Mrs. Ben Grytcko managed it and for the following 10 years Mr. and Mrs. J. K. Peterson were the proprietors. Mr. and Mrs. Sam Foresman ran the business until closing on July 1, 1960.

Last Updated
30 March 2003

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