Isabella Furnace - Part 4 of 6

Judi Taylor

Stowe, United States

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Story of Rose Cottage and Isabella Furnace and St. Mary’s of Providence …

This is part 4 of 6 for Part I Click here

She decided to use several of the houses used by the employees who had left to start a summer school for the area children. She got busy, She enlisted the aid of several of her lady friends, and her maid, Miss Albertina Johnson, to turn the abandoned places into a place where the children could come during the summer months and have fun, play games, play ball, and perhaps even learn a worthwhile skill or two.

Mabel officially opened the Rose Cottage in the summer of 1900, and children came from Downingtown, and points in between on the train from Elverson, Honey Brook and all the surrounding country. Most walked; many were brought by horse and wagon. The original plan was for the children to meet every Wednesday morning at the cottage. There were two buildings eventually, one for the boys and another for the girls. Girls learned embroidery and sewing. Boys had workbenches and tools. All the children made baseballs from a small rubber ball with cord and sewed leather covers over the ball.

Mabel ran the Rose Cottage for the neighborhood children for more than twenty years and then she stopped. No one alive knows why; records are nonexistent. She spent the last years of her life alone with William in the grand mansion on the hill. Sometimes, though, as she was doing her handiwork by the great black onyx fireplace, or puttering around the vast Victorian glass conservatory with her exotic flowers, she could be seen smiling and nodding to herself. She was remembering the summer days of long ago when she met Rose, and they became friends, and ll the wonderful children who attended the summer school, the ice cream they ate, and the great sugar cookies that arrived every Wednesday on the train from Barrett’s Bakery in Downingtown.

According to the archives of the University of Pennsylvania, Mabel Potts died in December 1942, just six months before her husband William passed away in May 1943. The grand estate was inherited by her niece, Helen Lanier Smith, and her son sold it to developers when she died.

Then the once-magnificent estate began to show ravages of time. It lay empty for five years. The Potts’ bones settled into the dust, forgotten by time and by men. Then, something happened that some would consider a very strange occurrence. Some, those who believe in such things, would call it a miracle.

For part 5 Click here

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  • Judi Taylor
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