Conshohocken (old) Borough Hall is REALLY for Sale
Conshohocken (old) Borough Hall is REALLY for Sale
by Brian Coll
I posted a photo of borough hall or Leeland mansion on Facebook the other night with the caption…. For Sale by Owner who also wanted to post it on somewhere like https://door.com/sell for sale. I was actually surprised to read some of the comments. It appeared some people didn’t know where it was at, what it was and where they could find the listing. So here that info is. The next paragraph will be from the borough website:
Notice of Public Sale of Leeland Mansion by Sealed Bid
Posted: July 21, 2017 | Announcements
Notice is hereby given that the Borough Council of the Borough of Conshohocken, Montgomery County, PA (the “Borough”) will accept sealed bids at Conshohocken Borough Hall, 400 Fayette Street, Suite 200, Conshohocken, Pennsylvania 19428, for the sale of the Borough-owned real property located at 703 Fayette Street, Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, 19428. Such property will include approximately 0.528 acres (more or less) as well as existing structures containing approximately 12,899 square feet, commonly referred to as the “Leeland Mansion” or “Old Borough Hall” (the “Property”). Bids will be accepted until August 30, 2017 at 10 AM, at which time all bids received by the Borough will be publicly opened and the offered consideration read aloud.
If you are considering it. We have been in the building, multiple times, while it is in bad shape, we still LOVE this building. If anyone is looking for a partner, please call me. I may not have money, but I am very passionate about keeping this building in the public eye. I would love to see whoever buys it keep it available for public events such as the Christmas Tree Lighting and Soap Box Derby opening events as well as other events. Here are a couple of photos of the current situation of the interior.
We love the clawfoot tub, if someone buys this amazing property, please consider us if you do not see yourself using the tub.
Here is a history of the old Leeland mansion written by Jack Coll. This appeared in the Conshy Courier about a year ago.
Many of the borough’s residents today can give the history of the stone structure located at West Eighth Avenue and Fayette Street. You can take a poll for yourself by sitting along the wall out front and asking residents as they walk past the structure, “Hey, do you know the history of this building?”
Typically the reply would sound something like, “Yea, this was the Conshohocken Borough Hall built by some guy a long time ago! I’m not sure what they’re doing with it now,” or “I’ve heard about a bed-and-breakfast, offices. I hope the borough will keep it as a museum or something,” are just a few of the answers you’ll get.
You’ll hear all those answers and more because most of the residents walking along Fayette Street are a much younger generation. The older residents blink and don’t notice the changing of the guard, or the changing of the age group as it might be.
Before we get started on a few borough hall facts I’d like to say the staff at “The Conshy Courier” welcomes the younger generation and also welcomes our recent residents.
If we’re gonna talk about the mansion at Eighth Avenue and Fayette Street we first must talk about John Elwood Lee. Mr. Lee graduated from Conshohocken High school back in 1879 when the high school was located at Third Avenue and Harry Street. Lee took a job with the Snowden Surgical Supply Company, then located in Philadelphia. By 1883, Lee was ready to start his own surgical supply business and started his company in his parent’s house, then located on East Seventh Avenue.
In his parent’s attic with a capital of about 75 bucks, young Lee worked on his mother’s pedal operated sewing machine. Lee spun and wove white thread that inter-twined with the other threads in about a four or five inch square pad and created and patented the modern day “Gauze Pad” to stop bleeding and keep area’s on the skin sterile.
Lee invented and had patents on dozens of life saving medical supplies over the next 25 years and employed thousands of borough residents over the years. For more than a quarter of a century, Lee constructed factories behind his parent’s house along Eighth Avenue and Harry Street (one of his surgical supply buildings is still standing, the big white building at Eighth Avenue and Harry Street was used as offices).
Lee’s company went on to win many top awards at the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair catapulting Lee’s company into the National spotlight as newspaper articles ran front page stories about the World’s Fair, many of them on Lee and his life saving supplies.
Lee was very generous to his employees and became a multi-millionaire at a very young age. By 1905, the Lee Surgical Supply business grew, the plant located at Eighth Avenue and Harry Street consisted of seventeen buildings covering five acres of floor space.
The only surgical supply firm bigger than Lee was Johnson & Johnson located in New Brunswick New Jersey. The two companies were merged but retained their own identity and Lee became Executive Vice President of Johnson & Johnson.
In 1893 Lee decided to build his house for himself and his wife Jennie (Cleaver) Lee and purchased property on the West side of Fayette Street. In the spring of 1893, Lee handed the contract to Alexander Martin & Son to erect a handsome pointed stone mansion at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Fayette Street. Lee had a carriage house built behind the mansion complete with a walking tunnel from the house to the carriage house so he would not be forced to travel outside when weather conditions were poor (yes, the tunnel still exist today).
In the carriage house, Lee installed two bowling alleys upstairs; he was a very talented bowler and would travel the country with team-mates for bowling tournaments. He also had a swimming pool with a cover floor where he would shoot basketball. Most people don’t realize that Lee was a young man with all his money and loved sports. Behind the carriage house was his golf course which extended from West Sixth Avenue to West Twelfth Avenue, down to Wood Street. Lee would often enjoy an early Sunday morning round of golf.
John Elwood Lee passed away on April 8, 1914 while Jennie was in Europe. Lee’s death was caused by angina pectoris, and an infection of the heart. He was 54 years old. Jennie continued to live in the mansion until her death in 1945.
The Walker Brothers, Hervey and Newton, purchased the mansion from the Lee estate. Hervey was responsible for building the Conshohocken Elementary School in 1958 that once bore his name and his brother Newton was a major force behind the construction of Conshohocken’s Fellowship House Youth Center in 1952.
The Walker Brothers turned the mansion into the Conshohocken Association Industrial Luncheon Club for the borough’s industrial leaders at that time. On most weekdays upwards of 50 industry leaders could be found eating lunch and discussing the day’s labor and industry situations.
By the winter of 1963, industry in America was declining and it had become very clear to Americans that they had won the war but lost the post-war industrial boom to Japan. Industrial decline along Conshohocken’s riverfront was the face of America and with declining industry, the Conshohocken Association no longer needed a luncheon headquarters.
A year later in July of 1964, shortly after the Beatles took the country by storm, Conshohocken borough leaders purchased the mansion for $85,000. They spent another couple of thousand dollars to fit the police station out in the former Lee stables. In the borough’s 114 year history at that time it was only the borough leaders’ second borough hall, the first was located at Hector and Forrest Street.
By the year 2000, soft-talk of a new location for borough hall began to whisper-down-the–lane throughout the borough. The borough employee staff began to grow, and despite a multi-million dollar renovation in recent years, the building was once again falling into disrepair.
In 2007 Borough Council voted to purchase the property at Fourth Avenue and Fayette Street. It was the break members of council had been waiting for, a large enough building in the center of town that would house both borough offices and the police department.
In July of this year (2016), a grand opening was held to welcome both the residents and borough staff into the newly renovated facility and by all accounts – a smashing success!
The former Lee Mansion/Conshohocken Industrial Luncheonette/ and now Borough Hall sits mostly vacant with the exception of a few meetings now and again. But our current council members are hard at work as to what to do with the building.
First and foremost, they are taking their time, making sure to weigh all the options. Council members seem to be together, none of them want to see the building demolished, EVER, and are working hard to make sure that doesn’t happen. Council members have weighed in on the fact that none of them want to see the exterior altered. Questions about the mansion have been pushed across the table and out into the public, would it make a good bed & breakfast? Should they/we sell to a law firm or doctors in an effort to keep the magnificent structure in one piece? Should the borough maintain possession for other uses via a senior center of even a museum, perhaps outfitted by members of the Conshohocken Historical Society?
These are all good questions and recommendations, the good news is that members of council feel very strongly about not letting it go into the hands of a developer. They all know the history that’s at stake and are working in an effective effort to maintain this property for future generations.
Perhaps someday, years from now someone will sit at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Fayette Street and take a survey of the young residents walking by and looking up at the mansion, and when they are asked the history of the place they’ll be able to tell you all about it, and that would be wonderful!
Here is the first page of the bid packet:
NOTICE OF PUBLIC SALE OF REAL PROPERTY BY SEALED BID
Notice is hereby given that the Borough Council of the Borough of Conshohocken, Montgomery County, PA (the “Borough”) will accept sealed bids at Conshohocken Borough Hall, 400 Fayette Street, Suite 200, Conshohocken, Pennsylvania 19428, for the sale of the Borough-owned real property located at 703 Fayette Street, Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, 19428. Such property will include approximately 0.528 acres (more or less) as well as existing structures containing approximately 12,899 square feet, commonly referred to as the “Leland Mansion” or “Old Borough Hall” (the “Property”). Bids will be accepted until August 30, 2017 at 10 AM, at which time all bids received by the Borough will be publicly opened and the offered consideration read aloud. The Property will be sold “AS-IS” with no warranty whatsoever guaranteeing its condition. Buyer must perform such inspections of the Property as it deems necessary for the purchase of the Property, and Buyer must rely solely on the results of such inspections in its purchase of the Property, and not on any representations or warranties of the Borough or anyone acting on the Borough’s behalf.
Sealed bids shall be clearly marked “BID – SALE OF 730 FAYETTE STREET.” All bidders must complete, sign and submit, with their sealed bid, a Purchase Agreement in the form provided by the Borough, along with earnest money in the amount of $10,000.00, in the form of a cashier’s check made payable to Conshohocken Borough. Pursuant to Section 1201.1(a)(2) of the Borough Code, the bid shall provide for and the payment of the purchase price shall actually be made in full within sixty (60) days of the acceptance of a bid.
The Borough reserves the right to reject any and all bids, to reject bids deemed to be insufficient, in whole or in part, or to waive any and all technical deficiencies in any bid. Successful bidders will be required to complete the closing with full payment and take possession of the Property in accordance with the terms of the Purchase Agreement. The Borough will issue a Special Warranty Deed as set forth in the Purchase Agreement, which same Deed shall contain a façade easement preventing destruction, modification or revision to the architectural features contained on the exterior of the mansion, including the portico, porch, perimeter walls and other features without express written consent by the Borough.
The Bid Packet, consisting of Bidding Instructions and Purchase Agreement may be obtained from the Office of the Borough Manager, 400 Fayette Street, Suite 200, Conshohocken PA, 19428, upon written request or in person during normal business hours. The Bid Packet can also be obtained from the Borough website at www.conshohockenpa.gov. Persons wishing to inspect the Property may make arrangements to do so through the Office of the Borough Manager.
So, there you have it. If you are looking to put a bid in on the building and grounds, go to the Boroughs official website and download the packet. If you need a partner (not a lot of money) call me. Brian Coll at 610-825-7072