Pennsylvania Railroad Passenger Station

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Pennsylvania Railroad Passenger Station

Meet Ann Elizabeth Bethel Heise:

Hello there. Good evening. Might I introduce myself? My name is Anne Elizabeth; Daughter of Solomon Heise of Frankfort, Germany and Patience Bethel of Columbia, Pennsylvania. Also a descendant of John Blunston and niece of Samuel Bethel III.You may recognize my Uncle’s name. He was responsible for the renovations made to the Belmont Mansion in Columbia that was originally built by Pennsylvania Assemblyman Samuel Blunston in 1727. The renovations greatly enlarged the home and after the new additions were complete, he renamed it Mt. Bethel Mansion. I find the new title to better suit the magnificent home.

Along with my profound and extensive family lineage, I am also the wife of ametur poet, John Houston Mifflin. We married in 1837 when he returned home to Columbia after traveling through Europe with his brother, James, in a company of artists. John was an artist himself who studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts under I. R. Smith, Thomas Sully and John Neagle. Afterward, he traveled to Savannah, Georgia to paint and photograph wealthy families.

Years later, he partnered with American Photographer, Robert Cornelius, who designed the initial photographic plate for the first photograph taken in the United States. The image produced was Central High School and was captured by Joseph Saxon in 1839. Later, Robert took the first known, self-taken, photographic portrait of a human in the United States. You may know it better as a “selfie.” He also operated the earliest photography studios and implemented innovative techniques to reduce exposure time of photos significantly. Robert Cornelius was a businessman and innovator who greatly impacted the advancement of Photography. Also a reliable business partner, so says my husband. Both were intelligent and talented men.

John and I had only one child together; a little girl named Mary who we loved dearly. However, I did not get to know her any longer than shortly after her third birthday, as she was raised by my husband’s uncle after my passing. Well, enough with the sorrowful happenings of the past. I shall not keep you any longer. I suppose you’re headed to the railroad passenger station. Allow me to point you in the right direction. Safe travels, friends!

101 N. Front St, Columbia, PA 17512

In 1870, a new Pennsylvania Railroad Passenger Station was erected by Columbian W. W. Upp. In previous years the tickets for passengers could be purchased at the Washington Hotel located on the southern corner of Front & Walnut Streets. The two story sustained a central ticket office , separated men’s and women’s waiting rooms, while the second floor was occupied C&PD superintendent’s office and conductors room. 

With Columbia’s retail business and manufacturing booming in the late 1800’s the station was so active with a host of buyers, dignitaries, salesmen and visitors. The depot became so busy that Columbia had six different newspapers that would satisfy all political guests in town with a newspaper boy waiting along the train depot just waiting to sell the next paper hot off the press.

The passenger station was eventually closed in the 1920’s after the Pennsylvania Railroad moved to Enola and eventually sold to Penn Central.  

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