With Respects to The Old Hickory

It’s not often that an outstanding residence in the center of a community is abandoned. But in Coudersport, Pennsylvania, Old Hickory has been disused for nearly 30 years.

The three-story residence was constructed between 1875 and 1880 for Frank Knox. Knox, an attorney, and co-owner of the Potter Enterprise, spared no expense in the house, which featured maple, cherry, black birch, pine, hemlock, oak, chestnut, and butternut woods inside and outside.

In 1903, the family sold the house to Thomas J. Lawler, who then sold the home in January 1928 to a partnership that turned the residence into The Old Hickory, naming it in honor of Andrew Jackson. The inn and parlor were lavished with unique signs and stationery, such as depicting Jackson riding a donkey. The caricature was drawn by a guest who had become delinquent on a bill. Instead of paying with cash, the guest designed a logo for the inn.

In 1987, Old Hickory Tavern was purchased by John Rigas, who had earlier founded Adelphia Communications. Adelphia later became the fifth-largest cable corporation in the United States. Rigas transferred ownership of the building to Adelphia in 1995,  intending to renovate it so that it could serve as a bed and breakfast for use by employees visiting the corporate headquarters.

Rigas invested $500,000 into acquiring antiques to furnish Old Hickory. The antiques, acquired at Morgart’s Trash & Treasures and other stores, were paid for with company money but were then charged back to the Rigases on the company books. Renovation work never started on the house, and the antiques were reportedly stored in a barn on the Rigas estate.

Adelphia was consumed in an accounting scandal in 2002 after it disclosed $2.3 billion in off-balance-sheet debt. Rigas and others had used complicated cash-management systems to spread money around to various family-owned entities and as a cover for stealing $100 million for personal enrichment. Eventually, John Rigas was sentenced to 15 years in prison. During the turmoil, Old Hickory was sold to Mary Freysinger in 2004.

Here is hoping that Old Hickory, one of the most endangered buildings in the state of Pennsylvania, will see a new light: it’s for sale for $65,000.

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