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The History of the Annan Brother's Mansions

After every Historical society meeting, a group of us regularly retire to the Ott house.  We can always be found musing about Emmitsburg of Old under the photo of the Ott House when it was know as the Isaac S. Annan & Brother store.  When I set outside the pub at the end of the evening, I often find myself stopping and reflecting on what I would seen and heard had I been lucky enough to have lived in Emmitsburg at the turn of the last century.

On more then one occasion, I've crossed the street and mounted the stairs to the Annan Brother's houses where I allow my mind to be carried back to a simpler time where one could lean upon its banister, and undisturbed by the sound of trucks and cars, reflect upon the days events to the sound of falling water from the fountain that once stood in the square.

Oh the stories the Annan Brother's mansions could tell if they could talk.  Prominently occupying one of the four corners of the square, they were once the grandest houses that ever graced Emmitsburg.  From their balconies their owners bore witness to the coming and going of travelers near and far, and events that would shape Emmitsburg as we know it today.

Lot number 9, on which they sits, was sold by the town's founder, William Emmit in 1786 to James Hughes who built a brick house, within which he set aside a large room as a chapel where Catholic's convened for devotions before the founding of St. Josephs Parish.  The Hughes house eventually became the property of Dr. William Patterson, who had the unfortunate bad luck of being its owner when it was among the first to burn in the in the great fire of June 15, 1863.  The fire, which started across the street behind the present America Legion Building, consumed nearly a third the town. Choosing not to rebuild, Dr. Patterson sold the lot to Dr. Robert Annan and his brother Issac S. Annan

Dr. Robert Annan

Local folklore recounts that both brothers were doctors, but only Robert was a doctor.  There was at one time two Annan Brothers who were doctors, but they were Robert and Issac's grandfather Robert and his brother Samuel.  The elder Robert practiced in Emmitsburg while his brother Samuel moved west with the expanding American frontier.

The junior Robert Annan followed his father's and grandfather's footsteps and entered the medical field and at the time of his death in 1907, was considered the most preeminent physician the town had ever had. His brother Isaac was one of the leading merchants of Emmitsburg. Besides owning a dry good store, he was also part owner of the Annan-Horner Bank, the Emmitsburg Water Company, and the Emmitsburg Railroad.

Because of there prominence and wealth, they could offered to build the very best, and they did.  Upon purchasing the lot from Dr, Patterson, the two brothers split the lot in two and built adjoining, mirror image, three story brick mansions.  Robert Annan owned the eastern mansion, Isaac owned the western portion.

Annan Brother's House ~ 1880s
(Note cobblestone Street)

The most prominent feature of the two houses is their staircases which rise to a common balcony and the adjoining front doors.  From within these twin houses, adorned with magnificent trees, and creeping vines, the Annan Brothers lead Emmitsburg into its most prosperous and memorable time period.  In 1907 Robert died, followed two years later by his brother Isaac.  Following their death, the ownership of the houses passed though several hands. During this time, the once stately mansions were divided into stores and apartments.

In 1939, Ed & Agnes Houck, purchased Robert Annan's house from Brooke Boyle.  Over the years it had housed a farm implements store, C. F. Shuff's Bicycle Shop, a small shooting gallery, and a  restaurant.  Upon purchasing the building, Ed opened a Ladies Store on the first floor. 

Issac Annan's mansion was bought by Charles Mort, and out of it was run the Maryland Restaurant. The restaurant also served as bus station where a bus from Gettysburg stopped to pick up passengers who were going to Washington.      
Following the death of Charles Mort, Ed Houck purchased Issac Annan's mansion, and with the purchase, the two mansions were once again under the control of one family.  Following the purchase, Ed put in a new front on the bottom floor, added large show windows and moved 'Ed's Place' his men's wear department into it, making the ground floor of the two mansions one large store know as 'The Emmitsburg Quality Shop' or just 'Houck's Store'.   Under Ed ownership, the building were painted Jersey Cream with the trip painted Seal Brown.

Many individuals worked in Houck's store, the names of whom bring fond memories to those who knew them: Cecil Rotering, Ernie Rosensteel and Mamie Kelly to name just a few.  Following the passing of his father, Ed Houck Jr. took over management of the store and ably ran it until it closed in 1962.  In between running the store and raising a family, Ed also managed to get himself elected Mayor. The mansions remained Jersey Cream in color until recently when they were given a coat of gray.

So next time you're sitting at the light waiting for traffic to clear, take a few moments and take a good long look at building on the North East Corner of the square.  Let your mind wander back to the time when the pace of life in Emmitsburg was slower. When one could stop and water their horse in the fountain; pass a lazy afternoon with friends and neighbors undisturbed by noise; or walk down wide tree shaded dirt streets that reverberated with the sounds of kids playing ball - and when you do, remember to thank Isaac and Robert Annan - the Annan Brothers - for making those dreams come try for those lucky enough to have lived in Emmitsburg of old. 

Have your own memories of Emmitsburg of old?
If so, send them to us at history@emmitsburg.net