Former Hahn mansion: ‘I thought it would make the most spectacular funeral home’

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The Springdale historic district in York was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. The former Hahn Home, now Kuhner Associates funeral home, is the star among the district’s 199 buildings. Architecturally, mansion is a mixture of late Gothic, early classical and Tudor styles known as Jacobethan. This view, not easily observable from the road, is the building’s rear, with its water garden. Background posts: Dempwolf architects built York’s skyline, Exploring ornate Springdale, sunken ballroom and all and What was famed architect J.A. Dempwolf’s own house like?.

Who doesn’t wonder about what it would be like to own the former Hahn Home? Even its 2,700-square-foot carriage house would do.
Funeral director Al Kuhner explained recently that he drove by the former Emerton mansion for years thinking it would make a perfect funeral home.

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This window includes the seals of each of King Arthur’s knights as well as the presidential and City of York seals. It was designed by the venerable Rudy Glass Co. of York.

After a fire badly damaged the J.A. Dempwolf-designed home, he got his opportunity, as the following story to appear in an upcoming issue of Spaces magazine suggests:

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Upon entering, this grand staircase forms the home’s focus point. The stained-glass windows that surround the landing are part of the home’s English theme.

Albert Kuhner doesn’t hesitate when asked why he purchased the 39-room mansion on the corner of Springettsbury Avenue and South George Street in York.
After all, a fire had consumed more than half of the first floor of the former Hahn Home, a
retirement residence for women. The
second and third floors sustained heavy smoke damage in the blaze.
Despite the devastation, the stately stone building was repaired. And when the board of directors of the Hahn Home decided to sell it, Kuhner seized the opportunity.
“All of my professional career I have traveled by this building almost on a
daily basis,” Kuhner said. “And I thought it would make the most spectacular funeral home.”
It took only one trip through the home for Kuhner to know what he had to do. In 2004, he paid $1.15 million for the mansion, which was completed in 1918 for about $220,000.
The home’s stately elegance adds a touch of strength and warmth for those people experiencing a loss. Kuhner describes it as “beautiful but not opulent.”
He said he believes the mansion’s graceful archways, carved ceilings, rich paneling, stained-glass windows and lush garden views provide the families he serves a sense of comfort and healing.
The home’s conservatory, with the gardens as its backdrop, is now its viewing room. The area is often incorporated into
funeral services. One family recently set up a mimosa bar on the patio during services.
On its exterior, the house is
distinguished by its many details, such as gabled roofs and tall chimneys.
Kuhner pointed out the initials of Robert Emerton, the home’s original
owner, are carved into a copper gutter.
Emerton was an Englishman and an employee of York Metal and Alloy Co. He commissioned Dempwolf Architects to design the home for his family. At Emerton’s direction, the mansion was to reflect his British taste. Stone for the house and its
surrounding buildings and walls was mined from quarries in Thomasville in York County.
The stone used on the front of the house was
imported from the White Cliffs of Dover in Kent, England.
Inside, from the mahogany-lined walls in the library to the English oak found on the walls and floors in other parts of the home, it exudes the look of an English manor house. In decorating, Kuhner and his wife, Condoda — a nurse practitioner — have tried to
maintain and enhance that original
appearance with deep-toned paints and wallpaper.
Kuhner has turned the mansion’s
second floor into its funeral resource
center and comfortable rooms in which post-funeral receptions or meetings could be held.
He’s proud of the resource center he designed, where families can choose
caskets from a selection of pieces of each of 24 models attached to the walls. Beneath each example is a
discreet drawer that can be opened to display interior fabrics. Next door is the cremation room where urns and other cremation-related items and mementos are displayed.
Downstairs, adjacent to the
conservatory, an area in which visitors gather is painted a brilliant yellow with white trim. It is the site of one of the home’s six fireplaces. In all, 200 visitors can be seated in the home’s main service areas.
Kuhner also kept in mind that
families often bring children when making arrangements or attending funerals. He
included a children’s area, painted brilliant blue, that is adjacent to the library.
The library’s books are gone, but its rich wooden cases are filled with an
extensive Delftware collection.
Kuhner said he believes today’s use of the mansion continues its former
mission to care for people.
It was a mission that came about after Emerton suffered financial setbacks that forced him to turn his mansion into
apartments.
The Emerton family continued to live on the first floor.
In 1938, the home was purchased for $143,000 from an endowment created by Anna L. Gardner, a York woman whose family also lost its fortune early in her life. Gardner stipulated in her will that a home be established for single women, older than 50, so that they could be cared for throughout the rest of their lives,
regardless of finances. It also stated that the women were to be surrounded with the comfort and refinement to which they had become accustomed.
The building opened in 1958 as The Hahn Home, named for Gardner’s
grandmother.
Today, Kuhner remains in awe of its majesty and history. And, he says “one of the wonderful thrills and pleasures of owning it is sharing it with everybody.”
He calls the home a “York
Treasure.”

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The fire damaged part of the first floor’s ceiling, but renovators repaired or replicated it.

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. East Region Editor, Digital First Media. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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6 Responses to Former Hahn mansion: ‘I thought it would make the most spectacular funeral home’

  1. quenickyia wilson says:

    I am in absolute awe of the former Hahn home I have been since I got here in 1992 it looks like a castle to me I was wondering is there anyway to look at the floor plans of the home… I had never been inside always thought to but now its a funeral home and just thought not but I’m am in love with the home.

    • Jim McClure says:

      Al Kuhner, the owner, is a really nice guy. I bet if you called him, said you read about his beautiful funeral home in yorktownsquare.com and wonder if you could have a tour, he’d invite you to come over for a tour./Jim

  2. ED says:

    As far as I am concerned, changing it to a funeral home cheapened the image of this stately home. Now it is associated with death.

    • Jim McClure says:

      Ed, never thought about it that way. The home for elderly women was going to close so I always saw the conversion to a funeral home as good thing. Sometimes when those big buildings sit empty, there’s a temptation to pull them down.

      • Katie Marie says:

        It may be associated with death. but not everyone looks at death the same way….. Its a celebration of life, and what better way to celebrate than something so elegant. and like the writer said. sometimes when those homes sit vacant they can get destroyed, and tore down. I rather see it as a funeral home than more townhomes…. my grandmother and my cousin were both in this funeral home and it is a beautiful place!

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