Terracina Under Study As Museum

Posted: April 03, 1988

A team of experts from the National Trust for Historic Preservation pored over Coatesville's Terracina mansion last week, studying the home and evaluating its potential as a museum.

Terracina, a Victorian mansion intimately connected with Coatesville and its steel industry, was one of only six Delaware Valley historic homes selected for study by the trust. The three-story house was built in the early 1850s by Rebecca Lukens, daughter of the founder of Lukens Steel, and was the site of the first organizational meetings of the steel company.

The trust's three-day study concluded Wednesday, although the results of the review won't be available for several weeks.

Coatesville historians want to transform Terracina into a house-museum, focusing on the style of the 1850s and the home's link with the history of Coatesville and Lukens Steel.

The nonprofit National Trust is a leader of the private historic- preservation effort, chartered by Congress in 1949 to encourage public participation in preservation. The group has 200,000 members across the country. It provides grants large and small to help establish historic districts and preserve historic objects.

"Everything from buildings to statues to ships," said Carl Nelson, trust spokesman in Washington, D.C.

The trust owns 17 historic house museums across the nation, including Montpelier, President James Madison's home in Orange County, Va.

The restoration of Terracina is being led by Coatesville's Graystone Society, formed in 1984 to renovate Graystone, the historic stone mansion that serves as City Hall.

Coatesville historians are hoping a restored Terracina will attract tourists to the city.

The house needs substantial repairs, including a new roof. The Graystone Society has installed new plumbing and is working on rewiring the home. ''There's a great deal more to historic preservation than putting up new wallpaper and polishing the chandeliers," said Eugene DiOrio, Graystone Society president.

Terracina was the home of Charles Huston and his wife, Isabella Lukens. Huston, who died in 1897, is credited with turning a small country iron works into a modern steel company.

Stewart Huston, Charles Huston's grandson, left the house to the City of Coatesville when he died in 1971. His widow had a life estate in the property but moved elsewhere in 1985, turning her interest over to the city.

Coatesville had no money to restore the house and made the Graystone Society responsible for raising money. Several grants from the Huston Foundation have helped keep Terracina heated to prevent further deterioration.

The Graystone Society is trying to refurbish one room to show what Terracina could look like if restored. Both Terracina and Graystone are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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