Fire Guts Bergdoll Mansion Fairmount Blaze Routs Two Heirs

Posted: February 11, 1989

Two heirs to the brewery fortune of a notorious World War I draft-dodger escaped a fire yesterday that heavily damaged the historic Bergdoll Mansion at

22nd and Green streets in the Fairmount section.

Louis Bergson, 80, was treated at Hahnemann University Hospital for smoke inhalation after fleeing the 11 a.m. blaze. His brother Wilbur, 77, escaped uninjured from their first-floor apartment in the 100-year-old brownstone.

The building, adorned with priceless Tiffany-style stained-glass windows, was occupied by the Bergdoll family in 1902, a dozen years after it was built. It also contains several other apartments.

A neighbor, Dennis Green, who lives on 22nd Street north of the mansion, called it "a magnificent building" with a large center hall and staircase that leads to a domed skylight.

"I've never seen windows like the ones that were smashed in the fire," Green said. "They can never be replaced. There was one with a peacock, and another showing a Japanese lady with a parasol."

The brothers are among several Bergdolls who changed their name to Bergson,

because of the notoriety Grover Cleveland Bergdoll, daredevil pioneer pilot and race car driver, brought to the family.

A playboy who started flying in 1912, Bergdoll often was warned for swooping low over Philadelphia and Atlantic City rooftops.

Called the nation's "No. 1 slacker" of World War I for evading the draft, Bergdoll remained in hiding for several years. Captured and sentenced, he served two months of a five-year term, but escaped and fled to Germany.

He married a German woman and eventually had seven children. But he returned voluntarily to this country in 1939. He served almost five more years in prison, then was released in 1944.

Bergdoll died in a mental institution at 72 in 1966, after living for many years as a gentleman farmer in Virginia. His son, Alfred, also served a prison term for refusing to report for military service in 1950. Grover's brother, Erwin, also served a prison term for World War I draft evasion.

The family operated the Bergdoll Brewery on North 29th Street around the turn of the century.

Immensely wealthy, the Bergdolls also owned identical mansions called ''castles" at 52nd Street and Wynnefield Avenue, where Grover was born, and in Broomall, Delaware County. Both have been torn down.

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