More than one hundred years ago, this glittering mansion, the first house built in the wealthy neighborhood called Fountain Hill, was home to one of the community’s most distinguished men – Robert Heysham Sayre.
Building the Mansion
Sayre was the chief engineer of the Lehigh Valley Railroad and it was his dedication to his career that determined where he would build his Gothic Revival-style mansion in the 1850’s.The soot, smoke and noise of the railroad, practically at his feet, didn’t matter. As a hands-on manager, Sayre wanted to be right in the center of everything. And so he was. He moved his family to the mansion in June 1858. He lived here until his death in 1907.
The Center of Everything
The numerous organizations and institutions built, shaped and guided by Sayre were and still are, literally laid out around the Sayre Mansion. Lehigh Valley Railroad’s main headquarters were one block away. Sayre could see Lehigh University on the hills in front of him. Behind him was St. Luke’s Hospital. The Episcopalian Cathedral Church of the Nativity was right across the street. Behind the Church was the Fountain Hill Opera House, a place Sayre founded to bring culture and entertainment to his community. And on the banks of the Lehigh River, which ran through the valley below him, were the railroad and the Bethlehem Iron Works, the company he helped build, and which later would become the sprawling industry of Bethlehem Steel.