Formation of the Park
Coleman Memorial Park enjoys a rich history beginning with the Formation of the park from the five Coleman and Brock family estates to the new history being formed today. This is our story...
Not far from the Union Canal, brothers George Dawson and Robert Coleman built two hot-blast anthracite furnaces in the north-west corner of Lebanon, the first such furnaces in Lebanon County, in the 1840s. In 1852, Robert sold his interests in the furnaces to George Dawson. By 1853 George Dawson built the first mansion in what is now Coleman Park. This was a grand estate with stables, farms, ice-house, a gate house and other related out buildings. The mansion was torn down in 1961 and in the history of the Colemans the mansion is called the "Homestead". George Dawson married Deborah Brown of Philadelphia in 1852 and as their children grew and married the estate was parceled off to accommodate the children.
The other mansions were built for Sarah and Arthur Brock, Debbie and Horace Brock, Bertram Dawson Coleman and John Penn Brock. All of these properties were deeded or sold to the City of Lebanon beginning in 1936 and Coleman Memorial Park was created. Today the "Homestead" stables, known as the Carriage House, stands in the center of the park. The "Homestead"' gate house greets visitors to the park and the gate house for the Horace Brock mansion bids farewell to visitors as they exit the park. The Ready House, a garage, stands to the north of where the "Homestead" stood. Other remains are visible in the park, including the garden area of the John Penn Brock mansion. Also, along the south end of the park are remains from the furnace operations - the large stone wall on the right as you exit the park are the remains of a vanity wall constructed to shield the Horace Brock mansion from the operations of the furnaces.
By the 1930s all the Coleman family members that lived in the mansions had passed away and the surviving descendants either deeded or sold their properties over to the City of Lebanon. Beginning with the acceptance of a "Deed of Gift" from George Dawson Coleman's grandson of the same name and his wife, as well as from Bertram Dawson Coleman's daughter, Anne Harrison, Coleman Memorial Park was born. Later deeds and sales to the City added to the park's land, including the Arthur Brock Extension to Coleman Memorial Park - materials from the Arthur and Sarah Brock mansion were used to construct the original Bandshell. There was no trust included with the gifts and thus it became the City's responsibility to fund ongoing operations in the park. The day-to-day decisions for the park are the responsibility of a Board of Trustees.
Sarah Brock wished the Arthur Brock mansion demolished and in 1937 this work was completed under a work order from the WPA. The other mansions were gradually razed due to lack of funds to properly maintain the
upkeep on the buildings until the last mansion; the "Homestead" was razed in 1961. Discovered during demolition was the locally famous "Lincoln" letter written by Abraham Lincoln to George Dawson Coleman appointing Coleman to represent the United Sates to the Industry of All Nations exhibition to be held in London. This letter was discovered in a "hidden" office whose access was from a false bookcase. The pool was added in 1940 and renovated at a substantial cost in the 1980s. The Gazebo was donated by Coleman descendant LeRoy Holman in memory of his mother, Harriet Dawson Coleman Glover. This was donated consistent with a Coleman Family reunion in May of 1994. In 2011 Coleman Memorial Park celebrated its 75th Anniversary, a milestone event!
Coleman Family History
George Dawson Coleman and his brother Robert built the North Lebanon Furnaces in the 1840s. They were the grandsons of Robert Coleman - the Robert Coleman that purchased Elizabeth and Cornwall Furnaces. This Robert Coleman was Pennsylvania's first millionaire of record. His grandsons exhibited the same bold industrial leadership by constructing LebanonCounty's first hot-blast anthracite iron furnace and they were only in their 20s. George Dawson Coleman was considered one of the finest Iron Masters of his day. He married Deborah Brown of
Philadelphia in 1852, the same year he purchased his brother’s interest in the North Lebanon Furnaces.
Then in the following year he constructed the "Homestead" estate just north of furnaces. George Dawson Coleman was very generous to the Lebanon Community and was acquainted with President Abraham Lincoln and a personal friend of President U. S. Grant. George Dawson Coleman remained active in the furnace operations until his early death in 1878, at the age of 53. His two youngest sons were only in their teens at the time and not able to take over the management of the operations. Fortunately, his sons-in-laws, Arthur and Horace Brock were more than capable to assist Deborah Brown Coleman in the task.
Horace and Arthur became involved in numerous mining operations in the American South West as well as in local Lebanon manufacturing resulting at the end of the 1890s in the formation of the American Iron and Steel Corporation – the merger of numerous companies in Lebanon and Reading. One of the early decisions that Bertram Dawson and his brother Edward made was to sell the North Lebanon Furnaces to Pennsylvania Steel in 1901. Bertram stayed on as manager. The Coleman and Brock families were a close knit family that enjoyed each other’s company immensely and they threw many grand and elegant parties in Mt. Lebanon as what the estate was then known as.
Horace and Arthur Brock were sons of John Penn Brock, a wealthy coal operator, among otheractivities. Both sons had a keen business sense with industrial interests. They married daughters of George Dawson and Deborah Brown Coleman – Arthur married Sarah and Horace married Debbie. It is interesting that the Brock brothers and the Coleman daughters were actually distant cousins. The Brocks managed the furnace operations for Deborah Coleman after her husband’s passing until Bertram Dawson and Edward Coleman were of age to assume the management of the furnaces.
By the end of the second decade of the new 1900s arrived the changes to the family was considerable. Horace and Arthur Brock had passed away and Bethlehem Steel had come to town, purchasing, among other companies, Pennsylvania Steel and Lackawanna Steel. They took possession of the North Lebanon Furnaces and the manufacturing facilities of the American Iron and Steel. Horace and Debbie’s son John Penn Brock (named for his grandfather) became a manager in the Bethlehem Steel company, but sadly passed away at a young age in 1928. This was followed by the passing of Bertram Dawson in 1933 and finally in 1935, the last Coleman living at Mt. Lebanon, George Dawson and Deborah’s daughter Fanny, passed away. The descendants either sold or gifted their estates to the City of Lebanon forming the genesis of what is now Coleman Memorial Park.
The Coleman name is still a name that engenders awe and respect in the Lebanon community and their legacy is a powerful and inspiring testimony to the history and development of our community.