When inventorying a museum’s collection, one uncovers some amazing objects. Some items are so small and precious that they get hidden away for safety’s sake. Other artifacts radiate a presence that is noticed as soon as one walks into a room. Some of those objects even seem to stare at you….literally.
Such is the case with this week’s Pennsylvania Treasure, nominated by Collections Advancement Project curator Diana Zeltmann.
Believed to be the original eagle that stood at the entrance to the Eagle Hotel in Waterford, Pa. in the early 1800s, this polychrome, wood-carved artifact has textured wings, is perched on a rock with what some believe to be a green lobster between his talons and boasts an impressive 7-foot wide wing span.
Then, there are those eyes. The eagle appears to fix onlookers with a peripheral stare.
At some point, the eagle left its perch at the hotel and another landed in his place. In the early 1960s, State Museum curators caught sight of the original at the antique shop of David David in Philadelphia. Feeling that it was a treasured piece of Pennsylvania history that needed to be shared with the public, the museum purchased the eagle in 1964.
Thomas King built the Eagle Hotel, also known as the Stone Hotel because of its period stonework, in 1826. The hotel was located near historic Fort LeBoeuf, the site that sparked the French and Indian War. From plank roads to canals to trains, Waterford was a hub for industrial travel. King, who ran the hotel for a time, was succeeded by Col. P.E. Judson. Many years after the hotel closed, the Fort LeBoeuf Historical Society bought the building and used the upper floors for a museum and office space. Sugar ‘n Spice restaurant, an Amish-style eatery, leased the first floor. The restaurant still operates there today.
About Pennsylvania Treasures:
In early 2012, The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission launched the Collections Advancement Project (CAP), a program to inventory and catalog our vast and significant holdings of art and artifacts. These efforts are resulting in better stewardship of our collections which represent Pennsylvania arts, culture, history, sciences, business and agriculture. As a component of the project, CAP curators have researched rarely exhibited artifacts and works of art. We are sharing these Pennsylvania Treasures with the public through weekly updates.