Nemacolin, or Bowman’s Castle sits high atop a hill overlooking the Monongahela River in Brownsville, Pennsylvania. Several generations of the Bowman family built the castle in sections, with the earliest portion dating back to the 1790s. It is now open for public tours, to include ghost tours, and its 22 rooms contain artifacts and furnishings that span over a century of time.
Backstory and Context
In 1786, Jacob Bowman decided to move to Brownsville, PA from Hagerstown, Maryland. He saw great potential in the location for a strong business network.
Jacob Bowman began construction on the castle at the western terminus of Nemacolin’s Trail around 1789. This early structure consisted of a trading post on the ground floor with a single room above. This trading post was the first trading post of the West Alleghenies. It began to take so much inventory that it needed to have the goods produced right in Brownsville. The area, known originally as Redstone, housed residents that built flatboats for traders who travelled the Mon, Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers. During his time in Brownsville, he opened numerous factories that produced nails, glass, and paper. He even moved along to open a bank. Jacob and his wife had nine children before he died in 1847 and left the residence to his youngest son, Nelson.
Nelson added most of what still remains of the castle today, to include the octagonal tower and east wing. He also added greatly to the family’s wealth prior to his death in 1892. The castle then passed to his son Charles and Charles’ wife, Leila, who would be the last Bowman to reside there. Leila died in 1952 and the castle was later purchased by the National Historical Society and opened as a public museum. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
Now maintained and operated by the Brownsville Historical Society, the castle is one of only a handful of mid-19th century structures still standing in Western Pennsylvania. Open mostly on weekends, the volunteer docents provide guided tours of the castle, with its distinct Victorian “upstairs, downstairs” element. The castle can also be rented for weddings and overnight ghost tours.
Boger, Sarah. The Odyssey, A Diamond in The Rough, https://www.theodysseyonline.com/diamond-the-rough. Accessed 31 Oct. 2017.
Historic American Buildings Survey, Creator, et al., photographer by Boucher, Jack E. Bowman's Castle, Front & Second Streets, Brownsville, Fayette County, PA. Documentation Compiled After. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <" href="https://www.loc.gov/item/pa0486/>">https://www.loc.gov/item/pa0486/>.