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Mount St. Macrina Retreat Center

Youghiogheny

Mount St. Macrina Retreat Center

Portico at Mount St. Macrina

Location Details

PHONE: 724-438-7149
ADDRESS: 500 W. Main St. (US 40)
Uniontown, PA 15401
HOURS: Phone Ahead

Event Details

Pilgrimage Honoring our Lady of Perpetual Help

Description

Once upon a time, Oak Hill led a life of disquieting opulence. Everything about the 43-room, two-story manor — the silk tapestries, Tiffany lamps, ornate woodwork, imported marble — spoke to the virtues of wealth and power.

But times change. Now known as Mount Saint Macrina, the house leads a quiet, simple life of devotion as a retreat center. The Sisters of Saint Basil, an order of the Byzantine Catholic Church, acquired the mansion and nearly 200 acres of property in 1933 for the miraculous sum of $50,000.

Originally constructed in 1909, Oak Hill cost its benefactor, Josiah Van Kirk Thompson, $3 million. As president of Uniontown’s First National Bank, J. V. Thompson made his fortune buying coal-rich land and then leasing the mining rights. He also made a family with his first wife, Mary. But Mary died after a brief illness, leaving him with two sons.

Enter Hunney Hawes, an aspiring actress. Thompson and Hawes met, fell in love, and married in 1903 at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria. They returned from their honeymoon to Oak Hill. Built to last, the mansion was fitted with a steel frame, and the concrete floors were 13 inches thick. The estate was self-sufficient, generating its own electricity, gas, and water. Unfortunately, the foundation of the marriage was not as strong. In 1913, Hawes received a $1 million divorce settlement and moved to New York.

A year later, the bottom fell out of Thompson’s business ventures, leaving the financier broke, but not homeless. Although Oak Hill was purchased by the Piedmont Oil Company, Thompson was allowed to stay in the mansion until the day he died. Upon his death, Thompson’s possessions and furnishings were sold at auction (netting considerably less than market value), and, shortly afterward, the Sisters of Saint Basil moved to their new home.

The casino is now a chapel. The grounds that once housed stables, tennis courts, and a swimming pool are now dedicated to meditation. The estate also includes the motherhouse, a nursing home, a personal care home, and pilgrim houses. Each September, Mount Saint Macrina hosts one of the largest pilgrimages in the United States. As many as 7,000 travel to the Mount.

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