News Eagle reporter
The Grey Towers Heritage Association and the United States Forest Service will host the American Readers Theatre Company Saturday, Oct. 27 to present a dramatic reading of selected works of Edgar Allan Poe for Halloween. Having hosted the readings for nearly 30 years, The Grey Towers Heritage Association and US Forest Service, work to bring life to the readings, as if the Pinchot family were entertaining their guests in the home nearly a hundred years ago. The essence of the Pinchot name goes beyond the family’s wealth, in part, because of what Gifford Pinchot achieved as the first chief of the United States Forest Service and a two-term Pennsylvania governor. Lori McKean, the Visitor Services program manager at Grey Towers said the concept of scientific forestry was Gifford’s idea along with notion that “what you do today is going to impact the resources in the future.” Which, McKean said, ultimately means “you are going to have either a positive or a negative (affect) on the forest” and just because it may not be recognized today, does not mean future generation will not see the affects. The first Pinchot’s arrived in the United States after the defeat of Napoleon in France. A successful family in the region, the Pinchot’s first gained success when Gifford’s grandparents were in the logging land speculation business, buying plots of land, cutting down all of the trees and then selling the land to a farmer. The family achieved further success when James Pinchot, Gifford’s father, became involved in the importation of dry goods like wallpaper from Europe, which would eventually be sold in New York City. Grey Towers was built in 1887 by Gifford’s parents James and Mary Pinchot. There were originally 44 rooms, 23 fireplaces and 19 bedrooms. But now, the second and third floors are only used as conservation centers for forestry and conservation groups who visit and discuss environmental policies. In 1914, Gifford married Cornelia Bryce and Gifford and his brother Amos split the Grey Towers estate leading to Gifford and Cornelia moving into Grey Towers. The couple were friends with society’s finest. Gifford was an avid hunter, traveling the country to hunt and fish with fellow huntsman like Theodore Roosevelt. Since electricity was not the phenomena that it is today, for something to do, people often read for pleasure and the Pinchot’s library shows that, housing over 4,000 books, all of which are about forestry or are from family associates. Gifford’s himself was an author of 10 books. At some point, Cornelia decided the typical dining room was not necessary and so rather than the normal dining room table, the family ate at the Fingerbowl. Located outdoors, the Fingerbowl still exists and is larger than most bathtubs. Made of stone, the Fingerbowl would be filled with water and food was in a wooden bowl that would be pushed on top of the water to the next person at the bowl. McKean said it is not known where the idea of the Fingerbowl originated, but when eating at it, there was “stimulating dialogue with really intellectual conversations.” Gifford’s son, Gifford junior donated Grey Towers to the US Forest Service along with 100 acres in 1963. Some of Gifford’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren are still involved in the Towers. About 17,000 people visit the mansion a year, most of whom are not from the area. McKean said the dramatic readings are a wonderfully combined way of continuing the tradition of literacy readings and a way to continue to educate people about the Pinchot’s. The reading will be in the Great Hall, which McKean said was the place where the Pinchot’s would have entertained their guests. McKean suggests buying tickets early because they sellout fast. At this time, there is the scheduled 6 p.m. performance, with the possibility of an additional performance at 8 p.m. Because the readings are not plays, McKean said the readings “leave a lot to the imagination” which gives the audience the chance to “incorporate the literary technique into the space” where the readers are positioned in the room. The staircase in the room will be used as well as special lighting, which McKean said leaves “most of it up to your imagination.” A ticket is $20 and the performances are appropriate for high school ages and above.
For more information, call Grey Towers at (570)296-9672 or visit online at