On a quiet street in New Castle sit two elegant early 20th century mansions, set deep off the curb, as if to say leave us alone.
Standing in front of them -- one is in the Tudor Revival style and the other Greek Revival -- you would swear that they are related nonetheless. After all, both command respect with equal amounts of elegance and grandeur -- like a brother and sister off in worlds of their own.
In a way, that's what they are. They were designed by New Castle architect Frank H. Foulk (1874-1929) for Alex Crawford Hoyt (1881- 1975) and his maiden sister May Emma Hoyt (1875-1962), children of industrialist and financier Lewis Stiles Hoyt (1840-1912).
Today, joined by a glassed-in walkway, the two mansions comprise the Hoyt Institute of Fine Arts, which they have been since 1965 when they were donated to the Lawrence Cultural Association by Mr. and Mrs. Alex Crawford Hoyt.
Known throughout the region as an art museum and cultural center that mounts premiere exhibitions by some of the countries best known artists -- the current one is "Wolf Kahn Pastels" through Sept. 28 - - "The Hoyt," as it is called by the locals, has become an integral part of the communal fabric of New Castle.
Both mansions comprising The Hoyt sit on a city block between Leasure and Winter avenues. But even with such a spread, nearly all of the art related activities are confined to the May Emma Hoyt house, known as Hoyt East.
Over the years, it has been transformed into galleries, studios, classrooms and offices, while still retaining much of its original historical character. And today it is the "heart" of the museum's programming, which attracts more than 15,000 visitors each year.
However, Hoyt West, Alex Crawford Hoyt's house, has remained relatively unchanged. Only used sporadically for private and corporate functions, as well as weddings, it had never been completely restored. That is, until now.
Thanks to a sizable trust created by late Allentown philanthropist Lewis J.G. Buehler (who died in 2003), Hoyt West has come alive again. This time as a house museum, which officially opened on Sept. 1.
"It has given us the momentum we needed to move this house along," says Kimberly Koller-Jones, the Hoyt's executive director, about Buehler's trust.
Lewis Stiles Hoyt was a reputable investor of oil, steel and coal and was also known as a financier.
"He died early. He was 50 when he had a heart attack," Koller- Jones says. "The rumor is that when he passed away his children inherited $100 million each."
But son Alex was no slouch either. A third-generation philanthropist, banker and industrialist, Alex was elected a director of Citizens National Bank, First National Bank and National Bank of Lawrence County, which were all located in New Castle.
Alex's house was once known as "Rosewall" because of the cascading roses that covered the stone walls surrounding the property. It features early 20th century "state-of-the-art" devices such as a bell intercom, central vacuuming system and an elevator. "It still works," Koller-Jones says of the elevator.
The house was completed in 1917 at a cost of approximately $250,000. "The cost to build the average house at the time was about $5,000-$6000," Koller-Jones says.
Aside from having the most modern of conveniences at the time, such as one of the area's first telephone rooms, the house is made entirely of steel-and-concrete construction, with walls and floors anywhere from 18- to 24-inches thick.
The exterior of the two 1/2-story-high structure is covered in common bond brick. …