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Public Ownership

Public Ownership

Timeline | Thornwald Estate | Public OwnershipDebate over use | Converted mansion into retirement home | Dedication of Thornwald Park |The amphitheaterThe land | Historical Resources|Photo Gallery


Public Ownership

On April 11, 1972, Homewood Reformed Church sold the mansion and the surrounding acreage to the Carlisle Area School District, but continued to rent the mansion until 1974 when they could complete their move to a new facility. The residence would stay vacant while the school district decided what to do with the property (1). 

The original plans included building a middle school in the large open field along Walnut Bottom Road, but that came with much resistance. The citizens of Carlisle wanted to preserve the large green space as much of the other open areas in town had been built on. It was also home to some of the “county’s oldest, largest trees… a wide variety of wildflowers and [was] a haven for birds” (1). Instead, they wanted to save this area for recreation. During this time, the mansion was used to hold classes for the Alternative Learning Program and later the second floor was used as the Helen H. Stephens Community Mental Health Center until 1979 (2).

In 1975, the land itself was subdivided for the creation of a park and the town bought 32 acres of the estate property. By 1976, the park was officially dedicated and named “Thornwald Park.” Following that, the land was given benches, picnic tables, and even a gazebo. It was during this time that the amphitheater was constructed as well. In the wooded area there are walking paths and in a separate area, there is now a small golf course (1).   

From 1974 until 1992 the Shearer family lived in the caretaker’s house located near the mansion. The maintained the grounds after the Homewood era and continued to take care of the lands until the town purchased it (3). After this though, they continued to look after the mansion itself. When Mrs. Shearer passed away the family moved out and the borough rented the house out to families of the Army War College.

The land has transformed, but has been able to serve the community and be a rejuvenating green space. Sadler’s hope for the land to provide natural scenery and maintain a feel of a “mansion in the forest” is trying to be preserved.


  1. Strickler, Laura L. Thornwald: A Testament of the Sadler Legacy. Pennsylvania:  2012. Print.
  2. “Alternative Learning Program Moved to Homewood Mansion.” The Evening Sentinel, November 21, 1975.
  3. Cumberland County Historical Society drop file under “Thornwald”