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The Surprising History of the Ephrata Mountain Springs Complex

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The Surprising History of the Ephrata Mountain Springs Complex

Posted on April 12, 2022 by Lisa Willwerth

Despite its many transformations, the Ephrata Mountain Springs Complex continues to further Ephrata’s economic development nearly two centuries later.

Though only a portion of its former glory remains, the mansion on Main Street overlooking Ephrata has a storied and fascinating past, as it was once the home of the Ephrata Mountain Springs Hotel. The hotel played a crucial role in the development of Ephrata, and its architecture has been an iconic part of the borough’s landscape for nearly 175 years.

House on the Hill

In 1848, Pennsylvania state senator Joseph Konigmacher established his homestead on the edge of the Ephrata ridge (now 320 E. Main Street), building the mansion that still stands today. The site was home to a natural mineral spring, and by 1860, Konigmacher had expanded his home into a 400 room hotel and resort centered around the “healthful waters” of the spring and sweeping views from the ridge. The property was called the Ephrata Mountain Springs Hotel. Konigmacher hired experienced staff from Philadelphia to cater to high-end clients who traveled from New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, including former presidents Lincoln, Buchanan, and Grant. A trolley system was built to connect the hotel with the town of Ephrata down the hill. At its peak, the hotel could house up to 500 visitors who would stay throughout the summer.

The Mountain Springs Hotel in the 1860s – Image Courtesy of Lancaster Online

After Konigmacher died in 1861, the hotel passed through various hands and waned in popularity. Then in 1882, it was purchased by the Von Nieda family, who initially ran the facility as a temperance hotel. However, by the 1930s, the property was eventually abandoned and experienced significant damage and decay.

A New Phase

In the 1930s, a new group of spiritualists calling themselves “The Temple of Truth” had taken up residence in Ephrata, led by Ethel Riley Post Parrish. Parrish called herself a “physical medium” and had formed a church and school in Miami, Florida, to educate spiritual ministers. There she met Mr. and Mrs. John Stephan of Ephrata and decided to relocate to escape the heat of Florida summers. In 1935 Parrish purchased the former Mountain Springs Hotel with help from the Stephans, renaming it “Camp Silver Belle,” after the manifested spirit guide she channeled during seances. The site of the former resort was to be a destination for spiritualists to attend meetings, conferences, services, and vacations.

Ethel Post Parrish channeling “Silver Belle” Image courtesy of spiritualpathspiritualistchurch.org

A Hospital for Ephrata

In 1937, in honor of the Stephans following their deaths, The Temple of Truth decided to designate the site as a hospital, calling it the Stephan Memorial Hospital. The hospital would benefit local citizens who previously had to travel to Lancaster for the nearest hospital. By 1940 the hospital became the Ephrata Community Hospital after being granted a community pleas charter and non-profit status. However, the need in Ephrata for medical care was growing quickly, especially following World War II, and in 1949 a new hospital was opened elsewhere in the borough, and the site of the former Mountain Springs Hotel was once again Camp Silver Belle. Ethel Post Parrish remained on the property until her death in 1960.

Public Auction of the Mountain Springs Complex in 1991 – image courtesy of Lancaster Online

Haunted House Transformation

In 1982, the Mountain Springs Complex was added to the National Register of Historic Places, but the property’s contents were sold in auction in 1991. Officially empty, the site became a local haunt, falling more into disrepair despite multiple attempts to subdivide and redevelop the property through the Ephrata Economic Development Corporation. Ultimately, in 2004 the majority of the Mountain Springs Hotel complex was demolished, leaving a portion of the original Konigmacher mansion, which still stands today.

The Mansion as it stands today – Courtesy of Oak Tree Development Group

After a major renovation in 2011, the Konigmacher mansion was given another life as office suites and stands alongside the Hampton Inn and Applebee’s. The Mansion once again welcomes visitors to Ephrata as it first did back in its initial heyday. While in a smaller capacity, the property continues to further Ephrata’s economic development nearly two centuries later.