York artist Horace Bonham’s house: ‘There are paintings of his children throughout the building’
The parlor of the Bonham House, now a York (Pa.) museum, is shown here. The 19th-century house was remodeled in 1933. The York County Heritage Trust-operated attraction was recently featured in the local magazine ‘Spaces.’ (See additional photos below.) Background posts: Artist Horace Bonham captured everyday life and From ‘Spaces’: Dempwolf’s Ashcombe Mansion in Cumberland County: ‘I spent a fortune on this house. It’s crazy’ and Also from ‘Spaces’ – Women’s Club of York: ‘No one knew it really looked like this’ .
Horace Bonham was a 19th-century York County Renaissance Man.
He was a lawyer and newspaper owner and artist, among many other things.
His work with the brush seemed to be his consuming passion, and his work is shown today at Washington, D.C.’s, Corcoran Gallery in Washington and at his former residence in York’s East Market Street.
‘Spaces,’ a York County homes magazine published by the York Daily Record/Sunday News, visited the Bonham House and will tell its story in an upcoming edition through words and photos:
The Bonhams had four daughters – Mary, Elizabeth, Amy and Eleanor. Elizabeth lived in the home until her death in 1965.
Despite its handmade lace curtains and extravagant furnishings, there’s an unpretentious tone within the walls of the Bonham house.
A well-stocked library in the mid-1800s three-story brick town house displays Horace Bonham’s knowledge and education. Nearby, his paintings show his soft, sometimes whimsical, side.
There’s a gentleness about the place with its strong sense of family values and obvious appreciation for life’s finer and simpler pleasures.
Scott Royer, director of education for the York County Heritage Trust, leads tours of the house and discusses the Bonhams’ Victorian lifestyle.
Double doors with stained-glass windows lead to a parlor for entertaining welcomed guests where Horace Bonham’s artwork is displayed.
“There are paintings of his children throughout the building,” Royer said.
The Bonham family – which included Horace, an attorney, his wife, Rebekah, and their daughters, Mary, Elizabeth, Amy and Eleanor – was well off for the time period, Royer said.
The home included a private decorative rose garden, a nanny and servants.
In 1870, Horace married Rebekah Forney Lewis. She had been a fellow student at the York County Academy and also attended St. John’s Episcopal Church, where Horace became a member in 1855.
Horace died from a stroke on March 7, 1892, at age 57.
Rebekah wrote letters after Horace’s death that show she never stopped mourning, Royer said. “She wore the mourning dress for the rest of her life,” he said.
Rebekah died in 1926 at age 90.
In 1929, Elizabeth Bonham, known as Bessie, bought her sisters’ interests in the house that had been left to them by their mother. Bessie remodeled the house in 1933 and spent the end of her life at the family home, Royer said.
She died in 1965, having never married and without children. Her estate was valued at more than $1 million.
Stained glass, common in the house, frames a coathanger.
About the house
The Bonham House, 152 E. Market St., York, is available Saturdays for guided tours.
To schedule a tour and for pricing, call Scott Royer 846-6452.
Anyone with knowledge or items related to the house and Bonham family is asked to contact the York County Heritage Trust at 250 E. Market St., York, or call 848-1587.
For more information, visit www.yorkheritage.org.
Notice the artwork on the lampshade.
Early 1900s clothing is exhibited in the women’s dressing room.