At a price that calls to mind the original five-and-dime store, The Woolworth mansion is for sale. Once the opulent abode of Charles Summer “Sum” Woolworth, the mansion has fallen into disrepair. It was Charles and his brother Frank who founded the store chain that bore their surname.
The price for this once gorgeous estate? A mere $295,000. Located in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the mansion was built more than a century ago. Today, only about half of the house is beautifully preserved and still cuts a striking figure, as the listing photos show. Inside the house, however, is another tale. The third level floor is missing, paint is peeling off the walls, some of the stairs are unusable, and junk clutters many of the rooms. The contrast between deterioration and luxury is eerie. It’s a contrast that Wayne Evans, the listing agent, commented on, “While the exterior of both building have been preserved, the estate’s interior is in need of restoration.”
Not all has been lost to the ravages of time. Some of the incredible details remain; intricate carvings are etched along the doorways and ceilings. Spectacular windows, with the original glass, line the walls of the sun room and main entrance.
For the history of the house, a look at the lives at the Woolworth brothers is necessary. Charles Summer “Sum” Woolworth had lived in Scranton for 30 years when he commissioned the home in 1909, which was during the time when the Woolworth Chain was explosively popular. Mr. Woolworth was responsible for establishing what would become the real flagship store of the chain.
His talents did not stop at managing the business. The mahogany counters with glass showcases were created by Sum, and he made sure the store was brightly lit and clean, according to the Woolworth’s Museum website. The F.W. Woolworth Chain would expand over the next three decades, according to the Woolworth Museum, to reach more than 500 stores. Fifteen of these stores were Sum’s, before they merged into a massive corporation. Despite this growth, Sum chose to stay in Scranton and continue operations from there.
Sum’s brother Frank was more of a showman. He commissioned the famous Woolworth Building in New York City, which was once the tallest building in the world; the penthouse alone is nine stories tall with a price tag to match. Sum was a quieter, more humble man, who avoided the spotlight. He became involved in the local community – local politics, urban rehabilitation projects, and a few investments. When Frank passed away in 1919, Sum was asked to take over the corporation. He declined and instead became chairman; he would watch four presidents come and go. At the ripe old age of 90, Sum died in 1947.
As time passed, the Woolworth mansion was zoned as commercial. According to the listing agent, the 7,849-square-foot home became part of the Mercy Hospital School of Nursing. The most recent owner was the Lackawanna Institute, which is a nonprofit whose original plan was to create an “urban think tank” there.
The exact count of the rooms in the mansion is difficult to ascribe due to the lack of a floor on the third level. Evans says that there were about five bathrooms and five bedrooms on the second floor, in addition to four or five bedrooms on the third floor which were used for the in-house staff.
For now, the Woolworth mansion sits on almost half of an acre near downtown Scranton. The $295,000 price tag, does not include the Carlisle House located behind it, though a buyer would have the option to tack it on.