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I was thrilled to find your site dedicated to Chamor. This place has been a big part of my life. The infamous mayor, and crazy blonde (artificially) lady from Knox, Jennifer Wesner, was my grandma I don’t think she would reject any of those monikers. Her story is one unto itself. In fact it’s chronicled in her autobiography titled “Madam Mayor.” George Shaw owned Chamor for my entire pre-adult life. George and Jennifer were married via common law, but did eventually make their marriage legally official. I don’t see any inaccuracies in what I’ve read from others’ submissions. I am surprised to see how many people have owned it. My Grandma often spoke of the Chambers and Morcks and did well to pass on what she knew. I can also remember her talking about Mr. Hazel and Mr. Koontz, but not as often.
Growing up as a kid, my sister and I, and our 2 cousins would spend our summers there with my grandma. It was so much fun. My grandma, as crazy as she was, was really a lot of fun for us kids. She really was a kid at heart. The pool was a daily activity in the Summer. I learned to swim, dive and do flips off the diving board in that pool. On one day, toward the end of the summer, I was in that pool when my grandma told us that the teachers at Keystone were on strike so the start of school would be delayed and we could stay longer. I was thrilled!
Over the course of decades, there were many parties there. Most memorable were the annual Christmas parties in which many family members attended. There were also family reunions, birthday parties and other social and business gatherings hosted there. My parents got married there and I had my “send off” party there just before joining the Air Force more than 24 years ago.
Not only was my Grandma elected the mayor of Knox, PA, she also ran for Governor of PA and President of the United States (getting enough signatures to be on the primary ballot in PA)! She was also an elected PA State Constable for several terms. All this to say that she was a part time politician, and Chamor was the site of hosting many fundraising events. During her run for President, a team from KDKA, led by Katie Burns, came to interview my Grandma at Chamor.
George and my grandma hosted an event there once to support Denise Brown (sister of Nicole Brown Simpson) as Denise was garnering support for The Nicole Brown Foundation.
So some details about my experiences at the Chamor Estate … I’ll try to keep them brief and will also not self-sensor too much (at the cost of some irrelevance) so that I can sort through this.
My Grandma lived there mostly on a part time basis. She would spend the summers with us, and then she would always spend a week or two there prior to parties and events to get it ready. She was a worker. I know she had help, but she would also wash our dishes, make our beds, do laundry, grocery shopping, vacuum, etc. Until my cousin (the oldest of the 4 grandkids) was old enough to drive the lawn mower, it was my Grandma out there doing it. Like I said, there was help. In fact, there was 1 full time guy who lived in a dwelling on George’s Victory Heights property who was the lead maintenance guy. From what I was told, this man (name withheld) split his time between Shaw Industries, Mr. Shaw’s Victory Heights property and Chamor. He sometimes had a crew, sometimes not.
As far as who lived there is an interesting thought. Other than my Grandma, I don’t think think anyone actually lived there during the time that George Shaw owned it with the exception of my Grandma for only periods of 1 or 2 years continuously. I can get more accurate timelines, but generally she lived there part time. She always maintained residence in Knox. She moved moved out that house in Knox and into a river cottage near Kennerdale. While she lived in her cottage, we visited there more often than Chamor. That is where she wrote her book. During that time, one of her sons lived in the Knox house. Then she sold the Knox house and bought another just a couple blocks over, which she had until she passed.
My time at Chamor was always filled with awe. Just being there was an experience. There was the lore that my Grandma put in place with her passage of the heritage and history and then there was Chamor for us to explore. We covered every square inch inside and out. There were many crawl spaces and two large attics (each with it’s own crawl spaces). The basement is large and is under most of the floor plan with the exception of North bends on each of the 2 wings. There are 5 rooms in the basement and 1 was made up to be a “bar/social room” for a while. There was a full bar (minus beverages in stock), music system (including 8-track player) and plenty of seating. We spent a lot of time in the “pool room.” A billiards table was placed in one of the bedrooms and it became known as the “pool room”. When we kids would get bored during one of those many summers, we would go into the office and try our hand at business. I remember glass or crystal doorknobs on all of the doors. At some point they vanished and were replaced. Also all of the bedrooms maintained the original door knockers with the original residents’ names etched on them. The heating was interesting. There was a wood furnace that heated the boiler and forced air. Heat would come through radiators and and also through air ducts.
The tennis courts were always in shambles. We would venture through when out and about. The only thing I ever witnessed it used for was to keep a goat that my Grandma bought from a 4-H auction. Also chickens were kept on property from time to time, and there was a chicken coop building. The goldfish pond was always intriguing. It was 10-12 feet long, just a cement hole in the ground. It was hard to pass without thinking of what it was or what it could be again … same goes for the remains of the greenhouses. During my time, they were dilapidated and not even able to protect the “stuff” that was inside. There was a big mound to the right (from the house) of the pond. It had a windmill with a waterway built down to the pond. Again … who knows? The wishing well was cute. There was a long, fairly well landscaped area leading out to it. That is where my parents wedding was conducted. During one period, members of my family were out there checking it out, going as far as going down inside of it.
My Grandma didn’t seem to do endorse what they were doing, but nonetheless, we talked about it with the youngest member of the “exploration team.” He told us that he found some letters that revealed that there were underground chambers and tunnels on the property and that is why they were in there. Nothing ever came of that except … he told us that there was a room under Shakespeare’s Garden. Of course I had to check it out. In three separate places across the area of the garden, I lifted up the patio rocks and dug down. A couple/few feet down in hit solid rock at the same depth. Even at 12 or so years old, my first thought was, “this is bedrock.” But my slams of with an iron poker returned a hollow echo in all 3 places. I brought this to my grandma’s attention and she agreed that it was interesting. She said she would talk to George about it. The next word I got from my grandma was to go fill in the holes and replace the patio rocks. Probably nothing — but this recount is accurate.
When I heard that George and my Grandma were trying to sell Chamor, I was thinking hard about a way to buy it. For a long time I thought it would make for a wonderful B&B. I just couldn’t figure out a way to make it work. A few years later, I got in touch with a friend from Elementary School at Keystone and she told me that her friend had bought Chamor!
The topic of this communication is not my Grandma, but her life was indeed interesting and perhaps noteworthy. She went by many names. She was born Jennie Mae Alden. Then when she got married, she was Jennie Wesner. Then when she ran for Mayor, she was Jennifer Wesner. Then when she ran for President she was Jennifer Lee Wesner. At times she went by Jennie Mae, Jenny Lee, Jennifer Wesner, but never Jennifer Shaw. She never had a name association with George, even after their legal marriage.
My Grandma had Rhumatic Fever as a child that left symptoms throughout her life. One summer night, we 4 grandchildren were sleeping in the basement. The phone rang. (There was a way that we could get the home phone to ring the other phones in the house — we called it the the “intercom” since the original intercom system in the house did not work). It was my grandma and she was having a stroke upstairs. We called 911 and, long story short, she began a long road to stroke recovery. It was many, many years, and probably never fully recovered. Sometime after the stroke, she was in a very violent car accident while traveling with George on Rt 244 on the way from Knox to Chamor & Victory Heights. It was life threatening and she was in the ICU for a while. Later she was diagnosed with cancer. She went to the hospital there in Cranberry and I brought my family (wife & 2 children) to visit her. This was after I learned from my childhood friend that her friend had bought it. I went up Chamor Lane one last time (perhaps) and just took it in … one last time. There is something about that place …
I am not sure how my stories would fit, however, I can give some tidbits. If they are of any value and you would like more stories or details, please let me know.
George Shaw was my father in law. I married his step daughter, Patricia Wesner, at Chamor on June 26th, 1976. We were married at the wishing well. We lived there and worked there for 6-8 months. I sand-blasted and painted the pool, as well as other repairs while enjoying the stay. Through my employer, Harry Parker, we installed new corlon flooring in the kitchen, butler’s pantry, laundry, and powder room. We also hosted many parties during the next few years. I am sure there are some pictures and/or videos somewhere.
Thank you for shining a light on a place that was so special to so many.
My children, Mitch Rex and Michelle Gibson, would love to share some stories.
My parents, Betty and Sam Breene were good friends of the Morcks and Averys. As a child our family spent many happy times at Chamor. Bob Hadley (see his story below) did a great job of capturing the spirit and history of the house so I won’t reiterate what he has said. I do remember Ted Avery as larger than life. He was from Montana and went to Andover — a “cowboy” who recited Shakespeare. Gus was a sweetie who made a fuss over all the kids. Ted had some peculiar notions and one of them was that the pool did not need a filter; nature would provide a natural filtration system. The outcome of that experiment was a “cement pond” murky and green filled with frogs and who knew what. That episode was short lived and soon it was restored to clear, clean blue water.
Most of all I remember happy family parties where we played “sardines,” where I ate pizza for the first time, and where I played with Punky Morck. We ran around after Ted and Anne Avery and my sister, Abbie and brother, Charlie who would occasionally deign to include us. I do remember going there as a teenager with Ted Avery and his best friend, Mike Ritchie. I think I was there when Bob Hadley was the host, too. Lots of fun.
Gina Breene Wickwire
I used to go to Chamor many times when I was young as my parents and all the owners were friends. When I was little, the place was owned was by Ted and Gus Avery. Gus was the sister of Bill Morck and she and Bill inherited the house from their parents. Their mother’s maiden name was Chambers – thus the name Chamor ( Chambers and Morck). Bill Morck was my Godfather. Then the Avery’s and Forrest Koontz, President of Quaker State, actually traded houses and the Avery’s moved to West 6th Street. The Koontz’s didn’t stay there long. In the late 1950’s or early 1960’s my uncle, Lloyd Bracken and his wife Hazel bought the place from the Koontz’ and our family had Christmas dinner there every year. My sister [Barbara] had her wedding reception there in 1963. Funny story, Dick Frame, the congressman, showed up at the reception uninvited.
There was a beautiful concrete in-ground swimming pool there and I would go out there with my friends on hot summer days. The place was beautiful and well cared for when I used to go there. I can see where the pool was in the pic[ture] but not sure it is useable. There was a little changing room for the pool located at the end of the yard in the upper corner near the woods. If you were looking at the pool from the house it would have been to the left…maybe 75 yards from the pool. Not sure why it was so far from the pool. I used to take Gary Proper, Gene Showers, Ted Stoudt, Daisy Straub and others out there on hot summer days to swim. Ever since the Averys owned the property up through the Brackens I always had access to the pool whenever I wanted.
The master living room was huge with balconies on each end that led to bedrooms. Another funny story, in the winter that huge room had a fireplace at each end of the room and one day my father started a fire in both fireplaces. Bad idea because one fireplace was hotter than the other and drew smoke away from it and the entire living room was filled with smoke. I guess they resolved it rather quickly because no one called the the fire station.
They had white rabbits running wild out there because one Easter the Avery’s got white rabbits and after awhile just let them go and they multiplied. They were everywhere.
The Bracken’s sold the property to [the Feroz] family that lived in the area. They had several sons [Gary & Donald] that played locally in a rock band. I think is was an Italian name. I do not know who owns it now or what condition it is in.
I remember one time when I was young, maybe 12, that my elderly aunt was sitting in a chair in the large living room below one of the balcon[ies] and I lowered a fake rubber spider on a string and dangled in front of her…. I got in soooooo much trouble for that.
The tennis courts were on the opposite side of the house from the pool. Looking at the satellite pic[ture] the courts area is not shown… I would say they were up in the vicinity of where it says “closer look” in the caption of the previous birdhouse pic[ture]. We always considered the front of the house to be the side where the circular drive and garage is and the back of the house faced the pool. So the pool was actually in the backyard.
When my Uncle Lloyd Bracken died, Aunt Hazel, his widow, remained living there and married Mike Hazel. Ironically, she became Hazel Hazel… although Hazel was actually her nickname. To be honest I never knew her real first name. She was always Aunt Hazel to me. She was a lovely lady with a terrific smile. She was a nurse in her early years. She always called me Bobby… never Bob.
After they sold Chamor to Feroz, the Hazels moved to a nice brick house on the lower side of West First Street past Cowell Avenue but before Mayer Street. Mike Hazel was from Texas and they also had a home there, so they traveled between Oil City and Texas.
Mike Hazel actually got me my first job out of college at Oilwell. I worked there for 13 plus years.
The picture of the dining room is where we had our Christmas dinner during the Bracken years. One of the bathrooms is where I threw up at my sister’s reception in 1963 from drinking way too much champagne. My mother said I was just emotional because my sister got married (ha ha), to which my sister said “Yeah right Mom, he’s drunk ! ”
Ted Avery, Gus’ husband, was a cowboy in his youth and also a college football player (at least that is what people believed). I want to say he was from Montana or Wyoming but not sure… it was somewhere out west. They had a lot of western/cowboy art in the house. I remember a small statue of a cowboy on a bucking bronco and also a large painting of a cowboy riding on a prairie with mountains in the distance. He was a large man with a rather loud voice and very boisterous. Both the Avery’s liked to drink and Gus was such a happy person it was hard to tell if she had had a few or not.
Now my Uncle Lloyd Bracken was a different story. I think he drank all the time. All those people came from the Prohibition Era and drinking was just a way of life in their social circles. Not many drank beer, almost always mixed drinks for the ladies and booze on the rocks for the men. Everyone smoked constantly at their parties. Kind of reminds one of the Great Gatsby parties.
I believe the Avery’s used to live there. Mrs. Avery was a Morck. Her husband’s name was Ted. They had two children – Ann and Ted. I don’t think they ever went to public school, but attended private schools. When I knew them, they lived on West 6th St. You might want to ask the Jim Crawford if he knows anything because his parents were friends with the Averys.
I used to go to this mansion in Seneca and swim with a friend of mine who lived there with his family. It was a incredible place as I remember and the swimming pool was also very big at least to me as a kid. I think now that his name was Ted Avery?
George Shaw married Jennifer many years ago. He is in poor health in Fla. Jennifer had a huge auction last year  and sold many unique items George rounded up over the years. George was very interested in the history of the area and saw value in many “old” things long before we new about “antiques”.
Having a wonderful time (again!) looking at the great work you did on the River Ridge site. Very enjoyable on so many different levels! My sister and her family actually lived in the gatehouse for a short period and a friend rented Featherstone while attending Venango Campus. Great seeing all these features again!
I couldn’t help but notice the similarities to another more diminutive, but still great local mansion, Chamor, located next to the high school out in Cranberry. I became familiar with it when the Feroz family lived there, before it was sold to George Shaw and his ‘controversial’ lady friend, Jennifer Wesner. From what I understand, it was the combined household of two ladies with long time ties to Oil City history, The Ms’s Chay and Morck.
It had wonderful, if not rundown features when I frequented there many years ago, including tennis courts, a very large heated swimming pool, a greenhouse, servant’s quarters, huge fireplaces in the living room, outdoor rose gardens and traces of a scenic stream with fountains and spillways for their enjoyment. The living room featured a balcony overlooking it from one of the bedrooms; a much more common home feature these days, but very unique back then.
Not sure what the status of the place is these days, but often thought its days of glory would make a great story, before its lost to time.
Thanks again for your fabulous work!
PS: Upon viewing your Monarch Park site, I had to dig out my scrapbook of pictures taken from the Derrick when they ran the “Bringing Back the Days of Monarch Park” series in the 60’s, just to see if I had any views not included in your site. I did not! And mine are much more faded now…
I thought that it was built by Mr. and Mrs. Morck whose oil city residence is still very much evident on West First Street. Chay was the maiden name of Mrs. Morck and it was built as their summer home.
I’ve been in it and around the grounds when George Shaw first purchased it.
in one of the gardens the ground is completely covered in ivy and shade trees with the sun coming in rays thru the trees and a stone bench here and there. i told George that I felt I was in a scene from “A Mid-Summer’s Night Dream”. “Funny you should say that”, he said…”this was called the ‘Shakespearian Garden’ on the grounds landscaping prints”…which he had at the time.
I’ve only been to Chamor once, so I can’t provide many details. It has been owned by Jennifer Wesner Shaw of Knox (she probably still goes by Wesner) and, I think, her husband George Shaw of Shaw Industries. I THINK she was going to try to sell it, according to recent rumors. She bought it so she could have her family reunions there. George, who is old and feeble, lives in Florida with his daughter, Carol, or in a nursing home there. Jennifer, I believe, is still in Knox. I’m sure she would be more than happy to talk about Chamor.
Chamor is a spectacular home. I have been in parts of it a couple different times about 40-45 years ago. I know that George Shaw (Shaw Industries) bought it 20-30 years ago. The place is nothing even close to what River Ridge is. Do you know where the new Cranberry Elementary and Cranberry High School are? It’s the driveway just to the right of the entrance to the new schools. I am not sure if George Shaw is still alive, but a large portion of his antique collection was sold off a couple years ago and he was not at the auction. I thought that he must have been in a nursing home and his girl friend (her name escapes me right now, she was the infamous mayor of Knox at one time) was in charge of selling the antiques. I believe that she still lives at Chamor Manor. I call her the crazy old blond lady from Knox. If I remember correctly, about a year or so ago, there was an article in the Derrick about Chamor. It was either build by oil money or by a banker. As I recall, it definitely does not have the history behind it that River Ridge has. However, please don’t stop searching for information. There may be something of interest there.
I remember swimming in the pool at Chamor that is shown on the Google Map at the web site. I must have been around age 10, but I clearly remember wanting to be invited to the house to swim. My parents were friends with the Morcks and the Averys who owned the property after the Morcks. The Averys had a daughter, Anne, who was my or my brother’s age and I believe that was our entrée to visit. The Averys sold the house sometime prior to 1960 and moved to 6th Av so the pool parties stopped.