The house was built by Dr. John Huston in 1871 for his nephew, but none of the Huston family ever lived there. It was sold to Amos Bowman (1837-1899), a local banker and entrepreneur, in 1875 and remained in his family as a private residence until it was sold in 1909.
Edith A. Gilliland purchased the building in 1909. Her father, Dr. H. M. Alexander (1851-1903) had founded The Vaccine Farms in Marietta where he produced smallpox, Pasteur rabies and other vaccines which he sold internationally. In 1904, Edith married Dr. S. H. Gilliland who had worked with her father at his biological laboratories, and the company eventually became Gilliland Laboratories. (Note: Gilliland Laboratories was sold to Wyeth Laboratories, Inc. in 1943 who sold the local facilities to GlaxoSmithKline in 2005.)
Under Gilliland ownership, sometime during the years between 1909 and 1919, the house was converted to a sanitarium called The Pines where the Pasteur Rabies Vaccine was administered. Because a strict regimen had to be followed, the patients, mostly children, were housed there while they underwent the series of 21 painful shots that had to be precisely administered over a three week period. The exact dates of operation of The Pines are not known.
In 1919, the building was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Henry S. Hiestand for the corporation they formed called The Marietta Community House. The stated purpose of the corporation was for the “promotion of the spiritual, intellectual, social and physical welfare of men, women and children”. The Marietta Community House was formally dedicated on December 30, 1919, to the memory of their son, Lt. Benjamin Hiestand, who was killed at the age of 19 on June 10, 1918, while instructing a cadet in flying. It was to honor him and those from the local area who had served in World War I and other wars.
Funds were solicited in 1920 from the public, and more than $20,000 was raised to construct a community gymnasium at the rear of the property. Through the years, the gym has been used by weight lifters, basketball teams, rock bands and was even a community roller skating rink. Classes for an art school were held there. The gymnasium is now known as Studio 264 and is home to The Susquehanna Stage Company where a variety of dramas and musicals are performed.
The Marietta Community House once housed a public library and a Well Baby Clinic. It served as a soup kitchen and coal distribution center during the dark days of the Great Depression and as the Red Cross Headquarters following several major floods. It has been the meeting place for organizations such as the American Legion, the Girl and Boy Scouts, Senior Citizens, the Lions Club and various community and church groups. In the early 1980’s, it was the administration headquarters for the Pennsylvania School of the Arts (now the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design in Lancaster, PA).
The Marietta Community House is available for rental by the public today for private functions such as weddings, receptions luncheons, parties and private meetings. The Marietta Community House, Inc., is a membership organization operated by a Board of Directors consisting of 15 elected members who are responsible for the operation of the corporation including the maintenance of the buildings.
The Marietta Community House, Inc., is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit corporation under Internal Revenue Service Regulations.
Contact Karen Sullivan at 717-426-4317 for more information.