The Jackson House in Apollo is steeped in history, old-world charm
Some homes were built to last.
The Jackson House in Apollo was the vision of one of the town's forefathers, Civil War Army Brigadier Gen. Samuel M. Jackson.
The house at 411 Terrace Ave. serves as a visible reminder to Apollo's past and what life was like for residents more than a century ago.
The house is a conversation starter for sure, says Sue Ott, vice president of the Apollo Area Historical Society.
“We often get questions about the home,” Ott says. “Especially since it has been fixed so nicely.”
Gen. Jackson, who was the grandfather of actor Jimmy Stewart, shelled out $6,000 for construction costs in 1883 to a local carpenter, C.Y. Hilty, and would later spend $1,000 on a porch and other additions.
Italianate in style but laced with Victorian touches, the home is described as being in “mint condition” by current owner and Apollo native Dan Cappo.
Cappo, a software engineer, relocated from Seattle to Apollo in 2004, with hopes of finding a farm property. Instead, he found himself touring the Jackson home by chance.
“We fell in love with it on our first walk-through,” he says. He purchased the home in 2004 for $236,500.
The four-story home features an original stained glass window, high ceilings, hardwood floors, custom woodwork, crown molding, transom windows, five bedrooms and a covered wrap-around porch and balcony.
A tower soars above the large main block of the house, and the home features gabled dormers with windows facing every direction.
It was the first home in Apollo with indoor plumbing, and the original fixtures are still in place, Cappo says. More than 3,600 square feet of living space, including a carriage house, made it the largest residence in town.
Visitors to the home enter a foyer that still features the original wooden circular calling card receptacle, where people who came to visit would leave their card.
Cappo still uses the large cherry desk owned by Gen. Jackson. “The general could afford to buy things that would last,” Cappo says.
Cappo frequently fields questions about the house.
“I often get asked about how much ‘upkeep' is involved,” he says. “The general housecleaning is not too bad as long as you stay on top of it. I'm also asked about heating costs, and surprisingly it's not as high as most people imagine. The other question I get asked about is ghosts. I've have no experiences with those.”
Cappo keeps in touch with relatives of Jackson, even offering his home up for visits.
Capt. Robert Jackson of Penn Township — a first cousin, four times removed, of Gen. Jackson — and other Jackson descendants, in town for a family reunion, toured the home several years ago.
“I never really had a solid understanding of the Jackson family history while growing up,” says Capt. Jackson, who serves as a family historian. “I'd see the mausoleum (where Gen. Jackson is buried) in the cemetery and knew about the mansion and its connection with Gen. Jackson and Jimmy Stewart, but I had never stepped foot inside.
“I appreciate that Mr. Cappo and others have maintained the property throughout the years with only minor structural modifications. Due to their efforts, we can step through the mansion's doors and be transported to Apollo in the 1880s. Often times, genealogical research consists of names and dates — it's wonderful to have a well-preserved family home brimming with history to experience.”
Hollywood visits Apollo
Gen. Jackson's daughter, Elizabeth Ruth, married Alex M. Stewart of Indiana, Pa.
The couple settled in Indiana and had a son, James Stewart, on May 20, 1908. The general died in 1906, but the young family still would frequently visit the Apollo home and Mrs. Stewart's mother.
After James grew up to be Hollywood actor Jimmy Stewart — known for starring in classics such as “It's A Wonderful Life” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” — he still would visit his grandmother.
Joyce Laughner, Capt. Rob Jackson's aunt, grew up a few doors down from the mansion on Terrace Avenue and recalls the day a fancy convertible driven by Jimmy Stewart with his mom in the passenger seat pulled up to the mansion for a visit.
Laughner, 89 and residing in Iowa, says her mother, Goldie, was a childhood playmate of Jimmy's.
“It was a big deal when (Stewart) came to town and I had never seen a convertible before,” recalls Laughner, a retired social worker. “We all knew about him and we had autograph books and he signed mine. He was such a warm individual.”
Laughner last visited Apollo seven years ago.
“That (Terrace Avenue) street was gorgeous when I was growing up,” Laughner says. “I'm glad the home is kept up — so many houses go to wreck and ruin.”
Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.