1792 home connected to Morgantown founder demolished

The Morgan, Hudson, Plank historical building, located at the intersection of routes 10 and 23 in Morgantown, was recently demolished.
The Morgan, Hudson, Plank historical building, located at the intersection of routes 10 and 23 in Morgantown, was recently demolished. Submitted photo — Nora Seidel
Colonel Jacob Morgan (1716-1792) had the house built for his daughter Mary Morgan (1749-1805) in 1792 on lot #30 on Main Street in Morgantown.
Colonel Jacob Morgan (1716-1792) had the house built for his daughter Mary Morgan (1749-1805) in 1792 on lot #30 on Main Street in Morgantown. Submitted photo

To some, it might not make any difference, but to those who want to preserve history, it was a sad day for those who are distraught over seeing historic buildings being demolished.

One such building is the Morgan, Hudson, Plank building.

Colonel Jacob Morgan (1716-1792) had the house built for his daughter Mary Morgan (1749-1805). Mary had married John Hudson (died-1789). The house was built in 1792 on lot #30 on Main Street in Morgantown, Berks County, Pennsylvania. Col. Morgan must have died shortly after the house was built. John (died in 1789) and Mary (1749-1805) had Rachel Hudson 1769-1849 who married Morgan Amos Lewis, Jacob Hudson (1772-1823) who married Elizabeth Porter, Nicholas Hudson (born 1773) who married Rachel Lewis, Jonathan Hudson (died 1820) who married Sarah and Rebecca Hudson (baptized 1778) who married Edward McCabe. A half circle two step stone was by the street on this property for the ladies to comfortably step into the carriages. Several years ago, these steps disappeared.

Dr. Daniel Ireland Brunner, one of the first physicians in the region, lived here and practiced medicine. Dr. John H. Seltzer bought the house and lived in it until 1853 when he sold it to Dr. Henry Woodrop. The latter continued his medical practice until 1869 when he sold the house to Dr. David Heber Plank. Dr. Plank died in 1909 and his wife Ida Eugenia Bertolet, in 1913. The Bertolet Select School for Girls was operated by her.

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Then for a number of years, the house was rented to various local families including Shirley Montgomery Beningo’s grandmother Eva Montgomery and Doris MacFarland Gring’s family about the 1940s. In 1952, son of Heber, William Bertolet Plank (1886-1956) who just retired from being a professor of mining engineering at Lafayette College in Easton and with his wife Helen returned to Morgantown to live in the old homestead. Helen (died in 1974) lived there with her daughter Adaline Jane Plank. Although Adaline lived and worked in rehabilitation at an orphanage in Harrisburg.

During Morgantown’s Bicentennial (1770-1970), Helen was asked if her house could be among the houses open for an open house. Mrs. Plank was very happy to be asked and gave permission because she had just had her silverware polished and wanted to display it. However, when she shared this with her daughter, Adaline said that her mother was too elderly to take on the responsibility. Adaline and two other Plank descendants sold the house in 1989 at a public auction to Thomas Abbinizio of Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.

Mr. Abbinizio bought it for his daughter Angela A. Zager in 1987. Angela rented it out for a few years and then left it vacant. The house fell into disrepair and was demolished in February, 2017.

A Plank descendant, Rosine Plank-Brumback (born 1949), daughter of William Frederick Plank Jr., who lives in Florida, is active in international affairs and is presently writing a book on hemispheric integration and trade. Rosine spent more than 30 years in international trade and development policy, trade negotiation and dispute settlement within international organizations and U.S. government and diplomatic service. Attorney Rosine has many impressive years of experience in Latin America and Asia. She received her Juris Doctor magna cum laude from the University of Miami School of Law and a B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University. Rosine’s interest is in Animal Welfare, Arts and Culture, Economic Empowerment and Politics.

Here’s an Ode to the Plank House from Rosine:

“I am distressed that a building so connected to the town’s historical and social fabric, including to its founder, should have been allowed to rot and finally disappear. There will be no more physical vestige of its habitants who lived in it over two centuries. My great-grandfather, Dr. Heber Plank bought the Plank House in the mid 19th Century and raised 5 sons there with his wife, Ida Eugenia Bertolet Plank. Their second oldest son was my grandfather Walter Frederick, who died before my father Lt. Col. Walter Frederick Plank was born. I remember visiting the house in my youth at which time it was occupied by Helen Beck Plank, the widow of my great uncle William Bertolet Plank, professor of mining and engineering at Lafayette College, and their daughter Adeline Jane Plank. My only great uncle Plank I really knew was Rev. Alfred Quintin, an Episcopalian priest who served at St. Mark’s in Washington as well as parishes in Baltimore and new Jersey. He sent yellow roses to Ft. Belvior Hospital on my birth, upon learning that my name was Rosine.

I stayed at the Plank House in the 70s with my mother when Cousin Adaline Jane was living alone there, the last Plank to do so. I was shown the ground floor office where Dr. D. Heber Plank received his patients. There was a photograph on the wall of uncle “Bertie” with Max Plank, apparently a French Huguenot relation. Upstairs in the attic, there was a large portrait of a rather fierce looking Dr. Theodorus Zwingerus holding a scull under whom Delaplanche or DePlank ancestor studied medicine in the late 17th Century at the University of Basel, Switzerland before crossing the pond to America. Under the portrait was a chest where I found and avidly read Dr. Plank’s journals written on the eve of the Civil War, in which he reflected on the challenges of the Republic. I sensed the many human events that transpired within those walls. I could even almost hear the voices of the Plank boys clamoring down the staircase.

One by one, each house that held a family connection for me in Morgantown has been demolished. This included the Finger house where my grandmother Lettie Finger Plank lived with her siblings, and the neighboring houses where Dr. Plank’s brother and family lived. As cars zoomed by the modern drug chain store and whatever replaces the Plank House on Main Street, there will be little evidence of the town’s unique cultural, architectural, and historical heritage, charm, spirit, and complexity.”

Photographs and paintings of the Plank family and the Hudson House are on display in the Caernarvon Township Municipal Building on Main Street, Morgantown.