Rush Battles was a prominent and wealthy lawyer, businessman, and civic
leader in Girard, Pennsylvania. After receiving his law degree from the
National Law School, he partnered with fellow businessman, Henry
Webster, to open the Battles & Webster House of Banking. In 1857,
Battles commissioned the construction this Italianate farm house for
himself, his mother, and two unmarried sisters. Battle’s father, Asa
Battles, had died in 1848, leaving his entire estate to Rush. Built by
Erastus Slater, this home is affectionately referred to as the “Yellow
House.” A four-story barn was built in 1871 on the property. It
featured a stone foundation and elegant cupola, but it was destroyed by
fire in 1977. In addition to cultivating grapevines, a fruit orchard,
and nut trees, the Battles Farm produced potatoes, corn, wheat, and
barley. In 1861, Battles married his business partner’s sister,
Charlotte McConnell Webster, and subsequently constructed another
Italianate home, called the “White House,” just north of the farmhouse.
Rush and Charlotte Battles had three children, but only his daughter,
Charlotte Elizabeth, survived into adulthood. The family of three lived
in the White House, and their daughter, Charlotte, lived in the home
until her death in 1952. When Rush Battles died in 1904, daughter
Charlotte inherited his farm, both of the Italianate mansions, his
business and banking interests, as well as the rest of the 130-acre
property surrounding the homes.
The Yellow House and White House formed what is called the Battles
Estate. The estate was donated to the Historical Society of Erie County
in the 1980s and both homes were turned into museums. The Yellow House
features the Battles Museum of Rural Life, while the White House
contains the Charlotte Elizabeth Battles Memorial Museum. In 2016, both
museums remain open to the public.
Sources: Erie Yesterday. Images of America: Erie County, Pennsylvania. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 1997.;
Eiler, Linda Lee Hessong. Images of America: Girard. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2005.