The Industrial Revolution marked a period of wealth and success for many entrepreneurs in the late 18th century and throughout the first half of the 19th century. John W. Wheeler and his wife, Almira, were among those elites who generated their wealth from their sewing machine business.
Constructed in 1903 as a private residence for the Wheelers in Orange, Massachusetts, the Wheeler Mansion was a direct reflection of their wealth and the talk of the town. The architectural gem was constructed by the era’s most skilled craftsmen, using only the finest materials. The opulent three-story, 15,000 square foot home boasts an imposing brick and sandstone façade. From the grand entryway, there’s a formal living room with elegant plasterwork, a custom carved Mahogany dining room, a library paneled in red birch, and a den which was quartered with sycamore. This extraordinary property truly embodies North Quabbin history and the Gilded Age.
In 1910 however, John Wheeler died inside the mansion. He deeded his home to The Order of The Eastern Star, a Masonic appendant body open to both men and women. In 1925, the mansion was converted into a rest home for the Ladies of the Order of the Eastern Star. Over 10,000 people were in attendance for the dedication of The Eastern Star Home. The facility operated as a final residence for ladies – all of whom were members of the Masonic organization, and said to have surrendered their wealth to OES in exchange for unparalleled comfort and care in their last days.
The Eastern Star Home closed its doors in 1990 after 65 years in operation. The property was sold, and once again, used as a private residence with the intention of turning it into a Bed & Breakfast. However, financial setbacks forced the property into foreclosure in 2015. For the next five years, the mansion stood abandoned, decaying due to severe damage from a leaking roof and burst pipes. Luckily, this historic home was about to get a boost from the modern age.
A “Save this House” style Instagram page featured the Wheeler Mansion. The post went viral and was spotted by Cynthia Butler of Los Angeles. On June 17th, 2020, Cynthia’s bid won a very competitive property auction. She moved to Orange with her family, eager to take on the daunting challenge of saving the mansion and bringing it back to life. Restoring the home’s structural integrity and preserving its stunning original details are paramount in transforming the Wheeler Mansion.
It is said that the spirits of John Wheeler and the Ladies of the Order of the Eastern Star still roam the halls…and if you’re lucky, maybe you could also get a glimpse of some of Wheeler Mansion’s old residents!