The Zurbrugg Mansion, 531 Delaware Avenue, Delanco, NJ
The Mansion was the home of the Zurbrugg Hospital's original benefactor and founder, Theophilus Zurbrugg. At his death in 1912, Mr. Zurbrugg left a quarter of a million dollar endowment to fund a hospital, perhaps because his wife Lizette was a former nurse or because he had suffered a stroke in 1908. In addition to the endowment, he left his three story Riverside residence and the land on which it stood. In February 1915, the original Zurbrugg Hospital opened its doors, in that residence.
Swiss-born Theophilus Zurbrugg was the first of his family to come to the United States at age 15, settling in New Jersey in 1876. He soon sent for his father John, a Swiss watchmaker who opened a jewelry shop in Mt. Holly, N.J. where he repaired watches and sold clocks. He then sent for his brother Julius Augustus to join them in America.
Theophilus was an apprentice at a watch case company in Philadelphia, one of three such companies. At that time, watchcases were made of solid gold and were too expensive for most consumers. Working at his bench, he developed new ideas and in 1883 founded T. Zurbrugg & Company. Within 10 years, he had bought out the two competing companies and in 1892, purchased the Pavilion Hotel on Fairview Street in Riverside. This building along with an additional wing built in 1903, housed the Philadelphia Watch Case Company, which became the world's largest manufacturer of pocket watchcases. Theophilus made watchcases out of ordinary metals for many different watch making companies. In 1897, he founded a metals company to assure a supply of the alloys needed for the casework. He employed over 1,000 men and women and dominated the world market. In 1908, he created a separate company, which produced coins for foreign countries.
In 1910, Theophilus bought what later became know as the Wood's property in Delanco, plus the entire riverfront block on which it stood. Delanco, like many of its sister communities along the Delaware, came into being in the mid 1800's as a summer resort for well-to-do Philadelphians who moved upriver to escape the heat of the city. The Wood's house, a large three-story white house on Willow Street and the riverbank, was moved to Third Street in Delanco where it still stands.
In 1910, Thoeophilus commissioned the eminent Philadelphia architect, Frank Furness, to design a magnificent brick and stone mansion on the waterfront, where the Woods house once stood. Since Frank Furness died in 1912, it is believed to be one of his last commissions.
The white granite columns, which line the front of The Mansion, as it came to be known, were imported from Italy, the tiles for the roof from the Netherlands. On the back of a postcard of the house under construction, an undated, penciled note read, "the house of our new Company's President. The roof is of red (tyles) so constructed that it is ventilated. It is situated on the Delaware River and presents a much finer appearance now that it is finished." A huge weeping beech was brought in by railroad car. The entrance to The Mansion led into a wide, spacious hall with a broad stately staircase to the second floor. Mr. Zurbrugg spared no expense in construction or furnishing the house.
Click here for a Photo Tour of the Zurbrugg Mansion.