The mansion at 730 Centre Ave. was built in 1884 for Marc Anthony De-Wolfe Howe, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese. When the diocese was moved away from Reading Mr. Charles W. Wilhelm, president of National Nut, Bolt and Rivet Works, and of the Aaron Wilhelm Paint Co., purchased the home.
The paint manufacturer and his wife Sarah, lived in the stately gray stone mansion from about 1886 to 1936. His brother's widow, Mrs. Aaron A. Wilhelm, also resided with them. In 1937, following Mr. Wilhelm's death, the property was willed to one of his housekeepers, Mary Gibson. She sold it in 1939 to Charles Warren Gaul, who was purchasing agent for the Carpenter Steel Co. Mr. Gaul maintained the home until 1947 when it was bought by his son-in-law. J. Turner Moore, Jr., who was president of the former Reading Battery Co. Mr. Moore owned it for about ten years. In 1960 Mr. Price purchased the property.
In 1964 Mr. Reppert purchased the property from J. Aubrey Price and originally intended to renovate it and make it into apartments. Mr. Reppert, a supervisor in the materials preparation department at Western Electric Co., changed his mind obout renovating the mansion after realizing the he couldn't afford to heat the mansion (which required 68 tons of coal in the winter). In February 1968 he announced plans to have the mansion razed to make way for a million-dollar 10-story, 35-unit apartment house erected.
That plan fell through. Another similar plan arose but apparently did not get off the ground either.
During the early 1900's, extensive renovations were made to the mansion under the direction of architect Charles H. Muhlenberg Sr. European craftsmen were brought in to work on the ornately carved stairways and wall paneling. The Wilhelm's modernization program included the installation of speaking tubes to the third-floor servant's quarters.
In 1968, the inside of the home remained almost unchanged in structure although most of the valuable accessories have been stripped by former owners. English, French and Teutonic influences are seen throughout the rooms.
The first floor alone included a massive entry hall, a long center hall, a main drawing room and salon, a music room with hand-carved white plaster ceiling of cherubs and Victorian figurines, the formal dining room, the Wedgwood room, a butler's pantry, the main kitchen, a stairwell hall, a powder room and the servants' stairwell. Most of the ceiling-high stained glass windows have inside wooden shutters that may be recessed into the framework around the windows.
On the second floor are three mammoth bedrooms and bath suites, an oak paneled Teutonic library study with a large oak, brick and red marble fireplace bearing the date 1884. The baths have the original plumbing and sinks are marble with German silver pipe (a combination of tin, nickel and zinc) legs.
The master bath has an old-fashioned water closet and probably what was the first elaborately installed shower in the city.
The third floor served as servants' quarters.
A Carriage House, a separate dwelling located in the rear of the mansion and facing N. 3rd street, had two apartments.
The huge basement in the main house had a summer kitchen, laundry room, workshop, wine cellar and root cellar, plus the main cellar area that's approximately 45 feet by 38 feet.
In 1972 a Reading School District art teacher proposed to the Berks Arts Council that a county-wide arts center be established in the former Wilhelm mansion. That plan fell through.
In 1982 the Wilhelm Mansion and Carriage House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In the application for the register listing, the owners, Dr. James K. and Mrs. Dollie D. Wilson of San Diego, Calif., noted that the building enhances the surrounding environment, that the quality of its original construction and design is excellent and that the facade has not been altered by misguided improvements.
Mrs. Wilson lived near the mansion as a child and noticed on one of her annual summertime visits here that it was for sale. The Wilsons restored the 11-room, three-story Gothic Revival mansion and divided it into four apartments.
The Blue Room Suite - Historic Fireplace in Library
First Floor SItting Area Plaster Details
Today, the mansion is known as Adrienne's Inn at Centre Park, a beautiful Bed and Breakfast.
Purchased in 1997, the three bedroom suites still takes Adrienne's breath away, especially the Green Room.
The Green Room is incredible and breathtaking. It is the ultimate in romance. Its balcony is perfect...like Juliet waiting for Romeo.
The Blue Room is the ultimate in masculinity, preferably the gentleman's choice. The Blue Room suite comes equipped with a library in which history seems to spill right into your lap. That is the ultimate in ambience.
And the Peach Room is perfect for the businessman passing through.
The inn's architecture is incredible, with its Baroque plaster cherubs adorning the ceiling of the Angel Room, stunning stained-glass windows, and woodwork rich enough for a Pharaoh.