River Ridge Farm Mansion Aerial Panorama.
Photo courtesy of David Nepo

The mansion was built by Ernesto Louis Grandelis (foreman) and his 75 Italian stone masons in only 7 months. Ernesto was the grandfather of my wife, Suzanne E. (Grandelis) Passauer.

  • The River Ridge Mansion was designed by Louis Stevens.
  • Before the work on the mansion began, the foundation was completed in April of 1913 and all required materials (stone, etc.) were pre-positioned. The mansion was built of native brown Pennsylvania stone in a Roman architectural style.
  • On October 22, 1913, only 6 months after construction began, Sibley moved into his mansion although construction was not yet completed.
  • All interior and exterior work was completed by Nov. 29, 1913, one day earlier than promised by my wife’s grandfather. This was an incredible feat for the time. Sibley was so grateful that the Grandelis family was permitted to live in the Franklin side gate house even after the untimely death of Ernesto Grandelis at age 40 due to ingesting stone dust. Albert Grandelis, my father-in-law, became the man of the house at the early age of 16. He managed his mother’s home on River Ridge with his two younger brothers (Ernest and Henry) and his two sisters (Edith and Mary).
  • The mansion was decorated with furnishings from as many countries as possible. Serious decorating began in the spring of 1914.
  • Furnishings consisted of paintings by Lucien W. Powell, hand carved English and French furniture, Napoleonic bedroom suites, fine china bric-a-brac; Italian, Chinese and Japanese carvings and sculptures in wood, metal, jade, marble and porcelain were purchased. Chinese and Oriental carpets and Persian rugs covered the polished oak and marble floors.
  • The Library contained rare first editions in English, French, Latin and German.
  • American Indian and Alaska Eskimo wood and bone carvings were part of the furnishings.
  • There were 7 baby grand pianos and 4 grand pianos in the mansion.
  • The bedrooms walls were hung with Japanese and Chinese silks.
  • Every bedroom had a different decor. One with solid curly maple and others with mahogany furniture inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Some bedrooms had beds shaped like sleighs and others of pine, walnut and oak resembling oversize baby cribs including rockers which enabled the occupants to rock to sleep.

The front walkway of the mansion taken from the end of the right wing.

A close-up of the brick walkway in the front of the mansion.

Looking down the front stairs toward the front gate.

A flower garden between the two stair cases leading to the mansion’s front gate.

The flower garden seen above is now a fountain in 2008.
The view is from the front of the mansion toward the Alleghany River.

A close-up view of the front of the mansion, just below the fountain seen above.
That is my wife Suzanne Grandelis Passauer in the picture.
She is the granddaughter of Ernesto Grandelis who built the mansion.

One of two stairways leading up to the front porch of the mansion.

The walkway leading from the front of the mansion to the front gate.
The front gate is seen in the distance.

The mansion’s front gate.

The mansion’s front gate close up.

Inside the front gate. One of the hand made flower boxes
created from a single Pennsylvania brown stone.

The once beautiful view from the front porch toward the Allegheny River is now covered by trees.
In the 1960’s the way to the river was an open field which allowed a clear unobstructed view of the river.

The River Ridge mansion as seen from Reno, PA along route 8 in 2008. This is the view most familiar to the locals.
In its day, you could see the entire mansion with its open farm fields found below the mansion.