- The Washington Times - Monday, September 5, 2005

MERION, Pa. (AP) — Rabbi Shraga Sherman knows about the murder, and he’s heard about the ghosts.

But it’s going to take a lot more than that to scare him away from the Colonial-era General Wayne Inn, a supposedly haunted building that he’s transforming into a synagogue, Jewish community center and upscale kosher restaurant.

Mr. Sherman, director of Chabad Lubavitch of the Main Line, is spearheading a $1.5 million renovation to give his growing Orthodox congregation a new home in the Philadelphia suburbs.

The plan is welcomed by the Lower Merion Historical Society, which has seen a parade of restaurant owners pull out of the National Historic Site, where guests have included George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette and the inn’s namesake, Revolutionary War Maj. Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne. The building has been vacant since 2002.

“To save historic structures, they have to be repurposed,” said society president Jerry Francis. “We’re looking for the renewal of the General Wayne Inn.”

Whether the new tenants will be welcomed by Wilhelm, the Hessian soldier who is one of several reported apparitions at the inn, remains to be seen.

Mr. Sherman is unfazed. He said community support, plus the inn’s “phenomenal location [and] functional space,” make it the perfect site for the new Chabad Center for Jewish Life.

The synagogue space alone — which he said might hold up to 200 people — would quadruple the capacity of the current Lubavitch facility in nearby Bala Cynwyd. A ceremonial groundbreaking is scheduled for tomorrow.

The plans add another chapter to the colorful history of the inn. The original portion of the inn was built in 1704. Over the centuries, it has stayed true to its initial use as a roadside tavern.

Edgar Allan Poe is rumored to have worked on “The Raven” there. And Wilhelm, according to Mr. Francis, was buried in the basement. The Hessian soldier was reportedly shot during a skirmish in 1777 by colonists who, afraid of British reprisals, hid his body in the cellar. The soldier couldn’t be buried outside because the ground was frozen.


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