George Boudreau is the newly named executive director at Ebenezer Maxwell Victorian Mansion.
Old-time baseball fans will certainly know the name Lou Boudreau, a Hall of Fame shortstop whose playing career lasted from 1938 to 1952 and who knew the game so well that he was made player/manager of the Cleveland Indians at age 24. He was the youngest manager in the history of Major League Baseball and one of the greatest shortstops I have ever seen play in.
So naturally last week when I met George Boudreau, the newly named executive director at Ebenezer Maxwell Victorian Mansion, 200 W. Tulpehocken St. in Germantown, Philadelphia's only authentically-restored Victorian House Museum and the city's only house museum from the Civil War era, I just had to ask if he was related to Lou Boudreau.
“Of course, you are not the first person to ask me that,” said Boudreau, the youngest of six children. “We Boudreaus are all sort of related from French Canada. When I came to Philly, I got a package in the mail with pictures of teeth. I looked into it and found there was also a local dentist named George Boudreau, and the package should have gone to him.
“Later he became my own dentist for a couple of years, and I thought he looked a little like my dad. I do know for sure, however, that I am a direct descendant of Robert Catesby, the man who paid Guy Fawkes to blow up London’s Parliament building in the failed 'Gunpowder Plot' of 1605.”
A history buff, Boudreau should be right at home at the Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion, a 17-room three-story stone house centered in a beautiful garden. The masonry building is two-and-a-half stories, with a three-story tower. The house features three porches and four stone chimneys. It was built in 1859 by prosperous cloth merchant, Ebenezer Maxwell and his wife, Anna, at a cost of $10,000. The house was lived in by many families until 1964 when it was slated for demolition.
Many neighbors, however, came together and purchased a portion of the property, and in 1965 the house was restored by the Germantown Historical Society. In 1975 it became a museum with a mission to provide a look at middle-class life in Germantown during the Victorian age through tours and other educational programs, such as the annual Dickens Christmas Party on Dec. 2 or the Victorian Christmas Tours on Dec. 23 and 24.
In 1979 and 1980, a cast-iron sidewalk was moved from 1907 N. 7th St. and installed in the rear porch of the house. The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971; it is a contributing property of the Tulpehocken Station Historic District.
Boudreau replaced the former executive director for 17 years, Diane Richardson, who retired. “She was a godsend to me,” said Boudreau. “She was a phenomenal director. We all owe her a great deal.”
Boudreau, who was the editor of his college newspaper at Manchester College in Northwest Indiana, was a history and journalism major. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of Indiana. His doctoral dissertation explored Benjamin Franklin's ideas on education.
A Mt. Airy resident, Boudreau came to Philadelphia 30 years ago “because of the great historical resources here,” he said. He applied for four highly coveted fellowships — at Monticello, Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Mt. Vernon — and won them all. He has edited books about history and he is currently writing a book about historic sites.
“We have always been a nation of immigrants,” said Boudreau. “Lots of research has been done on Colonial Germantown. There is so much to unpack about history here, Benjamin Chew and William Allen, for example. And about Ebenezer Maxwell, who made a fortune in government contracts. And the fact that the Tulpehocken Station Historic District was slated to be demolished with bulldozers, but the Victorian Society of America stopped it.”
For more information, visit ebenezermaxwellmansion.org. Len Lear can be reached at email@example.com