Strange traditions have come down to our time, in relation to a massive edifice, which, long before the
Revolution, stood in the centre of an extensive garden, surrounded by a brick wall, and encircled by a deep
grove of horse-chesnut and beechen trees. This edifice was located on the out-skirts of the southern part of the
city, and the garden overspread some acres, occupying a space full as large as a modern square.
This mansion, but rarely seen by intrusive eyes, had been originally erected by a wealthy foreigner, some time
previous to the Revolution. Who this foreigner was, his name or his history, has not been recorded by tradition;
but his mansion, in its general construction and details, indicated a mind rendered whimsical and capricious by
The front of the mansion, one plain mass of black and red brick, disposed like the alternate colors of a
chessboard, looked towards the south. A massive hall-door, defended by heavy pillars, and surmounted by an
intricate cornice, all carved and sculptured into hideous satyr-faces; three ranges of deep square windows, with
cumbrous sash frames and small panes of glass; a deep and sloping roof, elaborate with ornaments of painted
wood along the eaves, and rising into a gabled peak directly over the hall-door, while its outlines were varied by
rows of substantial chimneys, fashioned into strange and uncouth shapes,—all combined, produced a general
impression of ease and grandeur that was highly effective in awing the spirits of any of the simple citizens who
might obtain a casual glance of the house through the long avenue of trees extending from the garden gate.
This impression of awe was somewhat deepened by various rumors that obtained through the southern part of
the Quaker City. It was said that the wealthy proprietor, not satisfied with building a fine house with three stories
above ground, had also constructed three stories of spacious chambers below the level of the earth. This was
calculated to stir the curiosity and perhaps the scandal of the town, and as a matter of course strange rumors
began to prevail about midnight orgies held by the godless proprietor in his subterranean apartments, where wine
was drunken with out stint, and beauty ruined without remorse. Veiled figures had been seen passing through the
garden gate after night, and men were not wanting to swear that these figures, in dark robes and sweeping veils,
were pretty damsels with neat ankles and soft eyes.
As time passed on, the rumors grew and the mystery deepened. The neatly-constructed stable at the end of the
garden was said to be connected with the house, some hundred yards distant, by a subterranean passage. The
two wings, branching out at either extremity of the rear of the mansion, looked down upon a courtyard,
separated by a light wicket fence from the garden walks. The court-yard, overarched by an awning in summer
time, was said to be the scene of splendid festivals to which the grandees of the city were invited. From the
western wing of the mansion arose a square lanthern-like structure, which the gossips called a tower, and hinted
sagely of witchcraft and devildom whenever it was named. They called the proprietor, a libertine, a gourmand,
an astrologer and a wizard. He feasted in the day and he consulted his friend, the Devil, at night. He drank wine
at all times, and betrayed innocence on every occasion. In short the seclusion of the mansion, its singular
structure, its wall of brick and its grove of impenetrable trees, gave rise to all sorts of stories, and the proprietor
has come down to our time with a decidedly bad character, although it is more than likely that he was nothing
but a wealthy Englishman, whimsical and eccentric, the boon-companion and friend of Governor Evans, the
rollicking Chief Magistrate of the Province.
Although tradition has not preserved the name of the mysterious individual yet the title of his singular mansion, is
still on record.
It was called—Monk-hall.
There are conflicting traditions which assert that this title owed its origin to other sources. A Catholic Priest
occupied the mansion after the original proprietor went home to his native land, or slid into his grave; it was
occupied as a Nunnery, as a Monastery, or as a resort for the Sisters of Charity; the mass had been said within
its walls, its subterranean chambers converted into cells, its tower transformed into an oratory of prayer—such
are the dim legends which were rife some forty years ago, concerning Monk-hall, long after the city, in its
southern march, had cut down the trees, overturned the wall, levelled the garden into building lots and divided it
by streets and alleys into a dozen triangles and squares.
Some of these legends, so vague and so conflicting, are still preserved in the memories of aged men and white-
haired matrons, who will sit by the hour and describe the gradual change which time and improvement, those
twin desolators of the beautiful, had accomplished with Monk-hall.
Soon after the Revolution, fine brick buildings began to spring up along the streets which surrounded the
garden, while the alleys traversing its area, grew lively with long lines of frame houses, variously fashioned and
painted, whose denizens awoke the echoes of the place with the sound of the hammer and the grating of the
saw. Time passed on, and the distinctive features of the old mansion and garden were utterly changed. Could the
old proprietor have risen from his grave, and desired to pay another visit to his friend, the Devil, in the
subterranean chambers of his former home, he would have had, to say the least of it, a devil of a time in finding
the way. Where the old brick wall had stood he would have found long rows of dwelling houses, some four
storied, some three or one, some brick, some frame, a few pebble-dashed, and all alive with inhabitants.
In his attempt to find the Hall, he would have had to wind up a narrow alley, turn down a court, strike up an
avenue, which it would take some knowledge of municipal geography to navigate. At last, emerging into a
narrow street where four alleys crossed, he would behold his magnificent mansion of Monk-hall with a printing
office on one side and a stereotype foundry on the other, while on the opposite side of the way, a mass of
miserable frame houses seemed about to commit suicide and fling themselves madly into the gutter, and in the
distance a long line of dwellings, offices, and factories, looming in broken perspective, looked as if they wanted
to shake hands across the narrow street. The southern front of the house—alas, how changed alone is visible.
The shutters on one side of the hall-door are nailed up and hermetically closed, while, on the other, shutters
within the glasses bar out the light of day. The semi-circular window in the centre of the gabled-peak has been
built up with brick, yet our good friend would find the tower on the western wing in tolerable good preservation.
The stable one hundred yards distant from Monk-hall—what has become of it? Perhaps it is pulled down, or it
may be that a splendid dwelling towers in its place? It is still in existence, standing amid the edifices of a busy
street, its walls old and tottering, its ancient stable-floor turned into a bulk window, surmounted by the golden
balls of a Pawnbroker, while within its precincts, rooms furnished for household use supply the place of the stalls
of the olden-time. Does the subterranean passage still exist? Future pages of our story may possibly answer the
Could our ancient and ghostly proprietor, glide into the tenements adjoining Monk-hall, and ask the mechanic
or his wife, the printer or the factory man to tell him the story of the strange old building, he would find that the
most remarkable ignorance prevailed in regard to the structure, its origin and history. One man might tell him that
it had been a factory, or a convent, or the Lord knows what, another might intimate that it had been a church, a
third (and he belonged to the most numerous class) would reply in a surly tone that he knew nothing about the
old brick nuisance, while in the breasts of one or two aged men and matrons, yet living in Southwark, would be
discovered the only chronicles of the ancient structure now extant, the only records of its history or name. Did
our spirit-friend glide over the threshold and enter the chambers of his home, his eye would, perhaps, behold
scenes that rivalled, in vice and magnificence, anything that legend chronicled of the olden-time of Monk-hall,
although its exterior was so desolate, and its outside-door of green blinds varied by a big brass plate, bore the
respectable and saintly name of "ABIJAH K. JONES," in immense letters, half indistinct with dirt and rust.
Who this Abijah K. Jones was, no one knew, although the owner of the house, a good Christian, who had a
pew in —— church, where he took the sacrament at least once a month, might have been able to tell with very
little research. Yet what of that? Abijah K. Jones might have nightly entertained the infernal regions in his house,
and not a word been said about it; because, as the pious landlord would observe, when cramming Abijah's rent-
money into the same pocket-book that contained some tract-society receipts,—"Good tenant that!—pays his
rent with the regularity of clockwork!"
* No reader who
story in all its
details will fail to
peruse this chapter.
Come back tomorrow to enter through Abijah K. Jones' door and learn what shameful evils lurk
in this hellish place, presided over by
The Monks of Monk Hall