During the midst of the Civil War fury in 1863 would rise this magnificent residence, situated directly across this street, which was purchased in 1870 by J. Donald Cameron (1833-1918), son of Simon Cameron. The elder Cameron had served as President Lincoln's first Secretary of War during the early years of "The Rebellion," and was the organizer of one of the most powerful and lasting state political machines in U.S. history. Son J. Donald continued the Cameron legacy as Secretary of War to President Ulysses Grant and later as Pennsylvania U.S. Senator from 1877 to 1897. Grant visited this home while President and was reportedly seen smoking cigars while relaxing on the side veranda facing State Street. Having married the daughter of James McCormick, first president of Dauphin Deposit Bank, J. Donald Cameron expanded the family business interests under the Cameron-McCormick clans. He was involved in manufacturing and railroad operations and, with his father, helped to get Rutherford B. Hayes and James Garfield elected to The White House. He also helped found many of Harrisburg's public and cultural institutions. J. Donald's home, designed in the classic Second Empire style, remained in the family until his last surviving daughter, Mary Cameron died in 1959.
1880 view of the J. Donald Cameron Mansion showing that little has changed in the time since.