04 June 2015

Expat Explorations

En-route to finding the Chestnut Tree at Morton we spied this building.  Now I would expect to see something like this in Illinois or Washington DC back in the states but it seemed very out of place in Derbyshire! Obviously we stopped to snap a few pics and to see if we could possibly go inside but it was locked up and the gardens are somewhat neglected.  After getting back home to some decent internet access a google search revealed that although it was intended to be a library it never served as one and is currently a masonic lodge.  How it came to be built here is a very interesting story!

Robert Watchorn was born and grew up in Alfreton but immigrated to the US when he was in his early 20s  and was very much a self-made man, the epitome of the American Dream if you will. He began working in the coal mines at age 11 and continued in that line of work in Pennsylvania after immigrating but worked his way up while continuing educating himself. Amongst his accomplishments was helping end child labour in the state, becoming Commissioner of Immigration at Ellis Island, and owning an oil/gas company. Robert however believed in giving back and invested quite a bit back not only into the communities where he lived in the states but also back in Alfreton--besides this library, he also built a church, school, sports ground and pavilion.  

Robert Watchorn was very much an admirer of Abraham Lincoln and what he stood for, please read more about his history and the Lincoln Memorial Shrine he founded in Redlands, California here.

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