Lancaster County’s Historic House Museums Need Special Care | Home & Garden
Considering current building prices, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who needs a new roof and can’t wait to find out how much it will cost.
Tiffany Fisk certainly isn’t.
She is the administrator of 1719 Herr House & Museum on Willow Street where, she says, the steeply pitched roof of the oldest Mennonite meeting house in the Americas is due to be replaced within a few years. There are currently 4,600 White Oak Side Lap Shingles. Some are starting to curl.
“It’s about getting the right material and installing it the right way, which on this house is a challenge,” says Fisk.
Welcome to the kind of project that most Lancaster County residents usually don’t need to consider. Of course, many homes in designated historic neighborhoods must meet standards set by a historic architecture review committee. But older homes with museum designations may have even more blocks to check out.
“I can’t speak to the way other small museums do things, because we all have different boundaries,” says Fisk. “But I can tell you that as the person responsible for the upkeep of the oldest surviving house in the county, I rely on architectural history experts and historical craftsmen.”
Details and decisions
Workers installed the current roof of Herr House about 20 years ago to make it historically accurate. Prior to that, the house, built in 1719 by Christian (son of Hans) and Anna Herr, for a time sported the type of roof one would find on a much more modern structure. This was before his time at the museum, but Fisk says there were different theories as to what could have been up there to begin with.
“Would it have been a roof of red clay tiles?” Would it have been a thatched roof? What would it have been? she says.
Fortunately, a piece of what would have been an original oak shingle was discovered in the house, she says. Mystery solved. Selected material.
Stanley White, president of the Southern Lancaster County Historical Society, says he made sure the state runs as many projects as possible at Robert Fulton’s birthplace before handing that over to the historical society.
This included old warehouse roofs (one of which protects the company’s records) that were largely reconstructed with historic Peach Bottom slate. A similar substance was used when that slate ran out, White says.
Some of this slate was removed from a barn on the property, which instead received a new metal roof. White says the decision was made in conjunction with the State Historical & Museum Commission and “seemed like the best way to get the most important buildings to keep their slate.”
White says the state also pruned a huge button tree before handing over the keys. That way, the company wouldn’t worry about huge branches falling on the house where Fulton – best known for his steamboat – arrived on the scene in 1765.
The details of the deal took a few years to work out, but the company ended up buying Robert Fulton’s birthplace for $ 1 and took possession of it in 2017. Now it’s a matter of continuing to maintain the located property. , of course, in Fulton Township.
The state has a say in the colors and changes to the birthplace because it is a registered historic site, White says. Most of the colors have already been discussed with state officials. So unless the company wants to make a change, they’re equipped with all the paint samples they need and in some cases leftover paint.
People can take painting very seriously in the old homes they visit. Fisk says she learned this at Historic Williamsburg, where she held various roles.
Fisk says he compares a massive, historically rich place like Williamsburg to the small plot she’s working on now, it’s apples and oranges.
“But one of the things with a place like this – and I would say here too – is that people have been going there for years,” she says. “If something changes, they don’t always like it.”
Say, for example, a room in Williamsburg is repainted with a different shade.
“They’ll say, ‘I came here in 1955. And it was that color back then,’” she says.
Fisk says scientific advances now allow historians to better understand what the past really looked like, including the colors of the walls. “Now we’re able to look at things with technology that wasn’t there before,” she says.
It’s a potential learning opportunity for visitors, she says. This explains why Herr House’s current oak shingles aren’t exactly like that once-hidden room.
The original shingles were red oak, Fisk says. Those on the roof are now white. The difference in absorption made white the better choice, she says, adding that once the shingles are weathered, it’s hard to tell the difference.
White says Fulton Birthplace volunteers keep historical accuracy in mind – even with the type of vegetables they plant in his garden.
“When a tree falls or a pipe breaks, our volunteers do what they can or hire professionals to do the job,” White explains. “I’m happy to report that the grounds are in the best condition they’ve ever been, thanks in large part to one or two volunteers who really enjoy doing it.”
The historical society raises funds through events such as an annual green vegetable sale. And White adds that prior to this $ 1 deal, he also insisted that adjacent farmland be included. A local farmer now rents the company 36 cultivable acres and four acres of pasture.
“This income is, to a large extent, the reason our small but hardworking society is able to face Robert Fulton’s birthplace property repairs with a brave face,” White said.
“There is a cancellation clause in our deed that basically says that if we fail to maintain the buildings or open the birthplace to the public, the state has the right to repossess the property,” White said. .
He was asked to take it off and told not to worry as it is unlikely to ever be used.
“I really doubt the state wants to take over the day-to-day care of the birthplace and I’m very happy to let us take care of that,” he said.
Sweat and sore muscles are involved.
“It’s not always fair, but many of our members aren’t as able to help as they used to be, so we tend to rely on the same people over and over again to do the heavy lifting,” White said. “Sometimes, however, I can get help from a friend of mine from outside the company to do a small project. As long as I don’t talk too much about history.
There’s also a small group that does most of the work at the Historic Stoner House in Manheim Township, says Deb Frantz, who is the director there.
The municipality owns this house. It is occupied, operated and maintained by the Manheim Township Historical Society, which on its website traces the history of the structure to a log cabin and cellar built in the 1700s by an innkeeper named Jacob Slough. The Wilhelm family owned it after Slough and built a Germanic stone structure attached to the cabin. The Stoner family then obtained it and owned it during an extension of the second floor of the house in 1848, by the company, which is now responsible for keeping the house in good repair.
“There are about 12 of us doing probably 99% of the work,” says Frantz.
The company hires professionals for big jobs like painting the exterior of the upper floor. But to save money, volunteers paint whatever parts they can get, says Frantz. Other tasks range from cleaning floors to tackling this summer’s yellow jacket infestation.
“They dug under a windowsill and we had a problem,” says Frantz. “It’s a stone structure, but they still found a way to… make their way through.” “
The volunteers went on the attack with a variety of substances and techniques.
“They tried a few different things and eventually got it under control and plugged the hole,” says Frantz.
She says there is a lot to do for anyone who wants to join the company but doesn’t have the skills to tackle this kind of task. Volunteers for fundraising, for example, are always needed, she says. But being nimble and energetic doesn’t hurt.
“We have younger members joining us,” she said. “Basically it is a hope and a prayer that there will be qualified people joining the group who have a historical mind and who have business skills.
Frantz says she is happy to work in a house that has centuries of history within its walls. The one she lives in is not.
“It’s not historic. I bought it because it requires little maintenance, ”says Frantz. “I have enough to do at the Stoner House.”