Historic Buildings Find Guardians: Pennsylvania Communities Unite for Preservation Efforts

By Ashley Adams

August 4, 2023

Organizations, municipalities, and individuals throughout the state work hard each year to preserve the rich history in the commonwealth by preserving historic sites and buildings.

Pennsylvania has played a pivotal role in many key moments in history. As such, the state is full of old buildings—some over a hundred years old, and some with significant legacies in their communities.

Every year the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office presents Community Initiative Awards which recognize the hard work and dedication of organizations, municipalities, agencies, and individuals in their work to preserve the history and historic structures of the state.

There were four award recipients in 2022.

Blairsville Area Underground Railroad, Blairsville

The Blairsville Area Underground Railroad is a volunteer organization that maintains a museum, archives, and history center in the former 1917 Second Baptist Church building to educate visitors on the area’s many Underground Railroad stories.

In 2021, the organization partnered with Levity Brewing Co. in Indiana to produce the Freedom Seekers beer series which has labels featuring pictures and stories of the people involved in the Underground Railroad in Indiana County. They used proceeds from the sales to support their preservation efforts.

Spring Valley African Methodist Episcopal Church, Glen Mills

Concord Township was recognized for its preservation of the historic Spring Valley African Methodist Episcopal Church. In 2014, as part of its Open Space Planning program, the township purchased the church which had been damaged by fire and was sitting vacant for more than two decades. The township used Community Development Block Grant funds for interior and exterior rehabilitation work, which was completed in 2022.

Sheepford Road Bridge, Mechanicsburg

The Friends of Sheepford Road Bridge, a committee of the West Shore Historical Society, was recognized for its preservation of the 1887 Sheepford Road Bridge.

The group was successful in delaying the removal of the bridge in 2020 and worked for two years to find a new owner and to raise the funds needed to restore it. In April 2022, York County received $1.4 million in Transportation Alternative Set Aside (TASA) funds to rehab the bridge for bicycle and pedestrian use. The West Shore Historical Society is currently planning pre-construction activities for restoring the bridge.

Joanna Furnace, Morgantown

Hay Creek Valley Historical Association was recognized for its preservation of the 1791 Joanna Furnace. The organization worked diligently to reclaim and maintain the Joanna Furnace buildings and grounds and continue to study the site’s layers of relevance.

The Joanna Furnace Complex was an iron furnace that operated from 1792 to 1901. It was founded by Samuel Potts and Thomas Rutter III and named for Potts’s wife, Joanna.

Keystone Historic Preservation Grants

In addition to honoring those who work to preserve historic buildings, the state also offers preservation grants so groups can continue the work of keeping the history of the commonwealth intact.

This year, the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission awarded $2.58 million in Keystone Historic Preservation grants to help historical and heritage organizations, museums, and local governments in 21 counties.

Here are a few of the recipients:

Chester County Courthouse

The Chester County Department of Facilities was awarded a $100,000 grant to preserve the historic Chester County Courthouse. The funding will be used to repair and/or replace the damaged sections of the six massive Corinthian columns to prevent further water damage and preserve the structural and historic integrity of the cast iron columns.

Strode’s Barn and Springhouse, East Bradford

East Bradford Township was awarded a $100,000 grant to complete the restoration of the Strode’s Barn and Springhouse, the former headquarters of Strode’s Sausage & Scrapple Company. The structures are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Located on township-owned public parkland in West Chester, the buildings will be the architectural focal points of an outdoor heritage center along the Plum Run Trail.

Historic Buildings Find Guardians: Pennsylvania Communities Unite for Preservation Efforts

Soudersburg, PA / USA – June 9, 2019: Herr’s Mill was built in 1738 on the Pequea Creek in Lancaster County.

First Baptist Church of Meadville

The First Baptist Church of Meadville’s 120-year old bell tower houses an historic Revere bell cast in the 1830s. Due to the deteriorated condition of the tower, the bell cannot be rung again until repairs have been made. The church was awarded a $100,000 grant to do preservation work on the bell tower, including repointing the masonry joints to stabilize the stone, restoring the deteriorated brownstone, putting on a new bell tower roof, and restoring the existing stone stair treads.

Painter’s Folly, Chadds Ford

Chadds Ford Township was awarded a $100,000 grant to complete rehabilitation on Painter’s Folly, the former home of Howard Pyle, the founder of the Brandywine School of Art. One of the many students that Pyle had under his tutelage was N.C. Wyeth, a painter and illustrator, and father to painter Andrew Wyeth.

The rehabilitation of Painter’s Folly includes increasing ADA accessibility on the first floor, including adding a ramp from the driveway to the wraparound porch, leveling the step from the porch into the home, converting the back room into an ADA accessible artist studio, creating an ADA accessible bathroom, and leveling the uneven flooring between rooms throughout the first floor.

Markham Railroad Station, Concordville

The Nicholas Newlin Foundation was awarded a $100,000 grant to complete the construction phase for the elevation of the Markham Railroad Station, which serves as the Visitor Center and is a contributing element of the Newlin Mill National Historic District.

The project will protect the historic building from increasingly severe flooding that threatens the structure’s historic fabric, the organization’s operational center, and provide a model to other historic sites.

Herr House, Willow Street

The Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society maintains the 1719 Herr House, which is the oldest home in Lancaster County and the oldest Mennonite meetinghouse in the Western Hemisphere. The house’s roof is leaking and requires replacement. The historical society was awarded a $100,000 grant to complete the repairs.

Arch Street United Methodist Church, Philadelphia

The Arch Street United Methodist Church was awarded a $100,000 grant to restore the church’s historic 215 foot spire and resolve some of the unsafe conditions in the church that threatens the potential closure of the site. The work on the church includes repointing the marble exterior, replacing brick, bracing buttresses, and repairing windows and the lighting rod.

Christ Church Burial Ground, Philadelphia

The Christ Church Preservation Trust was awarded a $100,000 grant to preserve its burial ground, which is one of the nation’s most unique Colonial and Revolution-era graveyards. A seven-foot-tall masonry wall that surrounds the burial ground is crumbling and the funds will be used to repoint masonry bricks and restore the blue capstone on top of the bricks.

Grumblethorpe, Philadelphia

Grumblethorpe and its Tenant House comprise a historic house museum, two-acre garden and

urban farm in the Colonial Germantown National Historic District, one of the earliest historic

districts in the country. Grumblethorpe was the home of the Wister family, who lived there for over 160 years. It was built in 1744 as a summer residence, but it became the family’s year-round residence in 1793.

The Philadelphia Society for the Preservation of Landmarks was awarded $100,000 to complete the preservation/replacement of both buildings’ roofs and restoration of character-defining exterior millwork, as well as painting, repointing, and interior restoration—all essential to the preservation of the site.

West Overton Village and Museum, Scottdale

The Westmoreland Fayette Historical Society was awarded a $100,000 grant to complete structural and facade improvements of West Overton Village and Museums. The five historic buildings within the project scope are critical to the site’s interpretation. Two adaptively reused barns, the Summer Kitchen, and the Carriage House, will undergo masonry repairs. In addition to masonry work, the windows and blinds of the 1838 Overholt Home will be repaired.

Author

  • Ashley Adams

    In her 16 years in the communications industry, Ashley Adams has worn many hats, including news reporter, public relations writer, marketing specialist, copy editor and technical writer. Ashley grew up in Berks County and has since returned to her roots to raise her three children.

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