PENNSYLVANIA AT RISK 2010 ANNOUNCED
December 16, 2010
PENNSYLVANIA AT RISK 2010 ANNOUNCED
Preservation Pennsylvania announces the annual listing of the Commonwealth’s most endangered historic resources.
Preservation Pennsylvania, a statewide non-profit historic preservation group, released its annual Pennsylvania At Risk list today, which highlights 11 endangered resources.
Pennsylvania At Risk serves as a representative sampling of the Commonwealth’s most endangered historic resources. For the purpose of the list, endangerment is defined as threat of demolition, significant deterioration, vandalism, alteration, and/or loss of its historic setting. It is Preservation Pennsylvania’s belief that publishing this list draws statewide attention to the plight of Pennsylvania’s historic resources, promotes local action to protect resources, and encourages additional state funding for historic sites.
Resources included on the Pennsylvania At Risk 2010 list include:
East Stroudsburg Railroad Station (East Stroudsburg, Monroe County)
Built in 1864 as the Stroudsburg station on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, the East Stroudsburg Railroad Station is a landmark in the community. The depot’s presence led to rapid commercial growth, establishing Crystal Street as the business hub of a rapidly expanding community. Thanks to the efforts of East Stroudsburg’s residents and supporters, and the partnerships between community groups, non-profits, private corporations and individuals and the borough, the building was saved earlier this year after demolition of the station had begun. However, initial funding to save the 1883 building only covers partial reconstruction and restoration, so efforts to secure the long-term future of the station will need to continue.
U.S.S. Olympia (Philadelphia, Philadelphia County)
Built by the United Iron Works of San Francisco in 1890-1893 and commissioned in 1895, the cruiser U.S.S. Olympia is a National Historic Landmark that represents critical points in American history. She served as the flagship of the Asiatic Squadron in the Spanish-American War, and it was from the Olympia’s bridge on May 1, 1898 during the Battle of Manila that
Commodore George Dewey issued the famous command: “You may fire when you are ready, Gridley.” Its final mission was bringing home the body of World War I’s Unknown Soldier from
France in 1921. It was decommissioned in 1922, then opened as a museum in 1958. Since taking ownership of the ship in 1996, the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia has spent $5.5 million on repairs, inspections and maintenance of the Olympia; yet, without major a refurbishment and plans for its future use/preservation, the Olympia will either sink at its moorings, be sold for scrap, or be scuttled for an artificial reef off Cape May, New Jersey. While efforts to secure private or public funding for the project have been unsuccessful to date, the National Park Service has begun working with stakeholders to seek a positive preservation outcome. The U.S.S. Olympia was scheduled to close to the public November 22, 2010. However, it was recently announced that she will remain open until January.
Schuylkill School (Schuylkill Township, Chester County)
Schuylkill School was built in 1930 and brought children together from a number of area one- and two-room schoolhouses. Construction of the school was made possible through the philanthropy of Frank B. Foster, who helped fund three consolidated schools in Chester County (the other two of which are still in use). In 2002, the Schuylkill School was determined eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places; that same year the Phoenixville Area School District began to consider the school’s demolition. Despite studies that have identified several potential new uses for the building, the Phoenixville Area School District plans to begin demolishing the building in December 2010. The ground where the historic school now stands will become a parking lot.
Stewartstown Railroad (Stewartstown to New Freedom, York County)
From 1884 to 1972, the Stewartstown Railroad connected farmers and manufacturers to markets in Baltimore. The Stewartstown Railroad remains in business under its original charter of 1884–the only such operation in existence that did not merge with another railroad or was subjected to any form of corporate reorganization. Seven railroad structures along the 7.4-mile line have been listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the line itself has been determined eligible for inclusion in the National Register. The financial generosity of George Hart, President of the Stewartstown Railroad, kept the company operational through recent tough times; however, this resulted in a substantial lien against the railroad. Arrangements to forgive the $352,000 sum were not made in Mr. Hart’s estate plans as expected. Now, unless the Bucks County Historical Society, beneficiary of Mr. Hart’s estate, will agree to defer payment of the lien for several years, the Stewartstown Railroad would be forced to liquidate its assets to raise the $352,000 that it owes.
Holland Hall “Huidekoper Mansion” (Meadville, Crawford County) Holland Hall was built by Arthur Clark (A.C.) Huidekoper in 1899 and it survives as Meadville’s only Gilded Age mansion. Holland Hall is currently threatened with demolition. Following the death of Frances Reynolds Huidekoper in 1932, Holland Hall was occupied by Allegheny College’s Phi Delta Theta fraternity who occupied it from 1935 until 1995. It was then sold and has remained vacant for fifteen years. In order to prevent the demolition or continued neglect of Holland Hall, a buyer interested in acquiring and rehabilitating this architecturally significant building is needed.
“Plantation Plenty” Isaac Manchester Farm (Avella, Independence Township, Washington County) Plantation Plenty is a farm of just over 400 acres that has been owned and occupied by the members of the Manchester family for 210 years. The house, completed by Isaac Manchester in 1815, is one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in Western Pennsylvania. The property is currently operating as a multi-faceted organic farm, producing milk, beef, pork, eggs and a variety of fruits and vegetables. While much of the significance of Plantation Plenty is clearly visible through its buildings, it also contains potentially important prehistoric and historic archaeological sites. Despite the property’s importance, it is now threatened by longwall mining. Subsidence caused by longwall mining under the farm, which causes the ground to drop between 4 and 6 feet at the surface, may cause severe damage to the historic buildings, and will fracture the rock that forms springs and wells which may alter or eliminate them. In addition, a large ventilation shaft is proposed immediately adjacent to the 3-acre protected farmstead. This would be a visual intrusion on the historic farm, and would alter the farm’s setting by introducing noise inappropriate to the quiet, agrarian landscape.
122-124 and 126 West Miner Street (West Chester, Chester County)
The National Register listed West Chester Historic District (Boundary Increase) is locally significant as a governmental and commercial center that reflects period architectural styles and the community’s development. Residential structures built circa 1844 and 1837, respectively, the buildings at 122-124 and 126 West Miner Street in West Chester are contributing elements to the West Chester Historic District. Both buildings are currently threatened with demolition. They are owned by the adjacent First Presbyterian Church, which proposes to tear them down to make room for additional facilities. The current proposal is a complete reversal from the Church’s originally presented plan which incorporated the two buildings into the expanded facility. The demolition of these two historic buildings will result in a significant loss of the community’s historic fabric and will erode the historic character of the larger community.
Laverock Hill “Sims” Estate (Cheltenham & Springfield Townships, Montgomery County)
One of the last intact Gilded Age country estates in Montgomery County, the centerpiece of the Laverock Hill Estate is an 11,000 square foot residence created in a neo-Georgian style. The 42-acre property also includes a 19th century stone dwelling, the farm’s original horse and cattle barn, the former dairy barn (now a residence), and four additional dwellings. The Laverock Hill mansion has been vacant for nearly three years, as have the stable, carriage house and greenhouse. In early 2008, Hansen Properties, LLC acquired the 42-acre tract, and proposed a development that would include 216 residential units targeted for sale/rental to adults age 55 and over. No plans have been submitted yet for the portion of the property in Springfield Township, but the developer has expressed an interest in building at least 120 cluster housing units with requisite parking, roads and utilities on that portion of the estate. The property has been determined eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, however, it is not located in a local historic district that is regulated by a historic preservation ordinance. In an attempt to preserve the site, over 150 neighboring families have informally organized into a group called Save Laverock Hill. Their goal is to have the current permit application denied, and to work to find an alternative plan for the use of the property.
Dutch Corner Rural Historic District (Bedford Township, Bedford County)
The Dutch Corner Rural Historic District includes over 30 historic farmsteads as well as a church, a school and multiple cemeteries. Evitts Mountain is a dominant natural feature that clearly forms the physical, visual and legal edge of the Dutch Corner district. Atlantic Wind, LLC, a subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables, proposes to develop 24 40-story wind turbines in a chain along the top of Evitts Mountain, surrounding Dutch Corner on two sides. The development will involve removal of trees from the mountain, as well as blasting and bulldozing rock then pulverizing it for use as fill to flatten the mountain top for the turbine pads, access road and cable trench. In addition to reshaping the mountain, the blasting will fracture the bedrock and disrupt the flow of groundwater to the area. Operation of the wind turbines will result in a noise increase of 15 to 20 dBA, replacing the natural sounds of a rural community with constant noise. This development will result in drastic changes to the Dutch Corner Rural Historic District, and will severely compromise qualities of the district that contribute to its significance.
Eagles Mere Historic District (Eagles Mere, Sullivan County)
Eagles Mere Historic District is an intact turn-of-the-century resort community consisting of cottages, boat houses, commercial buildings, churches and outbuildings situated around a natural spring-fed lake 2,100 feet above sea level in the Allegheny Mountains. The district also includes Eagles Mere Beach, hiking trails, pristine wooded areas, and is surrounded by thousands of acres of forest. Since its establishment in the 1880s, people have been working to preserve Eagles Mere as a secluded retreat for visitors and residents. However, the setting of this historic district is currently threatened by natural gas extraction from Marcellus shale. Unlike many places whose economy could benefit from natural gas extraction, if the District’s water supply/quality is damaged, its beautiful setting is altered, or the peaceful, secluded nature of the area is disrupted by increased truck traffic and the operation of heavy equipment, those very features that make Eagles Mere attractive and economically viable will be lost.
Neuweiler Brewery (Allentown, Lehigh County)
Construction of this large brewery began in 1911 and the facility opened in 1913 producing traditional German style beers. Designed by architects Peuckert and Wunder to satisfy the demands of owner Louis F. Neuweiler, the brewery was more elaborately adorned than most industrial facilities of its day. The company closed its doors in 1968, and the site has remained mostly vacant since then. Underutilization of the buildings has led to their neglect and deterioration, which threaten the resource’s survival. The Redevelopment Authority of the City of Allentown (RACA) now owns the property. Recognizing its significance, they have conducted a study that shows that the vast majority of the complex is still structurally sounds. RACA is taking initial steps to facilitate rehabilitation of the brewery, but a developer will be needed to complete the rehabilitation and put the building back in use to prevent further deterioration or the need for demolition.
Updates on Previously Listed Properties
The Pennsylvania At Risk list also includes updates on previously listed properties. Articles about the J. W. Cooper High School Shenandoah, Schuylkill County (PA At Risk 2001); Saylor Cement Kilns Coplay, Lehigh County (PA At Risk 2005); and Church of the Assumption on Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia (PA At Risk 2009) are featured in the 2010 issue. For additional information on updates, please see the attached link for the Pennsylvania At Risk publication or contact Preservation Pennsylvania at 717-234-2310.
The Pennsylvania At Risk 2010 list is released in partnership with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Committee (www.phmc.state.pa.us). Preservation Pennsylvania is a statewide, not-for-profit, educational and advocacy historic preservation organization and serves as a statewide voice on historic preservation issues. For more information, visit the website at www.preservationpa.org or contact Preservation Pennsylvania at 717-234-2310.