The History of our Buildings

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Three buildings make up the main museum of Winters Heritage House. The 1760 Pa German portion (left), the 1760 Scots-Irish portion (Center) and a 1865 brick and timber shop (right)

Historic Summary of 47 East High Street (Scots-Irish portion of the Winters Heritage House)

The Scots-Irish portion of the Winters Heritage House (parlor and log room) was built c. 1760 as a 1-½ story log cabin. Core samples from the logs indicate that they were felled in that time period.  The building was sited in a different location; possibly on the town square. It is believed that the building, one of the earliest constructed in Elizabethtown, may have been built by Barnabas or Samuel Hughes to be used as a tenant house for one of the nearby farms’ workers and/or as a small store.

As per tax records of that era, the log structure was moved to its present location (1/2 a block east) on East High Street c. 1790 by George Carolus.  Tax records tell us that George also owned a store on the square.  It is believed he purchased this log structure when it was functioning as the town store and relocated it to its current site. He then built a larger store in its place.  George used the relocated log house (our museum) as a tenant house.

The front desk room, where you enter the museum, was a tin shop, built c. 1865.

The 1790 house included just two rooms; the current parlor, which was originally a kitchen, and the room we refer to simply as “the log room.” The second floor was initially a simple attic where children may have slept or things may have been stored.  Originally, a stone cooking fireplace made up most of the eastern gable end (now a doorway to the current front desk area) of the kitchen, but much of this original room was lost due to a fire in the 1840s. The log room’s walls are American chestnut, with bark intact. They are from relatively narrow trees, indicating Scotch-Irish construction.  Chinking between them would have been a mix of mud and straw.  You can see an example of chinking in a disused window frame and door frame, visible from inside the log room.

Dividing the two rooms is a c. 1760 beaded vertical board interior wall.  The original red milk paint (made from a combo of blood and milk) is still visible from the parlor side.  A wood stove sat in the log room as evidenced by the scorched wall and the stovepipe hole which preceded the parlor’s (1847) brick fireplace.  At one point, the interior of all the log walls were whitewashed.

The identity of the builders/owners as Scotch-Irish through the 1800’s is indicated by building technique and archaeological evidence.  Traditionally, Scotch Irish construct their homes with the fireplace on a gable end.  PA Germans preferred to build with the fireplace in the center of the home.  The lack of redware was significant.  A heavy use of redware would have indicated that the owners were of German descent.  There was a dominance of transferware and other hard paste wares in the shards recovered.

In the mid 1840’s, a fire destroyed the log walls in the original kitchen (current parlor) though the log room remained intact.  As they rebuilt, any useful remaining materials from the kitchen were incorporated into the new structure.  A charred beam in the parlor matches the original beams in the log room.  A new kitchen was attached to the rear wall of the log room, and the original roof rafters became the kitchen’s ceiling beams. The remodeling of the house allowed the old kitchen to become a parlor (with cupboards and a warming fireplace), and added a full second floor with 3 bedrooms and an attic.  The new kitchen had a cooking fireplace and a bake oven.

Additional History;

David Honefius purchased the property on April 3, 1851; and sold it to Christian Oldweiler, a Civil War veteran, on May 20, 1867.

Circa 1865 a 2-½ story commercial building was constructed directly to the east of the 2 1/2 story Scots-Irish building.  This was built of nogging construction; timber framework filled with brick.  The attic of the shop was used for smoking meats- the fire being built in a cast iron stove which sat in the middle of the first floor room.  This building is now our first floor front desk area and second floor office space.

Christian sold the property to Catherine Sheaffer on March 7, 1879 for about $1200.

These two buildings were being used as residential dwellings (rental units) in 1947 when they were sold to John Jones who used them to store WWII surplus materials.

Gerald Shantz, who purchased the buildings in 1988, was planning to demolish them when local preservationists began working to save the historically significant early Elizabethtown structures.  The Elizabethtown Preservation Associates, Inc. was born from this struggle.  With the cooperation of Shantz, the group was able to save the buildings by purchasing them that same year.  After a year of documentary, archaeological, and historical structural research and restoration planning, the actual restoration work was begun.  By 1991, the restored structure, known now as Heritage House, housed a museum, information center, genealogical library, EPA office, meeting room, and herb garden.

Historic Summary of 43 East High Street (PA German portion of Winters Heritage House)

This house was originally constructed by Jacob Kauffman c. 1760, and was located about 1 mile east of its current location, on the north side of East High Street (near the fairgrounds, but across the road from them). Jacob’s son, John, and John’s wife, Mary Anna, lived in the house at that location on a 138-acre tract of land.  John passed away in 1804, leaving his land to a son, who continued to live there with his mother, Mary Anna, and four other minor (under 21) siblings.  The house was relocated to its current location around 1812, and eventually Mary Anna and her unmarried daughter, Barbara, took up residence there.

Built in traditional German manner, the original structure (1 mile east) would have had a central cooking fireplace. However, when relocated, town restrictions did not allow cooking fireplaces in the front room, so a kitchen el was added to the rear (where a hallway is now). A staircase came down towards the front door in the east corner as evidenced by the boards in the ceiling beam that held the top riser.  Staircases were usually walled off to keep heat in the first floor (as is the front desk staircase and the log room staircase).  A wall (now gone) running front to back just to your left as you enter via the front door, would have divided the first floor into two rooms.  In a traditional German house, the room you enter into would be the kitchen, and the bedroom/family quarters would be the other room. As this house’s kitchen was removed to the rear el portion, this entry room would have probably been utility in nature.   The second floor was a steeply pitched attic with a knee wall front and back, and would have served as a sleeping and storage area.  In 1824, only 12 years after it was first re-built, it was enlarged to its present 2-story height.

The logs are a mix of oak and chestnut, and are cut from much larger trees than the Scotch-Irish house’s, and then squared down for a better fit. The chinking has been left uncovered as a display in the west rear corner – Shingle scraps and other construction debris are wedged into the gap between the logs. This was then covered with a mud and straw mixture, which was later whitewashed.  The many nail holes and shadowing are from the vertical lath that eventually covered the walls, but many layers of whitewash directly on the logs and chinking indicate that this was not applied for many years.

Some other clues indicate the use of the logs for a previous structure. A log in the eastern wall (also framed for display) is notched and the gap was then filled with a shorter log.  This indicates that the log may have been cut to accommodate a window in the earlier structure and was still useful enough to be included in this one. Several places in the log walls indicate that the house was expanded to meet the 1812 in-town requirements of 24 feet by 17 ½ feet.  The original house was only 20 feet wide.  To add length, several vertical logs were inserted in the walls.  Similar to the Scotch-Irish house, careful scrutiny will reveal sealed in beam notches in the log one row down from the current top log.  When reassembling a log house, it was common practice to move the old top log one layer down and cut a new log for ceiling beam placement.  This allowed you to create a freshly level ceiling/floor at the new location.

Under the floor is an exhibit of broken shards and other artifacts that were most likely discarded there during the construction of the house in 1812. The trash is believed to be from the Scotch-Irish house adjoining, and was found pretty much as it now appears.  Trash disposal in 1812 had its challenges. You had the option of throwing things out in your outhouse, but if the trash was non-biodegradable, this was not the best idea.  One could bury their non-biodegradables, but if your yard was small, that also became a problem.  There was probably a town dump, which required a trip out to visit it.  Rag men were happy to remove rubbish for free, but tended to be found in larger cities than Elizabethtown would have been in 1812. A construction site with a soon-to-be-covered foundation would have looked like an ideal place to dump a bucket of garbage.

The fireplace in the western wall was only used to heat the room. Cooking was done in the rear el.  Food storage was in the basement.

This portion of the museum now houses the Seibert Genealogy Library.

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Historic Summary of 33 East High Street (Jacob Dyer house)

The house was built in 1877 by Jacob Dyer.  Jacob kept a diary and here are some fun items from that;

The property was purchased in February of 1877 for $500.00. It included the empty lot with an old stable (where the house is now located) which was torn down in March of that year.

The house construction was begun on April 26th, 1877, and took seven months to complete.

A tomahawk was found while digging the cellar of the house

George Womley, the man who dug the cellar, was paid $2.50 per day, $6.25 total. (At the time, these were considered to be high wages.)

Diary entry: “April 30 – Lumber arrives. Mr Wormely and Allen were hauling lumber, were compelled to quit after wagon broke down with 1000 lathes on wagon.”

Diary excerpts:

  • May 14 “43rd (and final) load of stone delivered”
  • June 4 – 3000 brick from Maystown delivered – quality in question.
  • June 5 – More brick from Maystown – all were returned due to inferior quality. No more brick will be accepted from there.
  • June 6 – McLauadian went to Middletown to make arrangements for brick
  • The Fourth of July was celebrated with a “grand Fireman’s Parade” which went through the main streets of Elizabethtown, accompanied by a band. “After the parade,” wrote Jacob Dyer, “there were several heavy fights by parties from town and the country. Two women also fought.”
  • In July a railroad strike interrupted Dyer’s work on the house because he had to pick up his family from Columbia. “Terrible time at Pittsburg. 125 locomotives and 3000 cars turned by the riots.”
  • On July 23 the strike escalated. Dyer wrote: “Railroad strike really all over the United States. I went to Colombia to bring Ella, Luther, and Uncle Aaron back. I left here at 3 o’clock on the morning, no freight trains running, about 500 men were around the depot at Columbia. 150 persons killed at Pittsburg, some by soldiers, others by rioters. About ten million dollars worth of freight destroyed.”
  • September 20 – Moved into the new house.
  • December 20- Very pleasant day. Finished setting steps in front of house. They took very well. I am pleased with them.
  • The house was insured for $300 for five years at the total cost of $30
  • Christmas Day was spent in the newly finished house, playing ball with the boys.
  • For amusement on December 29, Dyer attended the opening of Horst’s Hall. “Prof. Boisco,” a magician performed for a house of about 250 people. Wrote Dyer, “There was a lively time downtown. This was a great event.”