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Great move: Buckwalters step in to save Leib house; will relocate historic home
The historic 1810 Leib house in Warwick Township will be moving. But not far.
Thanks to a father and son, the 207-year-old brick farmhouse that once faced possible demolition is getting a second chance with a life-saving move of just 800 feet.
Last week, Reid Buckwalter and his son Whit sent Warwick Township a memorandum stating that they would agree to move the house to their property adjacent to the 55-plus age-restricted Traditions of America development.
On Monday, the Buckwalters met with a leading house moving company, Wolfe House & Building Movers of Bernville, to figure out the logistics of the move, get an estimate and set the date.
“The house is scheduled to be moved from its present location to a spot about 800 feet away, where it will be closer to West Woods Drive,” said Whit Buckwalter. “The actual move will probably be around June 1.”
As Whit explained, you don’t just pick up a historic brick house and move it to its new spot in a few hours. It takes weeks to do the prep work that gets it ready to be relocated. Some of that work involves drilling holes that can be used to slide support beams that will hold the building up when it is moved. That process can take three to four weeks as the house is prepared to be lifted onto a dolly that will gradually shift it to its new location.
At the same time, the new foundation must be prepared.
In its new location, it will be part of a 70-home non-age-restricted development that the Buckwalters are planning just off West Woods Drive. Lot #24, to be exact.
The Buckwalters will be footing most of the bill, which had been estimated at roughly $150,000, although that doesn’t include all of the preparation and building the new foundation.
“We aren’t really doing this to be heroes or save the day,” the Buckwalters said. “It’s just the right thing to do.”
The brick farmhouse was built by Michael Groszman, a first generation Warwick Township settler and a veteran of the Revolutionary War, who built the house for his daughter Mary and her husband John Leib.
The gem of a house will finally be visible from West Woods Drive. Right now, it’s tucked at the rear of the Traditions of America development where no one can see it, except a few neighbors. Buckwalter reported that the shed-type garage will be removed. It is not a part of the original structure.
One of those neighbors, David Brodar of Resolution Drive, said that he was pleased that plans are underway to move the house. Like many of his neighbors, he wanted to see the house saved, but he was worried that fixing it up might create a drain on their homeowners association costs.
“I think it should be saved, fixed up and would make a good home for someone. It is a beautiful house,” he said.
David Biddison of Traditions of America said that the house was located right where the development planned to expand with its Phase V. Traditions of American had looked at using the house as a clubhouse, but it would require too many renovations to make it meet accessibility and safety standards. Since it would be on age-restricted property, trying to sell it to a 55-plus homeowner is not a viable option.
Back in September, Traditions of America was considering demolishing the historic home. Warwick Township supervisors strongly urged them to find another option. That’s when Nathan Jameson, who was then with Traditions of America, said that they would be willing to give the house away to anyone who would move it. For months, there was no one to take them up on that offer.
“We had been considering it,” said Whit. “It made sense because our property is nearby and that would make it easier to move it.”
Buckwalter noted that the land in that area had been owned by the Buckwalters for more than 40 years. Over the years portions of that vast property were sold for the Giant supermarket, Shoppes at Kissel Village shopping center, Target, Heart of Lancaster hospital, medical offices and more.
The Traditions of America development was one of those tracts that has expanded rapidly and is now approaching the next phase of its planning.
“For the Buckwalters to do this is really the ideal solution,” said Warwick Township Manager Daniel Zimmerman, who reported that there had been discussion about the move to the adjacent property. “It’s really a win-win and the house gets to stay.”
It’s doubtful that Warwick Township Supervisors would have allowed the house to be torn down. Several members of the board had expressed their strong desire to preserve it.
On March 14, the nine-member Lancaster County Planning Commission reviewed potential plans to demolish the house to make way for the Traditions of America expansion. In a powerful recommendation, the commission stated, “The LCPC categorically opposes the unnecessary demolition of the irreplaceable Leib House. Every effort should be made to preserve the historic Leib House located within the open space area of the Traditions of America community.”
Scott Standish director of county wide planning for LCPC reported that the strong recommendation opposing the demolition is unusual.
“It’s obvious that the staff felt very strongly about this issue. They do not want to see this beautiful house torn down,” said Standish, adding that Warwick Township does an exceptional job at preserving natural resources and agricultural land, as well as as the township’s history.
Gary Klinger, president of the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County, went to bat to save the house and played a vital role in the planning commission’s recommendation.
“We are absolutely thrilled to hear that the house is going to be saved!” Klinger said. “This project is an excellent example of groups like the Historic Preservation Trust, local government, municipal planners and the private sector all coming together to find creative means of both promoting progress but also preserving Lancaster County’s rich architectural and historic culture. Progress and preservation truly can work together!”
The next step would have been a review by the Warwick Township Planning Commission. According to Tom Zug, chairman, but that review was not yet scheduled. With the Buckwalters’ offer to move the house to their property, that review may not be necessary.
“This is a very good solution,” Zug said. “It makes sense.”
Meanwhile, Traditions of America is moving forward with plans for its newest phase of moderate density housing, with 88 units on the 24-acre tract just up the hill from the existing 60-acre Traditions of America development.
The Buckwalters are also planning their new development right next to the TOA development, which will have 70 single-family detached homes. This proposed development will have two points of entrance, one on West Woods Drive and the other on West Millport Road. There will be no age restrictions, allowing for families with children to live there.
The Leib house will be the very first home in that development, which is expected to break ground in June.
You could say that construction on the very first home in the new Lititz Bend development got started quite some time ago. Like 1810.
Laura Knowles is a freelance reporter and regular contributor to the Record Express. She welcomes reader feedback at email@example.com.
About Laura Knowles
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