Historic farmhouse fate unknown

By on September 14, 2016
Built around 1810, the house has a heritage that dates back to 1748 and Michael Groszman, a first generation Warwick Township settler and a veteran of the Revolutionary War. hoto by Laura Knowles

Built around 1810, the house has a heritage that dates back to 1748 and Michael Groszman, a first generation Warwick Township settler and a veteran of the Revolutionary War. Photo by Laura Knowles

The historic brick farmhouse with a wraparound porch and a sweeping view of the valley just south of Lititz looks strong and sturdy.

It’s fate, however, is precarious.

Built around 1810, the house has a heritage that dates back to 1748 and Michael Groszman, a first generation Warwick Township settler and a veteran of the Revolutionary War.

According to research done by Lancaster County preservationist Randolph Harris, the house that sits north of the Traditions of America 55+ development was built by Groszman for his daughter Mary and her husband John Lieb.

Earlier this year, Harris heard from two women who live in Michigan, who have a very special interest in the house. Mother and daughter Marian Grossman Lambertson and Sheri Lambertson Nozawa are the sixth and seventh generation granddaughters of Michael Groszman. Although they have not indicated that they would be able to purchase the house, they did express to Harris that they hope that it will be preserved.

Harris agrees, saying, “Preserving this dwelling will also be an inspiring example of appreciation of our local heritage and an outstanding symbol of public, private and community cooperation.”

The house’s fate was the subject of a public hearing held on Aug. 17, when

Traditions of America went before the Warwick Township supervisors for an application to add a fifth phase to their original plan. Phase 5 would have moderate density housing with another 88 units on a 24-acre tract just up the hill from the existing 60-acre Traditions of America development. The first four phases have been selling better than anyone ever expected with a total of 244 units.

A decision on the application for the fifth phase could be made as soon as September 21.

Unfortunately, the Lieb farmhouse that sits off West Woods Drive is right in the middle of the property where the fifth phase of Traditions of America is being proposed. The exterior is well-preserved and has been maintained. Inside, there are many architectural features, like woodworking, staircases, fireplaces and moulding. The basement has an old-fashioned spring that was used for a water supply.

There has been discussion about demolishing the 19th century farmhouse, but Harris, Lambertson and Nozawa don’t want to see that happen. Last month, Wally Campbell, head of the TOA homeowners association, suggested that the house be torn down to make way for an events facility. Warwick Township manager Dan Zimmerman reported that if it was determined that the farmhouse should be torn down, it could be photographed and catalogued for historic records.

That is distressing to preservationists like Harris.

“It’s sadly ironic that we in Lancaster County are having difficulty finding consensus on what many of us see as an unparalleled opportunity for this new development in community,” says Harris. “Why not come together and make the extra effort to keep and re-purpose an early American home of the family of a Revolutionary War soldier in this new community? It’s a community being built on prime farmland that contains an historic home of national significance in a development called Traditions of America.”

According to Zimmerman, the township has been working with the developer and Harris as a historic consultant, with a lot of evaluation being done on whether to reuse or sell the property as a fee-simple parcel.

“The township has expressed its desire to retain the structure, but the developer has made a lot of effort to evaluate the feasibility of doing that,” says Zimmerman. “In the end, we do not have the authority to forbid razing the structure.”

Like many municipalities in Lancaster County, there are no regulations that give the township the ability to protect the structure.

According to Nathan Jameson, partner with Traditions of America, from the beginning, they made a commitment to consider potential uses for the home with an open mind.

“Unfortunately, the home’s location, deep within the Traditions of America at Lititz community, significantly limits these uses. Because of its location, access to the home requires an easement from the community over the private streets,” says Jameson. “Some have suggested use as a bed and breakfast, but any commercial use within the community is prohibited. We also considered incorporating the home as an additional community building. Unfortunately, the age of construction makes it cost prohibitive to renovate into an ADA-compliant structure for use by the community.

Based on initial reports from local realtors, the home requires a significant investment by TOA or a future owner to make it habitable by today’s standards. The natural spring in the basement will make it difficult, if not impossible, for a future homeowner to obtain a mortgage for the property, notes Jameson.

Since the home would exist within the Traditions of America at Lititz community, it would be necessary to ensure that the home complies with many of the same covenants as the new homes being built. One of those is that no children under 19 could live in the home.

“The practical result is that the owner would be subject to the covenants and restrictions of the larger community without the benefits, like access to the clubhouse and other amenities,” says Jameson.

He stresses that demolishing the house will not enable Traditions of America to build any additional homes.

“Our first and highest priority is to make Traditions of America at Lititz the best possible community for its current and future homeowners,” says Jameson.

Some see a certain irony in the Traditions of America development having street names like Allegiance Drive, Liberty Blvd., Declaration Drive and Constitution Drive.

“There will never be another John and Mary Lieb House, built by hand by Mary’s father, Michael Groszman, the veteran soldier who help to establish this country,” says Harris.

One Comment

  1. Jodi Martin

    September 20, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    Hi I’m very interested in this house is there anyway in making a deal for this not to get torn down….if yes I would gladly take off ur hands….I love antique stuff I believe everything that has history in should be preserved.

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