Manheim Historical Society recognized for Keath House preservation

By on November 22, 2016
The exterior of the restored Keath House. The front faces East High Street. (Photos by Rochelle Shenk)

The exterior of the restored Keath House. The front faces East High Street. (Photos by Rochelle Shenk)

Manheim Historical Society’s restoration effort of the Keath House is one of the recipients of the C. Emlen Urban Award. Presented by the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County, the award recognizes projects that not only gives new life to a historic building, but also boosts the character of the neighborhood.

“We’re losing our historical buildings, so it’s important to recognize what we have left,” said Shirley O’Leary, chair of the Historic Preservation Trust’s preservation committee, “The Keath House is a beautiful building, and the historical society did a great job with the restoration.”

Believed to be the oldest existing home in Manheim, the Keath House is currently located along East High Street in front of the North Wolf Street municipal parking lot. The log home dates to Manheim’s founding by Henry William Stiegel in 1762. Named for Peter Keath, a blacksmith who purchased the property in 1887, it was moved from its original location on the southwest corner of North Main and Colebrook streets.

Moving the Keath House (20 years ago) from the corner of Colebrook and Main streets to its current location on East High Street. (Photo provided by Manheim Historical Society)

Moving the Keath House (20 years ago) from the corner of Colebrook and Main streets to its current
location on East High Street. (Photo provided by Manheim Historical Society)

“The Keath House is typical of the log homes built in this period by ordinary people. Many of the homes were small, and the people that lived in them eventually built other houses. The log homes were either left to decay or were demolished; very few of them remain in our state,” Kay Hetrich, chair of the restoration effort, explained, “We really have a historic gem. Even though it’s been moved from its original location and was gutted, we wanted to restore it to show how people once lived.”

Its footprint is 19-feet by 24-feet. It contains three rooms on the lower level — the kucke (kitchen), into which a central fireplace opened for cooking and heating; the stube (stove room) behind the fireplace, which would have been used for other housework or Bible reading; and the kammer (sleeping quarters for the parents). Children would have slept in a second floor loft area. The only source of heat, the fireplace would have warmed the first floor and sent some heat to the loft.

The kitchen (kucke) with its central fireplace.

The kitchen (kucke) with its central fireplace.

“As many as eight people once lived here,” Hetrich said.

The restoration effort began in the spring of 2015 and was completed in the fall at a cost of over $100,000. Hetrich said that although some work was done by volunteers, the general contractor was Restore N’ More, a Manheim-based restoration company.

A stone fireplace and brick chimney and hearth have been constructed from stones that had served as a stack-stone fence to separate the house from the adjacent municipal parking lot on North Wolf Street. Brick flooring has also been installed in the kitchen area surrounding the fireplace. Antique white pine flooring has been installed in the stove room and sleeping room, and the wall that would have been between the two areas was reconstructed. The exposed logs on the interior of the first floor have been cleaned and repaired as needed. The chinking between the logs has also been replaced where needed with a modern material that is stronger than the original material — typically straw mixed with mud or clay, but gives the appearance of the original material. Hetrich said that this part of the work was completed by a group of volunteers who included Jim Tshudy, Bill Hackman, John Hackman, Jerry Schrawder, and Gordon Toburen.

A stairwell leads to the upper loft, but that area isn’t open to the public. A closet under the stairwell houses the security system. An HVAC system was also installed for climate control.

An open house with volunteers in colonial garb was held in September 2015 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the relocation of the building. At that time the restoration was nearly complete. Hetrich said that the Keath House was open to the public for tours on Sundays this summer along with the Fasig House, an 18th century log home that sits alongside the Keath House. The Fasig House contains Colonial era artifacts from the Manheim area.

As to what’s next for the property, Hetrich said that the organization plans to install lights around the building and the adjacent Fasig House. When they’re installed, residents may notice that they have a familiar look. They’ve been refurbished, but they had been installed along the landscape strip in Market Square. The deteriorated lights were replaced about two years ago with new lights as part of Manheim 250’s legacy project.

Also on the organization’s “wish list” are period furnishings. Hetrich also hopes that the hearth will be used for a hearth cooking class.

“Both furnishings and hearth cooking would really give people an idea of Colonial life,” she said.

For more information about the Keath House, visit manheim.pa.com.

Rochelle Shenk is a correspondent for the Lititz Record Express. She welcomes your comments and questions at RAASHENK@aol.com.

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