5 Most Endangered Stone Homes of 2015

Our first-annual list of threatened historic properties! We’re bringing to light stone homes and structures that are historically signifanct and in need of caring folks and funds to stabilize and/or restore them for future generations. Take a look at this list and let us know if you have more details or updates on any property listed. Also feel free to reach out with a property you think we should add to the list.

1. Henry Varnum Poor’s ‘Crow House’

Crow House, Henry Varnum Poor, New York, old stone home, old stone cottage, endangered historic properties
Rockland County, New York
Henry Varnum Poor, a famed American architect, painter, sculptor, muralist, and potter, built the main part of his cottage in 1920 and 1921, with all locally sourced materials. His design successfully melds elements of the Arts and Crafts movement with features of a French farmhouse. The town of Ramapo purchased the property in 2007 with hopes of restoring the home; plans have since been put on pause as the property continues to decay.

2. Naugle House

Naugle House, Fair Lawn, New Jersey, old stone home, old stone cottage, endangered historic properties, old stone houses
Bergen County, New Jersey
In North Jersey, the Naugle House, a beloved local landmark, is just one of many historic properties in jeopardy. This circa-1740 Dutch Colonial-style home was built into a hillside along the Saddle River and has ties to the Revolutionary War (Marquis de Lafayette may have visited this home in 1784). The home, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, boasts coursed ashlar sandstone block walls. The township of Fair Lawn purchased the home in 2010 with plans to restore it, but rehabilitation has been slow in coming. Residents continue their efforts to save this unique property.

3. Circle Creek Farmhouse/Guy’s Distillery

Circle Creek Farmhouse/Guy’s Distillery, old stone home, old stone house, endangered historic properties, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Chickies Historic District
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
Circle Creek Farmhouse, originally used as a commercial distillery, was built in 1826 by John Guy, a hotel owner from Baltimore, Maryland. In 1834, Christian Haldeman converted the structure to a farmhouse. The stone home is located in the Chickies Historic District, a collection of historic homes built by the area’s wealthiest iron masters, plus the remains of iron pits and furnaces and limestone quarries. The home, placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005, has been sitting vacant and neglected since 1988.

4. The Pest House

Pest House, Cockeysville, Baltimore County, Maryland, old stone house, old stone home, endangered historic property
Baltimore County, Maryland
Built in 1872, the Pest House was designed to house the sick and those suffering from communicable diseases (and perhaps segregate African American men from other ill patients residing at the adjacent almshouse, currently home to the Historical Society of Baltimore County). It is believed that the structure was built with limestone quarried in Texas, Maryland, by African Americans. The home has been vacant since the early 1900s and its interior damaged by vandals. Recent news reports indicate that African American historian Louis S. Diggs is leading an effort to raise funds to rehabilitate the building.

5. Rural Mount

Rural Mount, Tennessee, old stone home, old stone house, most endangered historic places
Hamblen County, Tennessee
Perched atop a hill that overlooks the valleys of the Nolichucky River and its tributaries, this stately Georgian-style mansion was built in 1799 by Alexander Outlaw as a wedding gift for his daughter Penelope and son-in-law Joseph Hamilton. Both men were instrumental in the formation of the State of Franklin and, later, the State of Tennessee. The home is an excellent example of early Tennessee stone construction, boasting walls of limestone set in a random ashlar pattern. Surrounded by active pastureland, the home was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 but, sadly, has sat vacant for the past 30 years. In 2010, several Tennessee advocacy groups joined forces to clean and secure the mansion from vandals. According to a recent newspaper report, the present owner continues to work with preservation groups to develop a plan for the home’s rehabilitation.

The Mystery of the John Shopp Farm

John Shopp Farm, abandoned farm house, Camp Hill, Industrial Park Rd., Route 581

The John Shopp Farm, located along route 581 in Camp Hill, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, dates back to the late 1700s. After passing through several members in the Shopp family, the property was acquired by the Bohn family.

If you live in south central Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, to be exact) on what’s called the West Shore, you’ve probably traveled along Route 581 more times than you care to remember. And if you’ve traveled east-bound, you may have seen the crumbling limestone home that abuts the beltway as you near the 83 and 11/15 split. If curiosity gets the better of you (as it did this blogger), you probably go home, do a bit of research on Google Maps to discover that the home actually sits on Industrial Park Road, a quick turn off of St. John’s Church Road.

If you make the trip to the home site, you notice first that the property is overgrown, shaded by pine and oak trees. But the home, springhouse and adjacent barn seem at peace in this protected setting. Cedar Run meanders right through the property, fed by a spring that bubbles up from beneath the ground. The mind then wanders: Who built this home? Was it a dairy farm? Who owns it now? Are there plans to restore? And then comes that sad realization that property may be too far gone and the home razed by the time you pass by this way again.

Getting to the bottom of the home’s history took some digging through old deeds, an email to the Cumberland County Historical Association and a quick note to the folks at Hampden Township. Finally, some concrete info, via a Pennsylvania Historical Resource Survey Form! The property is known as the John Shopp Farm. The Georgian-style limestone and brick home was built in stages. The stone portion came first, circa 1775-1800, and the three-bay, side-passage double-pile house with a six-bay brick ell came next, circa 1850-1875. And then there are the outbuildings: A two-story brick kitchen sits behind the home, a stone springhouse with brick cellar sits to the south of the house and, across a gravel path, rests a large frame bank barn (which once served as a furniture store).

John Shopp House, Camp Hill, PA, Abandoned Farmhouse, 3824 Industrial Park Rd.

The John Shopp farm comprises an original limestone home and an addition. Outbuildings include a kitchen, barn and springhouse.

So who was this John Shopp? John was the son of Ulrich Shopp of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Ulrich purchased 209 acres of  the original Louther Manor in 1774 from Conrad Manismith. John inherited the land from his father and most likely built the stone structure himself. The home became a center of United Brethernism in the area until a church was built in 1827. The property was passed down through several members of the Shopp family, some of the earliest settlers of Cumberland County. The property then passed through the hands of a few development/mortgage companies and landed, finally, in the possession of the Bohn family, which owns it today.

What will family members do with the land? No one seems to know the answer to this burning question. In the meantime this lovely old stone mansion sits (quite sadly, might I add), waiting for someone to make a decision.

If you can fill in some blanks or know a bit about the farm’s history — or future — please share with us!

Historic Stone Landmarks at Risk

Saving old buildings seems a struggle, a tug of war between individuals who seek to preserve our heritage and those in charge of the structure, the land it sits on … or the purse strings.

Right now, two stone structures are at risk as groups involved in their care work to reach compromise.

Steuben House, Dutch Colonial, sandstone building, George Washington

The Steuben House in River Edge, New Jersey, is an excellent example of Dutch colonial style. The sandstone structure served as General George Washington’s headquarters in 1780. Source: Ken Lund.

The Steuben House, located at Historic New Bridge Landing in River Edge, New Jersey, is a Revolutionary War landmark, as it witnessed an important retreat from British forces led by Gen. George Washington on November 20, 1776, and also served as Washington’s headquarters for a time in 1780. The sandstone building, an excellent example of Dutch colonial architecture, is long overdue for repairs; talks are ongoing amongst parties involved: the Bergen County Historical Society, the state of New Jersey and the Department of Environmental Protection. Difficulty in raising funds to make repairs and improvements and disputes over types of improvements that can be made at the park have delayed progress.

Newburgh Dutch Reformed Church, Greek Revival Style, Alexander Jackson Davis, fieldstone church

The Newburgh Dutch Reformed Church is a fine example of Greek Revival style. The endangered fieldstone building needs a new roof. Source: Abandonedhudsonvalley.com.

A New York state historic site in desperate need of TLC, the former Newburgh Dutch Reformed Church is an outstanding example of Greek Revival style. The church, designed by famed American architect Alexander Jackson Davis, was built in 1838 on a hill overlooking the Hudson River. The structure, reminiscent of the ancient Greek temple at Illissos, rests on a five-foot-high podium, features four 37-foot-tall columns and fieldstone walls that were once covered in stucco and painted to resemble stone. In recent years, wall and ceiling collapses have left the building vulnerable to decay and vandalism. Funds to stabilize a failing roof are desperately needed; the city of Newburgh and the Newburgh Preservation Association have reached out to Newburgh’s Community Land Bank for assistance.

Do you know of a historic stone structure that can’t seem to catch a break? Share with us!

 

An Early German Stone Home Too Far Gone?

Endangered Old Stone Home Christian Herr II House Lancaster County

Christian Herr II House, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Photo, Lancasteronline.com

The Christian Herr II House, a two-story stucco-over-stone home located in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, was just added to the 2015 Watch List of Most Threatened Historic Properties in Lancaster County by the Lancaster County Preservation Trust. The oldest portion of the home dates to 1734 and was built by the son of Christian Herr I, an early settler who built the Hans Herr House, the oldest original Mennonite meeting house still standing in the Western Hemisphere.

According ot owners Randy and Christine Andrews, who have been renovating the home for the past six to seven years, the home suffers from two bowed beams (one significantly cracked), deteriorating stone and mortar and the effects of poorly handled additions/alternations. The couple would like to demolish the home and build new, a plan recently approved by their local planning commission. The Andrews said existing details and materials would be salvaged for use in construction of the new home.

Local historians hope to come to a compromise with the couple: to save the oldest portions of the home (circa-1734 and 1760) and/or the most important architectural details, namely the original attic beams, entrance and cellar.

“Situated on the southern portion of the original 530 acres purchased from William Penn (1644-1718), this house is one of the oldest still standing of those built by the second generation of Lancaster County’s earliest settlers,” says the trust. “Even though changes have been made to this house over the years, it still reflects the Germanic architectural style of its roots.”

What would you do? Bear the financial burden and restore at all costs or raze and build a new home that reflects the past?