Location: East Berlin, PA
Date Built: Various
East Berlin, Pennsylvania held their Annual Christmas House Tour on December 12, 2010. A little bit of rain did not dampen the holiday spirits of the people who paid $12 to tour the homes, church, and buildings owned by the East Berlin Historical Preservation Society. East Berlin has its share of colonial home open to the public along with a Victorian Bed and Breakfast.
George Laurentz House built in 1802
On the tour was Bechtel Victorian Mansion Inn built by William G. Leas in 1897 owned by Carol and Richard Carlson. Carol said during Colonial Days in East Berlin, her home is booked early in advance. One of the artisans stay in the Bed and Breakfast for the entire weekend. For all of you colonial enthusiasts, we were able to visit a few very early homes in East Berlin.
The David Studebaker House was open on tour. It remains empty. The owners, Fred and Fran Lorenzo, painstakingly restored the 1790 the home in the past few years. Currently it is for sale, but the owners are not sure what they will do with the home yet. It was the oldest house we visited on the tour. A clock and watchmaker added the two story addition later. Old material from the eighteenth century was reused in the restoration. During the restoration, the doorway connecting both parts of the house was sealed off. The original door was discovered and replaced. The Studebaker Family was prominent in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as first wagon builder, then the Studebaker automobile. The home is an excellent example of an eighteenth century log home with original siding. There have been minimal alterations.
The Studebaker House built in 1790
Our next home was the Log House owned by the East Berlin Historical Preservation Society (EBHPS). It is not in the same location when it was first built in 1832. Like Cedar Grove in our Fairmount Park Holiday Tour article, the Log House was disassembled, moved and reconstructed by the Preservation Society. In fact thirty volunteers from the Society spent 350 man hours in 1980-1981 on the project. The Meyer's Log Cabin House was built near Red Hill, Berwick Township near Cross Keys, Adams County.
The Log House owned by the EBHPS
Richard Fox dipping candles in the Log House
The twenty-one by twenty-three foot colonial home never had indoor plumbing, although it was electrified during its lifetime. The fire was going strong in the brick and stone fireplace. Richard Fox was giving demonstrations on how to make dipped candles. There were candles for sale along with early tin lighting. The Christmas decorations were simple as they should have been for a colonial home. Greens, oranges, cranberry beads, and tin canisters decorated the mantle. Greens and a simple single candle were placed in each window. In the corner there was a rope bed made up with quilt to show the visitor how an earlier pioneer would sleep. Each year a Christmas Craft Show is held in the Log House the last Saturday in November or the first Saturday in December.
A decorated mantle in the Log House
Our next house was the red brick George Laurentz House built in 1802 and valued at only $50. It has the same owner for the past twenty-six year, Doris Sabine, who is on the Board of Directors for the EBHPS. She was so happy to have her home open for inviting visitors. Doris sleeps in part of the home which used to be a garage. It was pulled to the side of the building and attached. There are surprisingly ten foot ceilings in the home. An oil painting of her husband's relative hung above the sofa in the living room. Hand made quilts covered Doris's bed and the spare canopy bed in the other bed. The hanging cupboard was filed with Bennington pottery, There was Schooner redware pottery in every room. Shaker painted boxes were on top of the painted jelly cupboard. On the other side of the room was a decorated Santa looking over the reproduction sgraffito plates.
Grace dressed up as a colonial girl at the George Laurentz House
A decorated table in the dining room
In the kitchen hung cookie cutters. There was a superbly grained decorated sink and cabinet area. The Bosch dishwasher is completely hidden in the cabinet. There were painted squares in the room that held the Christmas tree. The little girl dressed in colonial garb was Grace. She was speaking to a girl named Noel about the ghosts that haunt the house. In fact, the lady letting people in the front door said, "Don't be surprised if you see ghosts in your pictures!" Can you Colonial enthusiasts see anything?
A decorated Christmas setting with a Santa, Schooner Redware, and a tin candleabra
Bill Powell dressed up as a colonial man greeting visitors at the front door.
Our next home was the home of Jim and Gretchen Davis, owners of The Lion and the Lamb. We were greeted at the front door by Bill Powell dressed as a colonial man. This is the Andrew Brunner Home, a Federal home built in 1817. Andrew Brunner was a Baltimore businessman who spent his summers in East Berlin. The home is decorated with stenciled floor cloths, oriental rugs and beautiful hardwood floors. there was an Edward Hicks painting hanging over the mantle with a Noah's Ark with all the animals on top of the mantle.
Jennifer Oswald dressed up as a colonial lady
A dinner setting in the dining room. Notice the Noah's Ark on the mantle. A reproduction Edward Hicks hangs above the mantle.
A historical enthusiast, Jennifer Oswald, was the colonial lady of the house. To the rear of the house was a huge walk-in fireplace. The Davis's business, The Lion and the Lamb is located in the cottage to the rear of the house. While dressed as a colonial man, Brian Oswald, husband of Jennifer, was watching over the shop. Brian is also on the Board of Directors. He said that he is a young historical preservation enthusiast that still has much to learn. Well he is certainly learning quickly to dress the part.
The entrance hallway. Notice the stenciled floor cloths.
The Church Schoolhouse was built in 1769 and is owned by the Union Cemetery Association but maintained by EBHPS. It is an eighteenth century log building which housed several German church schools up until 1839. After than the schoolhouse was used by the Berlin Improvement Society which was chartered in 1844. The schoolhouse was closed in 1830. Preservation began in the 1960's. Inside was being kept warm from the pot bellied stove in the center of the room. The children were taking an active part in a spelling bee competition.
Children participating in a Spelling Bee at the Church Schoolhouse
The Trinity Church bell ringers
In the 1892 Liberty Fire Company, refreshments were being served. The crowd was being entertained by the Trinity Church bell ringers. The Liberty Fire Co. Building originally cost $1,079.50 to build. The original set of blueprints included 14" thick brick walls, a slate room, and yellow pine floorboards. The 400 pound bell cost $2.50. There was also a lock-up for criminals. EBHPS owns a 100 year lease on the property and continues work on the preservation project.
The Liberty Fire Company
Our final destination was the Old Holtzschwamm Paradise Union Church which was built in 1849 just outside of East Berlin. It was built on land once owned by John Franckeberger and Andrew Frederick which was originally set aside for a Lutheran Congregation to build a church. Today the church has an interior featuring stenciling which was completed in the 1960's. It is heated by four Ulster wood stoves. A church service is held only once a year in October.
The colonial town of East Berlin would like to see you at the next Christmas House tour next year in December. Be sure to visit.
Source: Text and Photos by Bryan Wright
East Berlin Tour
East Berlin Historical Preservation Society
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