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Auctioneer's home an 18th century showplace

December 09, 1999

By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photos: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Drive down the lane leading to Ed Henicle's place and you might think you've gone through a time warp.

The feeling begins with the covered bridge over Red Run that leads to his 1781 Stone farmhouse, the log summer kitchen, the brick and log carriage shed and a covered, stone arch bridge over a small run. The place has an 18th century feel to it.

Only the farmhouse is original. The 211-year-old, two-story limestone structure was on the property when he bought it in 1966. He built the covered bridge, carriage shed, summer kitchen and stone bridge later.

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The bridge is a replica of the type that crossed streams in the early 19th century. Henicle built it in 1988.

A rough dirt lane leads to his property, but he said he didn't like driving over it so he thought of building a bridge. He found some used steel grate decking but figured it would cost about $10,000 to buy and haul to his property.

Ed HenicleHe began reading books on covered bridges and decided he could design and build his own. He started with a one-inch scale model, which he still has.

The floor of the bridge is made from three-inch thick oak planks laid over steel I-beams for strength. The superstructure, modeled after the "Town lattice" design, is the same kind of framework that holds up Franklin County's most famous span - Martin's Mill Covered Bridge near Greencastle, Pa.

"The design is named after Isaac Town. He built covered bridges in the early 1800s," Henicle said. "I looked it up in books on covered bridges. He had a patent or the rights to it. Town got royalties whenever someone built a bridge with his design."

Once the deck was down, Henicle called in about 20 friends, many of whom were carpenters and handymen, and they put up the superstructure in one day, much like an old-fashioned barn raising. The bridge is held together with huge nuts and bolts.

"At first I thought of using wooden pegs, but I didn't want to mess around with it that long," he said.

The bridge is 54 feet long, 11 feet wide and 11 feet high. He said a civil engineer friend did some calculations and figured it would hold a 150-ton load. "It should outlast me," he said.

The bridge has withstood a major flood and two storms that were powerful enough to be called tornadoes, he said. "There are covered bridges in Switzerland that are over 400 years old," he said.

A plaque on one end dedicates the span in memory of Henicle's parents.

Henicle, 58, a well-known local auctioneer, has a thing for antiquity. He built what he calls his summer kitchen from materials found in a half-dozen old barns and eight to 10 old houses, he said.

A focal point of the structure is the huge fireplace that takes up most of one wall. Its old bricks and walnut beam came from an 18th century blacksmith shop that Henicle found at an auction he was running. "I bought (the load) for $18," he said.

The inside looks like it could be found in the Smithsonian Institution's American History Museum. The furniture, including a table, chairs, chest of drawers and other items, are 18th century pieces. Other artifacts, set up around the room as they would be in a real 17th century setting, complete the display.

The carriage shed, made from logs plus some bricks that Henicle found in a pre-Civil War house that had been razed, has the same feel as the summer kitchen. "I'm trying to turn it into an 18th century workshop," he said.

Like the carriage shed, the summer kitchen is heated only by a fireplace. The little building is a showcase for his collection of early American tools. "That's my hobby," he said.

Among his favorites are a Conestoga wagon wheel jack, a shingle splitter, a flax break and untold numbers of small hand tools, most of which he buys at his own auctions.

He began collecting when he was in the fourth grade, when he traded four pigeons and $2 for a .22-caliber rifle, which he still has.

Among his other prize possessions is his collection of Fords. "I have a 1935 Ford truck, a '36 coupe, a '40 Ford convertible and a 1939 coupe," he said.

One of his most unusual collections decorates his landscape. A few years back he had a chance to buy 1,020 young English boxwood bushes. He sold some, but there are plenty left and they're growing. It seems that everywhere one looks around Henicle's property one can see a boxwood. They line the approaches to his bridge and frame his buildings. He even has a fenced-in garden that protects rows of young boxwoods.

"Isn't this a beautiful day?" asked Henicle as he walked around his yard and surveyed what he had built up in the 33 years since he bought the 8-acre property.

"You know, I wouldn't take $1 million (for it) if somebody offered it to me."

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