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Students reconstruct Pa. springhouse

December 04, 2000

Students reconstruct Pa. springhouse



By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg


GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Likening it to a giant jigsaw puzzle, the builders constructing a replica stone spring house at the Tayamentasachta Environmental Center expect it will be another three months before their work is complete.

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"It's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. We look at each wall and look for stones that have right shape," said Fred Harris, the crew leader from the Pennsylvania Conservation Corps.

Stones that fit are cemented in. The ones that don't are put aside for later.

The spring house is a replica of the one built in the 1780s or 1790s on the property. The Greencastle-Antrim School District, which has owned and operated the environmental center since 1966, tore down the original spring house in 1971, White said.

"It was falling down and was a safety concern. It is one of those things in hindsight that we now question," he said.

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At 24-feet by 27-feet, the replica is slightly larger than the original spring house so it can be used as a classroom and possibly be made into a blacksmith shop for demonstrations. The original was only 14-feet by 17-feet.

The land was once owned by Jacob Stover, but White said no one is exactly sure who built the spring house.

It is recorded that Daniel and Emmanuel Stover were born in the spring house and went on to manufacture windmills on the site in the 1840s and 1850s, White said.

Spring houses are common in this part of Pennsylvania, where settlers in the late 18th century and early 19th century built them over or close to a spring to use as a refrigerator and to get water.

"They built them close so if they were raided by Native Americans they would not have to go out and get water," White said.

The spring houses were also used as the main dwelling while settlers cleared the land for a larger house.

Construction on the replica spring house began in March and will take two or three months to complete, Harris said.

Workers from the Pennsylvania Conservation Corps have been using the stone from the original spring house, which the school stockpiled when it tore it down, White said.

The stones weigh anywhere from 50 to 200 pounds and the walls are about 20 inches thick, White said.

The corps is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor, which recruits young adults to learn job skills, White said.

It operates as a grant program, and the school district only has to pay for 25 percent of the materials used in the project.

Over the last five years, the Pennsylvania Conservation Corps has done about $250,000 in labor for the center, building a classroom and handling brick work, White said.

Harris currently has three workers in his crew, including Michael Johnson, 24, of St. Thomas, Pa.; Miriam Everhart, 17, of Chambersburg, Pa.; and Andrew Hutzell, 17, of Greencastle.

White runs various environmental education projects out of the center for children in the school district.

He said a lot of the teaching has to do with early American lifestyles, so the spring house is an additional educational tool.

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