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Great additions to history

Over time, different owners have expanded house

Over time, different owners have expanded house

November 03, 2003|by PAT SCHOOLEY

Marsh Pike, called the "Turnpike road to Pennsylvania" in early deeds, heads north toward the state line through scattered subdivisions and farmland. At the corner of the Pike and Blue Heron Lane, a saltbox stable, painted slate blue, stands on a corner of land surrounded by new four-board fence. Majestic trees shade the yard. In the center of this 2.89-acre parcel stands a brick and clapboard house. The brick wing on the north is 2 1/2 stories tall and two bays wide. A 1 1/2-story frame wing attaches to the south, protected by a broad porch that shelters the entrance.

In 1860, Captain Henry Clopper purchased almost 29 acres of land from Richard Ragan for $860, part of a farm known as "Cresap."

Henry Clopper was a carpenter and undertaker, a natural association of trades, since undertakers would make coffins for the deceased. He also ran a sawmill about half of a mile south of this property. When Clopper built his house, Marsh Pike was on the east; and he built the house into a hill facing this road.

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The stone foundation stands a full story high, with two centrally located cellar doors opening at ground level. Above these, another pair of doors flanked by six-over-six windows accesses the main level of the house. A second story and an attic give the house a four-story eastern elevation. The brick is laid in common bond, five to nine rows of stretcher bricks between each row of headers. Flat arches of soldier bricks top each opening. Interior chimneys rise in the gable walls, and scroll-cut brackets decorate the cornice at both the front and back of the house.

Clopper's house was modest, divided by central walls running east to west both in the cellar and on the first floor. Each area is entered through one of the two side-by-side doors. This double door arrangement probably was a device to save the space that otherwise would be devoted to halls, and it is used in many early houses in Southern Pennsylvania and the Cumberland Valley.

Clopper created deeply molded woodwork with plain corner blocks around these doors and the windows in the main rooms. Window jambs flare and are cased in wood in the more public rooms, while straight-sided jambs with simpler woodwork prevail as the rooms become more private. The bedrooms on the second floor have the simplest trim. This decrease of ornamentation as rooms progress from formal to private also was an early custom in this area.

The north section of the main floor appears to have been divided into two small rooms, for the woodwork in the west section is simpler. Here the molding is less decorative, and the window jambs are not flared. Floors were made of pine, with the second floor being random width.

Above each of the main entrance doors is a rectangular transom. The south transom is made of three pieces of glass butted together in a frame (another 19th-century technique), while the other has a single glass. Both have an unusual wooden grid placed against this glass on the interior sides of the windows. This grid is made of 1/4-inch-thick wood strips about 1 1/2 inches wide that are joined to create squares of about 2 1/2 inches. This makes the transoms appear to be made up of small pieces of glass set in delicate shadow boxes. Clopper also designed two elaborate, vernacular mantels. One mantel has Ionic pilasters on either side of the firebox, and the other has molded panels and scroll-cut trim.

In 1880, Henry Clopper's heirs sold the property to William A. and Barbara Lohr for $3,280. Barbara was Henry Clopper's daughter. Five years later, Emelia R. Young, owner of a large adjoining tract, purchased the property; and it remained in the Young family until 1953 when it was sold to Howard and Anne Kaylor. Nine years later, Maurice L. and Mary R. Messersmith purchased it and sold it to Donald L. Hoffman and his wife, Nancy, in 1977.

One of these early owners added a roughly 30-by-40-foot frame section standing 1 1/2 stories tall to the south side of the house. This incorporates a west-facing entrance hall, for Marsh Pike had been moved to the west side of the house when this was done. It also holds a large master bedroom suite with a spacious bath. The original staircase that had been in the southeast corner of the house was replaced with one in the northwest room of the original brick wing.

It was the Hoffmans who built the 30-by-30 great room on the back of the house. The original exterior front doors now lead into this new room from the living room and from the kitchen. Hand-hewn beams support the ceiling of this room, there is a fireplace on the north wall, and windows overlook the yard on the east. Below are another smaller family room and a covered porch. Just to the north of this porch is the original smokehouse and, beyond that, a large barbecue that incorporates an early iron stove insert with a large hole in its surface that once held an iron kettle. To the north and up three steps is a brick patio with a patio table and chairs and lovely plantings.

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