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Fire company asked not to raze historic house

September 22, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

MERCERSBURG, PA. -- Mercersburg residents concerned about the possible demolition of an 18th-century house have sent a letter to the MMP&W Fire Co. asking the department to refrain from razing the structure.

The fire department purchased the former Nelling family house adjacent to its Main Street property after the stone and brick building remained listed for sale for about a year. Although MMP&W has not announced plans for the house, some residents have speculated the fire department wants to use the property for additional parking or a new access driveway.

"This would really be about the worst damage to the history of the town," Terry Sirk said.

MMP&W Fire Chief Dusty Stoner said the fire department will not release information about its intentions until Friday.

Sirk said the 12 residents who signed the letter and other community members want to work with MMP&W to secure an acceptable future for the house, which he said might've been built as early as the 1730s.

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"Its traditional name is Smith House or Squire Smith House," Sirk said.

The names come from homeowner William Smith, a justice of the peace. Sirk said his research indicates Smith lived in the house during the time he helped "black boys" riots that pitted community men against British troops.

Smith was called to Carlisle, Pa., to testify about his involvement in trying to keep goods from going to the Pittsburgh area on trains, Sirk said.

Sirk also said the house served a significant role in the conflict determining the Pennsylvania and Maryland boundary. A case of mistaken identity almost placed the house squarely in the French and Indian War as well.

"It's the site that began Mercersburg. The town was built around this location," Sirk said, describing the old house, mill and tavern on the property as a "crossroads meeting place."

The house is not listed on the national Register of Historic Places and is not within the Mercersburg Historic District.

The two-story house's exterior seems to be in good condition, Sirk said, but he has not been inside.

"It had an exciting history in its youth. ... Right now we want to keep it from being torn down," he said.

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