New owner hopes to reconstruct Mercersburg's Smith House

Preservation group looking for place to rebuild

February 17, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |
  • R&D Excavating workers are seen Monday dismantling the historic Smith House in Mercersburg, Pa.
By Jennifer Fitch, Staff Writer

MERCERSBURG, Pa. — Right now Dr. Paul Orange owns $49,500 worth of stone and dirt.

The Franklin County resident envisions those materials being formed piece by piece to rebuild Mercersburg's Smith House, which is being dismantled to allow the local fire company to expand. He and other preservationists say the house played a role in the "Black Boys Rebellion of 1765" uprising of settlers, the American Revolution and the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

"It's American history. It's the story few people know," Orange said.

The 21st-century portion of the Smith House's story started when the MMP&W Fire Co. purchased it in 2009 for future expansion. The plans for demolition met resistance from preservationists who thought the structure should be saved.

Orange struck a deal with the demolition crew earlier this month to purchase the materials, an option that was made available in MMP&W's contract with R&D Excavating. The larger pieces are now stored in a garage, and the filler materials remain on the original site off Pa. 16.

R&D Excavating dug up the basement Wednesday. Now, Orange and fellow Smith House supporters are making plans to sift through the dirt for artifacts such as pottery, buttons and silverware.

"We're still working on a place to buy (to rebuild). Eventually we want to reconstruct the house and maybe the summer kitchen," Orange said.

The Smith House supporters are working to obtain the government-recognized status of a nonprofit organization, according to Orange. Then they'll solicit donations for reconstruction.

Orange said a carpenter and stone mason watched the house being dismantled, and a historic architect will be hired to oversee the reconstruction.

"It's going to look better than before, when the guy built it in 1750," Orange said.

In describing his dream for the reconstruction, Orange described a large lot with the Smith House and a couple other historic structures transported there. He called it "Smith Town" and said the house, converted into a museum, would serve as the showpiece.

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