Architecture in York County


Four thousand miles.  That was the distance that separated 35-year old Johannes Schultz and his wife, Christina, from their future home in 1742.  To get there, they had to first travel from their home in Friedelsheim, a municipality in what is today the Rhineland-Palatinate of Germany.  Their destination was Rotterdam in the Netherlands, a port city where tens of thousands of Germans found transportation to the New World, most arriving in the colony known to them as Penn’s Province.  Early migrants to America came for religious regions; many of the “Palatines” came for economic opportunities.  Before they could find opportunity, however, they first had to survive the ocean crossing.

The trip across the Atlantic Ocean in the eighteenth century was fraught with risk.  Passengers were packed into ships carrying double their capacity.  If they were lucky and weather conditions were favorable, the ocean crossing lasted only six weeks.  More often, it was closer to eight weeks.  Food was plentiful in the beginning, but scarce upon arrival.  Death was so common that ship captains only charged passengers if they survived the halfway point of the trip.

Such were the conditions facing the Schultz family – Johannes and Christina as well as their three children: Jacob, John, and Anna Maria.  They departed Rotterdam on the Loyal Judith, stopping at the English seaport of Cowes and arriving in Philadelphia on September 3, 1742.  Coming from rural Friedelsheim, the city of Philadelphia must have inspired awe and apprehension, for the population was more than 13,000 and the predominant language was English.  Fortunately, the Schultz family already knew where opportunity awaited them: Lancaster County, which had become a major draw for German settlers, including other members of the Schultz family.  In 1731, the siblings of Johannes had made the treacherous Atlantic crossing on the Pennsylvania Merchant, later settling west of the Susquehanna River in the Kreutz Creek valley.  One of the brothers, Hans Martin, and his wife, Anna Catharina, had built a substantial stone home here in 1737.

It was here Johannes and Christina began their new lives.  The closest town was the frontier village of York Town, established only one year prior to the Loyal Judith’s arrival on American shores.  Where the family lived prior to 1747 is not documented.  Local legend has long held that Johannes and family arrived with brothers Hans Martin and Valentine in 1731, and constructed the impressive two-story stone home in 1734.  York histories from the early nineteenth century into the twenty-first century have reported this belief as fact.  However, some historians believe that Johannes and Christina may not have acquired land until 1753, when they purchased “a certain Plantation or Improvement.”  By that time, the Kreutz Creek valley was part of the newly-formed York County.  Also documented is the 1747 purchase of York Town Lot 7 by John (Johannes) Schultz, so they most likely lived in the tiny town for six years before moving onto the 200-acre farm close to brother Martin Schultz.  The family’s time together at this location was brief.  Christina died in July 1758, and Johannes passed away two months later.  Their three children – Jacob, Anna, and John, Jr. – inherited the property.

The true dates of land ownership and house construction are somewhat of a mystery.  Records seem to indicate that Johannes and Christina may have been squatters, as several generations of the Crosby family of England purchased the land (500 acres) from William Penn in 1681, selling it to Lancaster County’s Philip and Elizabeth Epracht in 1750.  These records indicate that John Schultz, Jr., son of Johannes and Christina, inherited the property in 1758, later realizing that his parents didn’t own the land.  He purchased 200 acres and the house from the Epracths for 200 pounds, then had Penn’s agent survey the property, receiving a patent for it in 1764.  At that time he also warranted 77 acres south of the main property.  The date of 1753, when Johannes and Christina purchased “a certain Plantation or Improvement,” is actually in reference to a second property, which was inherited by the three siblings in 1758 and fully owned by Jacob Schultz in 1771 after he bought out his siblings.  This 194-acre property was purchased by John Schultz from Adam Fishburn in 1753 and located immediately to the east of the Martin Schultz property.  In fact, most of present-day Hallam Borough is located on the properties that once belonged to the Schultz brothers.

Further complicating the mystery is a date stone present on the front façade of the house that appears to read:


Historians most often translate the inscription as “In the year, 1734, John Schultz and Christina, my wife have built this house.”

However, recent research has begun to change historians’ understanding of the Schultz House – if the family didn’t arrive in the American Colonies until 1742, they couldn’t have built the house in 1734, or 1737 – another frequently-referenced date of construction.  Current thinking is that the date stone is 1752, or even 1754.

Mark L. Louden, a German professor at the University of Wisconsin and expert on Pennsylvania Dutch dialect and culture, believes that the most likely date is 1752.  He offers this literal translation of the date stone:

“In the year 1752, Johannes Schultz and Christina his wife this house built.”

Regardless of when Johannes, Christina, Jacob, Anna Maria, and John moved into the house, the family ceased being owners of the property in 1774.  On October 12 of that year, John Schultz, Jr., and his wife Catharine Schultz sold two adjacent tracts of land, totaling almost 280 acres, to Christian Oberholtzer of Hempfield Township.  Two years later, David Brubaker purchased the properties, which he continued to own until 1802.

John Schultz did not leave his family home, however.  His family remained there as tenants, paying taxes on it until 1783.  By this time the property had earned the name of Schultzburg.  This period marks another time of mystery as the Schultz family also owned property in York Town, where John operated a tavern.

During their time at Schultzburg, the family may have also operated an inn and tavern, as the prominent home stood near the Monocacy Road, which connected the Susquehanna River in the east to York Town in the west.  Travelers crossed the mile-wide river using Wright’s Ferry or Anderson’s Ferry, and passed by the house en route to the growing frontier town.  While there is no evidence to back it up, there is a strong local legend of the home being a stopping point for members of Continental Congress traveling to and from York Town, which served as the capital of the fledging United States from September 1777 to June 1778.  From Georg Prowell’s 1907 The History of York County: “In its early history it was one of the old time public inns, and if it could speak might tell many an interesting story of our colonial days as well as of Revolutionary times. A well authenticated tradition asserts that on the 30th of September, 1777, the members of Continental Congress, while on their way from Philadelphia to make York the seat of government during the British invasion of Philadelphia, stopped at this house for rest and refreshment. They were travelling on horseback, and the saddles used by those distinguished patriots excited the curiosity of the German people to who they were a novelty.”

While there is no tangible confirmation to support the visits of John Adams or Samuel Adams or John Hancock inside the house, there is a definitive tie to the American Revolution: Camp Security.  In 1781, the Second Continental Congress took control of the property for use as a prisoner of war camp.  Approximately 100 acres were cleared and a stockade was constructed as was a small village known as Camp Indulgence.  The initial prisoners who arrived in 1781 had been captured after the Battle of Saratoga, NY in 1777.  After the British surrender in Yorktown, Virginia, many additional prisoners arrived.  Historians have long speculated how many prisoners and family members were present at the prison camp, with numbers ranging from a low of 1500 to a high of as many as 3000 people.  They were British and Canadian, and many were joined by their families in Camp Indulgence.  The POW camp operated until 1783, and during this period John and Catherine Schultz lived in York Town.  The use of the property for Camp Security is well documented; in fact, owner David Brubaker petitioned the State Legislature for damages to the property caused by the prison camp.  However, any role the Schultz House played during this period is only speculation.  Nineteenth century histories state that the house was used as headquarters for the militia guarding the prisoners, but there is no documentation that confirms this.

After the camp closed, the Schultz family returned to their home, and operated a sawmill.  But things must not have been the same, because John moved to Baltimore, leaving his wife and two unmarried daughters in York.  Brubaker soon leased the property to Samuel Lewis, who lived there for the next sixteen years.  In May 1802, two brothers – Francis and Isaac Groff – purchased the 280-acre property, and subdivided it.  Francis Groff maintained the property with the Schultz House.

It is believed that the first of three major renovations occurred around 1825.  During the Civil War, the adjacent property, which had once been part of the Schultzburg Plantation, contained an orchard that provided shade to the men of Confederate General John B. Gordon’s brigade, who passed through York on the morning of June 28, 1863, then eventually marched upon Wrightsville.  Here they skirmished with local militia as well soldiers who had been recovering from their wounds at the large Union Army hospital in York.  This was one of several military actions that occurred in the days leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg.  The Pennsylvania Militia burned a mile-long covered bridge over the Susquehanna River, thwarting Rebel plans to penetrate deeper into Pennsylvania and forcing Gordon to return to York with the rest of General Jubal Early’s Division.

A newspaper article in the archives of Historic York, believed to be from the 1920s but not sourced, tells of Henry Ford’s interest in purchasing the Schultz House and relocating it to the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Detroit, where he created a historic experience from more than 80 buildings and structures that he purchased and relocated.  The article, which quotes a Schultz descendant who was unhappy about the possible move, mentions that Ford was negotiating with then-owner Emanuel Landis, who owned the home from 1922 to 1944.  One of the noteworthy comments in the article: “It is said that at one time it served as an inn, and that George Washington stopped there as a guest.”

The famed Schultz House saw periods of prosperity and decline, changing hands multiple times over the decades.  A smokehouse dates from the eighteenth century while a summer kitchen and Pennsylvania bank barn were constructed in the nineteenth century.  The house was renovated again around 1880.  In 1944, the property was purchased by Clair and Beatrice Rowe, and their family owned the buildings and surrounding property for more than 60 years.  Small lots were subdivided from the main property and sold, reducing the size to about 120 acres.  During their more than half century of ownership, the Rowes modernized the house, updated the kitchen, added central heat, and replaced the existing shake roof with slate.  They also constructed a butcher shop as well as a shed.  Beatrice Rowe first contacted Historic York, Inc. in 1996 to discuss long-term preservation of the historic property, and an Agreement of Conditional Gift was signed by Historic York and Patricia Walters, Beatrice Rowe’s daughter and Power of Attorney, in October 2006.  Approximately four acres, containing the Schultz House, barn, and outbuildings, were subdivided from the larger property.

Due to the threat of development on the western portion of the property that had once been part of the Schultzburg Plantation, and location of part of Camp Security, the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2005 named Camp Security one of the Eleven Most Endangered historic sites in the United States.  A coalition of organizations, including Friends of Camp Security, Preservation Pennsylvania, and Historic York, came together in an effort to preserve the land around the Schultz House.  This was partially completed in May 2011 when Springettsbury Township, with help from the Conservation Fund, acquired the 116-acre Rowe Farm.  The land is now preserved, and will forever remain open space as part of Springettsbury Township’s Camp Security Park.  The Schultz House will always be surrounded by fields and open space, as it has been since it was originally constructed in the mid-eighteenth century.  The fate of the western portion of the former Schultzburg Plantation is yet to be determined.


Anna & John C. Schmidt House

900 South George Street900 South George Street

Architect: John A. Dempwolf

This elegant Shingle style residence was not designed by a Dempwolf apprentice but rather by the renowned Dempwolf brothers’ firm itself.  In 1889-90, John A. (usually known as J. A.) Dempwolf designed this spacious home for newlyweds Anna Small and John C. Schmidt.  Schmidt was President of the Standard Chain Company as well as the Schmidt & Ault Paper Company, both of which were highly successful local enterprises.  The couple lived in this house for the rest of their lives, raising three children there.  John died in 1923 and Anna in 1951.

To show off the Schmidts’ prestigious social status, J. A. Dempwolf chose an eye-catching architectural style that is fairly uncommon in York.  The Shingle style is a completely American and unusually free-form style which has its roots in the Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, and Romanesque Revival styles.  As is obvious from the name, shingles are an important character-defining feature.  The upper walls are clad with wooden shingles in a variety of shapes, and the shingles wrap around the corners without interruption.  In the cross gables of this house you’ll see “wavy” shingles; that is, they curve into and around the recessed windows.  Along the top of the first story, the shingles flare outward, a detail that is repeated in the roof eaves.

Although not shingled, the house’s first story is no less dramatic.  The walls were constructed of white granite, and the George Street facade features large Romanesque archways.  The three decoratively corbelled brick chimneys also are notable.  One chimney is incorporated into a dormer which displays geometric wooden ornamentation.  Only one of the three original stained glass windows remains as the sole survivor of a 1950s addition of a shingled elevator shaft.

The heavy oak front door leads into a tiled entryway and foyer.  Noteworthy interior elements include window seats, leaded glass windows, French doors, a pocket door, embellished fireplace mantels, a three-story staircase, and carved wooden corbels in the library.  The corbels represent saints on one side and hellish grotesques on the other.  The two upper floors originally contained eight bedrooms and six bathrooms.  These have been tastefully rearranged to accommodate the division of this massive residence into two separate homes.  The shingled carriage house soon will become a third.


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