Meadowbrook Mansion, now the site of Christmas Tree Hill, is located at 2840 Whiteford Road. Abraham Flory (1791-1871) began constructing the right (western) end of this dwelling in 1842 and resided in that 2-1/2 story home until 1857. After Edwin Myers purchased the property in 1901, the left side, Mansion section, was added; at which time Flory's original dwelling was given a full third floor for consistency. (S.H. Smith photo, 2014)
Earliest builders in the Meadowbrook area
A Flory family of veterans, two from the War of 1812 and one from the Revolutionary War, were the prominent builders in the Meadowbrook area during the first half of the 1800s. The first substantial structure to be built was a 2-1/2 story brick farmhouse, followed by another dwelling, a large bank barn and then a home, that years later became, and remains, part of the overall Meadowbrook Mansion.
Abraham Flory (1791-1871) began constructing the original part, of what became the western part of the Meadowbrook Mansion, in 1842 and resided in that 2-1/2 story home until 1857. After Edwin Myers purchased the property in 1901, the well-known Mansion section was added to the eastern side; at which time Flory’s original home was given a full third floor for consistency. The Meadowbrook Mansion is now the site of Christmas Tree Hill, located at 2840 Whiteford Road.
Thanks to UNIVEST, and to Shelley Gilgore, specifically, for the invitation to speak, and for hosting a nicely planned Witness Tree Event, at their York Financial Center, 2901 Whiteford Road, this past Saturday. Their office is located in the historic 2-1/2 story brick farmhouse, fronting Whiteford Road; which was built in 1809 by property owner John Flory (1752-1823) and his sons.
At that event I shared why the Springettsbury Township Historic Preservation Committee considers their huge sycamore tree a Witness Tree. I also shared the history of their repurposed farmhouse; from which I got several requests to repeat that part of the talk via a YorksPast post. Sharon Tapp, another member of our Committee closed the event, by sharing her first hand knowledge of when this property was part of Avalong Dairy Farms. Our Committee is honored that Tradition is one of Univest’s Core Values, such that they invited us to reflect on the unique history of Univest’s York location.
Historic Preservation Committee Background
In Springettsbury Township, the Historic Preservation Committee consists of up to 9-volunteers, appointed by the Township Board of Supervisors. Our Committee was established in 1991 to identify historically significant structures and sites, while generating interest in, and documenting, the township’s history.
When I was appointed to the Historic Preservation Committee, they were working with Jim Meek, a Certified Arborist, to estimate the age of some of the older trees in Springettsbury Township. The huge sycamore tree at 2901 Whiteford Road was of interest, since the arborist estimated it was planted about 1755. We knew some historic events were tied to the property, and wondered if it was a coincidence, that years earlier, Historic York estimated the oldest part of the adjacent farmhouse is dated circa 1755; i.e. the same year the sycamore was estimated to be planted.
My research into the buildings and historical events that the sycamore tree has witnessed is primarily from searches of Property Deeds, Estate Files, Tax Records, Family Histories, and Newspaper accounts.
Treichler family ownership during the 1700s
Begining with the year 1755; the land surrounding the future Meadowbrook site is owned by John Treichler (also spelled Dreichler in records), which he has owned since 1737. In terms of present landmarks, his 247-acre property in the York Valley is situated on both sides of Mt. Zion Road and generally extends from the present railroad tracks to slightly north of Pleasant Valley Road. However John Treichler resided on a separate neighboring 73-acre hillside property on the west side of Mt. Zion Road, extending uphill to Ridgewood and Alcott Roads.
John Treichler’s death in 1756 likely resulted in one of his heirs, either John, Jr. or Jacob, building the first dwelling on the 247-acre York Valley property; which was the original, one-story, part of the 2901 Whiteford Road farmhouse that Historic York evaluated as being built about 1755. In Direct Tax records that structure is listed as 20-ft by 22-ft, one-story of wood; usually meaning a log house in the 1700s. Per the arborist’s evaluation, it appears the sycamore tree was planted at nearly the same time that dwelling was built, that is 266-years ago.
Flory family ownership during the first half of the 1800s
John Flory (1752-1823) purchased the 247-acre York Valley property from the Treichler Heirs in 1800; per Deed Book 2O, pg. 553. John Flory utilized a clay rich area on the property to begin molding and firing home-made bricks. In a few years his piles of bricks grew to the point that in 1809, John Flory added a “modern 2-1/2 story brick addition” to the “old log house on the farm.” Flory family history has John Flory building the structure with the help of his 18-year old son Abraham and his 15-year old son John. Those details were shared by Flory family historian B. Frank Flory (1869-1953); a direct descendant of John Flory.
One of the several significant aspects that make the sycamore tree, Witness Tree worthy, deals with the owner/builder of this, still standing, 1809 brick farmhouse, which was repurposed as a bank in 1989 and more recently became the home of The York Financial Center of UNIVEST.
John Flory, who lived from 1752 until 1823, is a Revolutionary War veteran. He is listed as a private in Captain Comfort’s Company of the 3th York Battalion; within returns of 1780, 1781, 1782, and 1785. He is buried in the nearby Strickler-Miller Cemetery, along Concord Road, with his grave identified by one of several gravestones still standing which is inscribed in German.
In 1823, John Flory’s sons Abraham and John are willed sections of his 247-acre estate. John, Jr. (1794-1856) got 94-acres in the southeastern part of the overall property, where he had built a dwelling after he married Nancy Brenner in 1815. That dwelling once stood about where BAM, Books-A-Million, and Big Lots stores now stand.
In 1975, Cliff Satterthwaite sketched the 1815 dwelling, which John Flory had built; Cliff noted on the sketch: “Across from Avalong on Mt. Zion Rd, York, PA. 1975”. This property is at the southwest corner of Mt. Zion Road and Whiteford Road. This 1815 structure and the adjacent “Third Avalong Barn” were demolished in 1985, when the initial Village at Meadowbrook Stores were constructed.
John Flory, Jr., who helped his father build the 1809 brick farmhouse, under the shade of the sycamore tree, is a War of 1812 veteran, as an Army private during 1814. John later serves as a Dunker preacher. After John Jr.’s death in 1856, his son Jacob H. Flory is the next owner of that property. In that property transfer there is a continuation of an agreement to allow his uncle Abraham Flory to lease pasture to graze cattle.
In 1823, John Flory’s other son Abraham Flory got 153-acres via his father’s will and continued to reside in the 1809 brick farmhouse, while farming the land and branching out into raising beef cattle. Abraham had married Magdalena Strickler in 1816 and they had 8-children.
The beef cattle comment also came from a Strickler family history, which indicating Abraham Flory found it easier to ship his beef cattle after the arrival of the railroad. It is known that near the southern part of Abraham’s property, the Railroad was opened between York and Wrightsville in 1840. Heistand Station, at the southeast corner of the railroad and current Mt. Zion Road, would have made it easier for getting the beef cattle to market.
In 1842, Abraham Flory retired from farming and began construction of his own home on the south side of the present Whiteford Road. That 2-1/2-story dwelling became the initial section of what was later greatly enlarged by Edwin Myers in 1901 as the Meadowbrook Mansion; which is where Christmas Tree Hill is presently located. The section built by Abraham Flory, is the far west end of the building.
After Abraham and Magdalena Flory and their youngest children moved into their new house on the south side of Whiteford Road, the 1809 brick farmhouse became a starter home, as their older children started to marry.
Abraham Flory (1791-1871), who helped his father build the 1809 brick farmhouse, under the shade of the sycamore tree, and built the home that became the original part of Meadowbrook Mansion, is also a War of 1812 veteran, as an Army private during 1814.
In 1848, Abraham Flory advertised his valuable farm was available for private sale. The acreage includes the two story brick dwelling house, a spring house and never failing spring of water, and a large bank barn, 45 by 83-feet. As noted, the barn is set-up for raising cattle. Abraham notes, possession and a good title will be given on the first day of April 1849.
In 1849, Peter Lint purchases 120-acres from Abraham Flory; which includes the 1809 Farmhouse, but does not include Abraham’s new home, and the lot surrounding that house. The following figure shows the Mites and Bounds of the 120-acres Abraham Flory sold to Peter Lint on April 2, 1849; per Deed Book 12Q, page 98. From that deed, the present, or former, neighbors are as indicated from the deed. One can see Abraham Flory also has other property to the southwest, besides the lot where his new home is located; and the southeastern neighbor is his brother John Flory.
On the following historic aerial photo, dated March 19, 1938; comparison Mites and Bounds are plotted. The YELLOW outlined property is 331-acres; first sold by the widow of Edwin Myers in 1919 to Harold E. Robertson; and later sold by the widow of Robertson in 1950 to Alva R. Long. The BLUE outlined property is the 120-acres; sold by Abraham Flory to Peter Lint in 1849.
The FARMHOUSE was built in 1809 by John Flory (1752-1823), with the help of his sons. The DWELLING was built ~1815 by John Flory (1794-1856). A Large Bank BARN was built some time between 1823 and 1840. The first part of the MANSION was built ~1842 by Abraham Flory (1791-1871).
From 1849 until 1857, the family of Peter Lint resides in the 1809 Farmhouse, as they farmed the land, started an orchard, and continued to raise beef cattle. Lint family history relates, Peter noticed clay rich areas on the property, and established a side business of selling clay to brick manufacturers near the city. That is another neat part of the history of this property; it not only provided the raw material for the bricks in the 1809 Farmhouse; it also furnished raw material for an untold number of brick structures in the city.
In 1857, Abraham Flory sells two tracts, totaling 18-acres, one of which is the lot with his new “future Mansion” house, to Peter Lint. After Peter occupied the new house on the south side of Whiteford Road, the 1809 Farmhouse begins many years, where it is either: leased, used by tenant farmers, or utilized as a bunkhouse for farmhands.
Civil War history of the property
When the sycamore tree was over 100-years old, it was witness to Civil War history during the Confederate Invasion of 1863. Confederates occupied the City of York on Sunday morning June 28th 1863. A brigade of Rebels, under the command of Brigadier General John Gordon, continued marching to sites east of York. The Confederates rested at these sites until 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon, when they began the final push towards the Susquehanna River Bridge at Wrightsville.
This area was one of the campsites used by the rebels. At the main house, on the south side of Whiteford Road, Peter Lint lived with his family. Peter lucked out with respect to his livestock, for after his last sale of cattle, Peter had not yet obtained more cattle to fatten up; and he successfully sent his horses to relatives in Lancaster County; so he did not suffer any livestock loses at his home property. The family had four young children, less than 10 years old, living there during the invasion and his wife Leah was six-months pregnant with their fifth child, when the Rebels camped at their farm.
Across the road at the other dwelling on Peter Lint’s farm, the family of William S. Dietz lived in the 1809 farmhouse as tenant farmers. Their five young children were less than 7 years old. At the time of the invasion, William Dietz took most of their livestock into hiding but left the best riding horse in the event his pregnant wife Sarah should go into labor and needed to reach a doctor. Sarah was carrying the sixth of their 12-children.
When Confederates visited the farm, some of them were going to take the horse. However, seeing the Dietz lady’s condition, the officer commanded his troops to leave the horse.
Property owned by Myers, Robertson and Long families during the 1900s
Following the death of Peter Lint in 1888, it took a while for his Heirs to settle his estate. Finally doing so in 1901, when wealthy York businessman Edwin Myers purchased the 138-acre property, which included the dwellings on both sides of Whiteford Road. Myers spent a lot of money to make extensive additions to the 1842 dwelling on the south side of the road; until it was transformed into his Meadowbrook summer residence.
Edwin Myers also acquired a string of farms until his estate totaled 458-acres, which stretched almost the whole way to Longstown. During the Myers ownership, there was little, to nothing, done to change anything in the 1809 Farmhouse on the north side of Whiteford Road. It is believed that dwelling housed the caretaker of Myers’ property. Edwin Myers industry was tobacco and cigars; and news articles imply he planted much of his estate in tobacco.
Following the death of Edwin Myers in 1916, his widow sells 331-acres of their estate to Harold Robertson in 1919; including the Meadowbrook Mansion and the 1809 Farmhouse. Robertson was the first owner to establish a dairy business in the former cattle barns. News articles note he sold his milk in bulk to milk distributors: the Lancaster Milk Company and Cedar Hill Dairy. Farmhands occupied the 1809 Farmhouse.
Following the death of Harold Robertson in 1948, his widow sells the 331-acre property to Alva Long in 1950. Mr. Long continues the dairy operations, however his plans are to sell Avalong Dairy products directly to customers. That results in the popular Avalong Dairy Bar and Drive-In at the northwest corner of Mt. Zion and Whiteford Roads, and home delivery of milk via milkmen in milk trucks. The 1809 Farmhouse housed the Avalong Farms herdsmen.
In 1984, the vacant farmhouse at 2901 Whiteford Road was converted into two offices. At the time the Meadowbrook Inn & Tavern is operating in the Meadowbrook Mansion, Rutter’s Family Restaurant has taken over Avalong Dairy Bar and Dining Room, and The Village at Meadowbrook stores are being planned. The offices at 2901 Whiteford Road housed Holleran Services; also operating as Holleran Associates, Holleran Management Company and Meadowbrook Land Company.
In 1989, the 2-1/2 story 1809 farmhouse structure was repurposed into a bank. At which time the original circa 1755 one-story dwelling, to the north side, is replaced with a new 2-story addition in 1989. Meridian Bank opened at this location in May of 1989.
In 2014, members of the Springettsbury Township Historic Preservation Committee, along with architect Jim Williams, were allowed to examine the interior of the former farmhouse at 2901 Whiteford Road. We had heard the original, one story, circa 1755, dwelling was a log structure and wondered if any of it still existed; we found no evidence. It was completely replaced when the 1989 bank conversion was done. However the newer 2-1/2 story farmhouse structure retained much evidence it was an early 1800 addition.
Click on this LINK for a yorkblog.com Full View of the photos in this post.
Links to related posts include:
About the Witness Tree along Whiteford Road
Mammoth Sycamore Witness Tree of Springettsbury Township
Historic Pennsylvania German Farmhouse along Whiteford Road
Alva R. Long acquires the Meadowbrook Estate of Harold E. Robertson on January 3rd 1950Reading the Headlines: A Quick Index to All YorksPast Posts