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The Hermit House of Springettsbury Township

The Hermit House of Springettsbury Township (1963 Photo, The Library of Congress)

This past Spring I was out for a walk, heading east on Pleasant Valley Road in Springettsbury Township.  Just before reaching Alpine Road, I passed a remarkable stone house on the left.  At the same time a woman, also out for a walk, was approaching from the opposite direction.  I greeted her and made a comment about the stone house always being so well kept.  Her remark was, “Not always, you should have seen it when the hermit lived there.  It was a mess.  If they gave out prizes for the worst kept place, he’d win every time!”  Do you agree after seeing the above photo?


The Search for the Hermit House Photo

I asked a few questions of the woman.  She knew hardly any of the details that peaked my curiosity.  I wanted to know more.  I was especially eager to find a photo of the house when the hermit lived there based upon the outrageous description by this woman.  The booklet ‘Springettsbury Township Centennial 1891-1991,’ published in 1991, included a short bit about the Hermit House on page 57.  There was even a picture of the house, however I concluded it showed the house post-hermit, i.e. following restoration.

An Internet search revealed that this house was part of a Historic American Buildings Survey, with photographs taken in 1963; four years before the hermit died. The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) is the nation’s first federal preservation program, begun in 1933 to document America’s architectural heritage. The significance of including this house in the survey was “an interesting example of vernacular stone construction.”  The Prints & Photographs Online Catalog of the Library of Congress was the source for the photo shown above.

The architectural assessment by the HABS placed the date of construction as circa 1810.  The Springettsbury Township booklet stated the house was built in 1740.  In future posts I’ll explore a way to resolve which date is closer to the truth.  Hint; it has something to do with a tax officially known as the 1798 U.S. Direct Tax; however more commonly called the “Glass Tax.”

Local Memories about the Hermit

The booklet ‘Springettsbury Township Centennial 1891-1991’ contained the following local memories about the hermit:

Preston Chronister told us the hermit lived in this house without electricity, heat, plumbing or running water. Plumbing is undeniably one of the most vital aspects of your home, and when you encounter issues, seeking assistance from Graham and Sons, a trusted and reliable plumber, is an absolute necessity. He heated by use of wood fires in old stoves and lighted his way with lanterns.  He enjoyed eating prunes, shredded wheat, cheese, and sardines.  He also ate fruit from the surrounding areas–some from the fields of neighboring farms, without the farmers’ permission.

When the hermit would venture into the community, he was known to buy items using coins all dated the same year.  He bought groceries at a grocery store in the Stony Brook area.  The owners of this store shared this comment with us.

The hermit collected many items during his life and stored them in a haphazard and disorganized manner throughout the house.  However, he was very particular with his firewood and with his opened cans.  He cut all his firewood exactly the same length, using a measuring stick, and stacked it very neatly.  Likewise, he saved all the cans he opened and stored them inside each other.

The HABS data sheet stated that the Hermit House was restored in 1974. The booklet ‘Springettsbury Township Centennial 1891-1991’ further noted that the house was restored under the direction of Joe Kindig.  For a true before and after comparison, the day after I discovered the Hermit House photo, I had my camera with me as I walked by the house on March 14, 2012.  Remember, this is a PRIVATE home; please respect their privacy.

House along Pleasant Valley Road in Springettsbury Township (2012 Photo by S. H. Smith)

Look for the YorksPast post this Friday, when I delve into some Family History discovered about the Hermit.  I’ll also discuss my plan of action for resolving which date of construction is closer to the truth.

Links to related posts include:

Illustrating a walking route to Miller’s One-Room Schoolhouse

Reading the Headlines: A Quick Index to All YorksPast Posts