York Town Square

Part of the USAToday Network

Old Shrewsbury house disappearing hand-hewn log, square nail at a time

Carroll Swam of New Park is helping disassemble an old log house in the southern York County borough of Shrewsbury, one historic piece at a time. Background posts: York County’s landscape, buildings, landmarks can serve as a classroom, How to accurately restore a historic home and Facts don’t support wide house door to admit coffins.

A landmark Shrewsbury log house is slowly coming down.
That is the third option involving such a historic log home, disassembler Carroll Swam says. Carefully dismantle it and recycle the parts.
The first and preferred option, the York countian says, is to restore a home. The second is to move it.
This particular 200-plus-year-old structure could not be saved… .

A sign near the Shrewsbury log house.
Which caused a commenter on the York Daily Record/Sunday News story (9/3/08) to say:

At least it’s being done right. I hate when old properties just get bulldozed. The 1960s were not a good time for old buildings, and we lost alot then. Preserve what can be preserved!

Well said.
The story follows:

Shrewsbury is losing a little piece of its history.
A one-room log house that might date back to the town’s early beginnings is being dismantled.
“I have not had time to research it in detail, but based on what I know about the history it is probably one of the early homes built between 1790 and 1810,” said Carroll B. Swam of New Park.
Swam, has been restoring, rebuilding and dismantling old houses for nearly 25 years, but this is one he could not save, he said.
“The best-case scenario is to restore a house in the same location. The second is to take it down and rebuild it in another location and that can be dictated by several reasons,” he said.
The third choice is to dismantle the house and recycle as much of it as possible. That is what Swam is doing with the house on South Main Street.
“I’ve had a lifelong interest in old houses. I grew up in an old house, I live in a house that is over one hundred years old. My great-grandfather built barns, my grandfather was a farmer and built barns,” he said.
The old house, like all old houses, speaks to him, and he enjoys uncovering its hidden secrets in every step of the process. There is a fascination in seeing how homes were built when everything was done by hand and in finding the bits and pieces that tell him something about those who lived in the house. He has found pieces of clothing, empty candy boxes a doll’s head and a few coins, but nothing very old, he said.
The house was part of the property of the former Shrewsbury Church of the Brethren which was built in 1912. The Freedom Community Church purchased the site in May 2006 and had thoughts of restoring the log house and putting it to use as an office, but problems like a leaky roof and a crumbling foundation made the project cost prohibitive, said the Rev. Peter Mayer.
“It was originally a one-room log house. We think that it might have been the farthest log house built to the south of the square. Rooms were being added to the rear and a second story put on, openings were made for windows and doors, and the original logs were too cut up to be useful. About the only thing we could do was to dismantle it but we didn’t want to just rip in down, we wanted to find someone who could help us,” Mayer said.
Swam has spent most of the summer on the project, helped at times by members of the congregation, Mayer said.
At some point, the church may build an addition on the site of the log house, he said.