Part II: York County’s widespread Ehrhart clan: ‘By now probably 1/2 of York Co. has Ehrhart blood’
Thomas Ehrhart built this tavern and inn in 1798 along present-day Susquehanna Trail. It now houses apartments. (See additional photo below.) Also of interest: Whatever happened to York County’s Hungerford? and Trees commemorate World War I I vets and Shrewsbury Township sleigh rescued: ‘Tell the children we saved Christmas’ and York County’s widespread Ehrhart clan, Part I.
Motorists driving along the Susquehanna Trail south of Brown’s Orchards have seen the old landmark a thousand times.
But they might not know the story of the old Ehrhart’s Tavern, now in its fourth century.
It’s the homestead of the Ehrhart family so prevalent in York County and beyond – a group about which one family member Evedene Bennett recently said with pride: “By now probably 1/2 of York Co. has Ehrhart blood.”
Eleven years ago, the Ehrhart Tavern was up for sale. The York Daily Record published the following story (3/10/11), with the headline: “Selling a piece of the past”:
People traveling the dusty road to Baltimore probably found the old stone tavern a haven for the evening.
Perhaps they ate dinner by candlelight, then retired to a room to sleep for the night. They needed the rest before heading out for another long day traveling by wagon.
The tavern and inn, built in 1798 by Thomas Ehrhart along the road now known as the Susquehanna Trail, is up for sale.
Previous owners converted it to a private home and apartments years ago. Current owners Kenneth and Bonnie Ness have fixed up parts of the house, located in Springfield Township, but more work is needed.
“We just didn’t know what we were getting into,” Bonnie Ness said.
Her husband fell in love with the 19th century barn on the property, and he saw the home as a remodeling project.
They bought it in 1982 and set a goal of finishing the restoration for its 200th anniversary in 1998.
The Nesses started in the bedrooms upstairs, moving at least one doorway to create private rooms for their three children. They split a long room in half for two bathrooms – one for an adjoining apartment and one for their section of the house.
The Nesses later built an addition. It contains a master bedroom upstairs and a dining room downstairs. That’s the third addition onto the property in its 202-year-old history.
Despite their efforts, the Nesses didn’t reach their self-imposed deadline. Parts of the house remain unfinished.
The old white balcony spanning the front needs to be replaced. The main staircase is unfinished. A room upstairs re mains untouched.
Kenneth Ness, formerly a mason and house builder, thought it would be easier to renovate a home than build one. They learned otherwise, his wife said.
In addition, Kenneth Ness, suffering from knee problems, had to switch jobs years ago. He now works longer hours and has less time to devote to renovation.
So the couple decided to sell the home. It sits on 8 acres, which is zoned industrial. Included on the property is an old milking house, corn crib and five Chestnut trees that are about 100 years old. Another weeping tree on the property attracts passersby, but the Nesses are not sure what kind it is.
The asking price is listed at $599,000, according to a real estate Web site. The Nesses have a buyer, a couple from Maryland.
The couple intend to keep the Georgian-style structure, Bonnie Ness said. The gentleman has plans to open a hobby shop in the former White’s Tack Shop, which Bonnie Ness and her late-mother operated. The shop adjoins the barn.
“I’m hoping nobody comes in and tears it down,” Ness said. “I’d hate to see that happen.”
While the history of their home has intrigued the Nesses, their research yielded little information.
They know that Thomas Ehrhart was the son of William Ehrhart.
William Ehrhart immigrated to the United States from Germany. He arrived in Philadelphia Oct. 12, 1741. He and his wife, Catherine Schreiner, moved to the Shrewsbury area. They had eight children.
Bonnie Ness said her attempts to trace the owners of the home stopped when it was handed down to a woman. Women were not allowed to own property at the time, so it would have been listed under her husband’s name, which Ness didn’t know.
The Historical Society of York County and the Shrewsbury Preservation Society have no information on the building. Historic York Inc. had a brief record, most of which was provided by the Nesses. The record states that the building served as an old inn/ tavern.
The Nesses looked for any writing on the walls while they worked on the house that might have indicated more about its history. They never found any. They did find an old horseshoe.
“We always said if this house could speak…” Bonnie Ness said with a laugh.
This stone datestone on the side of the inn indicates the original owners of the building. Family members say that the house is older; 1798 might have marked the date for remodeling or an addition.
Posts about other venerable York County families:
The Laux, Loux, Loucks, Laucks, Louck, Lauck, Louks family to hold 300th reunion in York and A leading York County name: ‘Keeping it in family is the Glatfelter way’ and How come few in York know about S. Morgan Smith anymore? .
– All York Town Square posts from the start. (Key word search by using “find” on browser.)
– Of course, you can always search for York Town Square posts on Google. For example, search for yorktownsquare and Laucks, you get this.
*Photos courtesy of Dave Ehrhart.
*Edited, March 21, 2011.