The Johannes & Cristina Schultz House in Springettsbury Township is a building that hides its secrets. For well over a century, the historic German Colonial house was believed to be the oldest home in York County. The house is traditionally thought to have been built in 1734 (or 1737); however, recent research has cast doubt on that as Johannes and Cristina Schultz did not even arrive in the United States until 1742. (See “Schultz House: Oldest in York County?“)
There is also a question of the datestone – the source of the 1734 (or 1737) date of construction. Some historians now believe the datestone to actually be 1752 (see “Schultz House: 1734 or 1752?“).
There is also an architectural mystery about the chimneys. The house exhibits end chimneys, a feature more common with English Georgian architecture, and not a single central chimney, a typical feature of German Colonial architecture. There doesn’t appear to be obvious evidence that the house originally contained a central chimney, although further investigation (and selective demolition) could determine whether or not one originally existed.
According to local tradition, members of the Second Continental Congress stopped at the Schultz House in 1777 and 1778 when York served as capital of colonial America. As the house was at the time located on the Monocacy Road – which connected York with the Susquehanna River – the premise makes a lot of sense. The location made it an ideal stopping point for travelers. However, there is no historical evidence; only local tradition.
Furthermore, strong local tradition has held that the Schultz House was part of Camp Security – perhaps the headquarters building or a dormitory for the guards. Again, this is a logical assumption, as the historic record does indicate that the site of Camp Security was on the farm property associated with the Schultz House. John Schultz, son of Johannes and Cristina, and his family, still occupying the house though no longer owning it, did relocate to York Town during the active days of Camp Security. Schultz operated a tavern in town from 1763 to 1783. The owner of the land, David Brubaker, did file a petition seeking restitution from the Continental Army and Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania for damage caused by the clearing of land, inability to farm, and operation of Camp Security. However, a 2008 archeological dig around the Schultz House found no evidence that would directly tie the land immediately surrounding the house to the military prison of war camp. (See “Where was the Camp Security Cemetery Located? “)
The house knows how to hold her secrets.
Now comes another interesting tidbit that sheds even more mystery on the house: Henry Ford may have wanted it.
I’ve had the pleasure to serve on the board of directors for Historic York, Inc. for seven years. In 2007, the Rowe family donated the house to Historic York, and the non-profit architectural preservation organization began extensive research – research that is still being conducted today. At the time this took place, Karen Arnold was executive director of Historic York. Today she works for the Pennsylvania Historic & Museum Commission, Bureau of Historic Preservation. But in 2006 she was the primary researcher for the property. Something she came across in her research was an apparent article about Henry Ford’s interest in the property.
She mentioned it in a meeting and I totally forgot about it. Until recently.
While discussing the Schultz House at a gathering, the name “Henry Ford” popped into my head. I recalled the story of his alleged interest in the house, and emailed both Karen and Mindy Crawford, executive director of Preservation Pennsylvania, who has also researched the Schultz House. Karen confirmed that she was, in fact, the source, and that no, I wasn’t making up a false memory. She further directed me to the Schultz House files at Historic York.
Enter Barbara Raid, architectural historian for the organization. She searched through the files and located the article in question.
However, in true Schultz house fashion, the research creates more questions than it answers.
The original source for the article is labeled “unknown,” with an estimated year of 1926. The articles headline states:
SHULTZ KIN OPPOSES MOVING YORK HOME
Civil War Veteran, 82, Hopes Ford Won’t Take Building to Detroit
Why would Henry Ford buy the Schultz House and relocate it to Detroit? Well, because that is exactly what Henry Ford did elsewhere.
Today The Henry Ford is a National Historic Landmark. Originally, it was known as the Edison Institute as well as the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. According to the museum’s website, “Entering Greenfield Village is like stepping into an 80-acre time machine. It takes you back to the sights, sounds and sensations of America’s past. There are 83 authentic, historic structures, from Noah Webster’s home, where he wrote the first American dictionary, to Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory, to the courthouse where Abraham Lincoln practiced law.” The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village were established in 1929 and originally owned by Ford Motor Company. Many prominent historic buildings from various locations in the United States were purchased and relocated to create the largest indoor-outdoor history museum complex in the country.
From the article:
“Just what Henry Ford intends to do with the old Shultz home, the oldest two-story stone structure in York county, and possibly oneof (sic) the oldest structures of its kind, when and if he purchases it, has remained up to the present time somewhat in doubt.
“In purchasing many pieces of Americana, from spinning wheels to full-size houses, the automobile magnate has often followed the practice of moving them bodily to Detroit.”
The article later states, “That the automobile magnate is considering purchase of the old home was revealed recently by dispatches from York. It was said that negotiations are being conducted between a representative of Ford and the present owner of the house, Emanuel Landis, and that the automobile manufacturer will personally view the house on his next trip through this section.”
This intriguing article quotes John W. Shultz, who claimed to be a direct descendant of the builders, as believing that the Historical Society of York County had “some claim on the house,” and expressed his hope that the organization would prevent its removal.
The article mentions another date of construction, and hints at the intrigue surrounding the house:
“The house which eventually may become another item in the Ford collection of Americana, was built in 1743. It is said that at one time it served as an inn, and that George Washington stopped there as a guest.”
Another anecdote from the article has also been collected in York County histories: “A well authenticated tradition has it that on September 30, 1777, members of the Continental Congress, fleeing the British invasion of Philadelphia, stopped there, and caused much comment among natives in the vicinity by their possession of leather saddles. A sack of wheat was then the common saddle used in that country.”
The mystery article was most likely published in a Philadelphia newspaper.
Emanuel Landis, the Schultz House owner referenced in the article, purchased the Schultz House and 132 acres in 1922 from Margaret Glatz Matthews and Col. A.C.N. Matthews. He sold the property Clair and Beatrice Rowe in 1944, and it was the Rowe family that gifted the house to Historic York in 2007. (See “Historic House now with Historic Caretaker“)
York historian George Prowell mentioned the saddle story in his 1907 History of York County.
Did Henry Ford ever visit the Schultz House? Did he make a formal offer to purchase it? Or did he decide not to proceed?
Add these questions to yet another layer of mystery and intrigue surrounding the Schultz House.
For further information about The Henry Ford, check out these sites:
The Henry Ford
And to read about Historic York, visit their new website:
Historic York, Inc.
About this blogAs a local historian, writer and photo- grapher, I look at York County’s history in visual terms. For more than 15 years I’ve been enamored with local buildings and the stories behind their facades – from prominent architecture to non-assuming buildings, their walls and roofs are filled with stories just waiting to be told. Whether giving a downtown York walking tour, exploring the history of a local building for my job at the Nutec Group, or taking photos for an upcoming coffee table book, I’m always looking for those unique “windows” into York County’s past and present. — Scott Butcher
- January 2011
- December 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- February 2010
- December 2009
- September 2009
- August 2009
- June 2009
- April 2009
- January 2009
- December 2008
- November 2008
- October 2008
- September 2008
- August 2008
- July 2008
- June 2008
- May 2008
- March 2008
- February 2008
- January 2008
- December 2007
- November 2007
- October 2007
- September 2007
- 18th Century
- 19th Century
- 20th Century
- American Revolution
- Architectural Terms
- Beaux Arts
- City architecture
- Civil War
- Continental Square
- County Buildings
- General History
- German Architecture
- Government Buildings
- Historic Preservation
- Research & Books
- Underground Railroad