Rediscovering a treasure
ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS The Merwinsburg Hotel is along Merwinsburg Road in Chestnuthill Township.
Brush was growing up and reclaiming the land around the Merwinsburg Hotel.
Water ran in at several places and rotted the wood.
But then Chestnuthill Township recognized the historic value of the hotel and bought it.
It is a treasure rediscovered.
A swale was dug around the building to stop most of the water. The Chestnuthill Township Historical Society helped with clearing the grounds. Everyone was anxious to get inside and see what was left. But first the mold had to be abated.
Little did they know the treasure that would be found when finally a tour was made on May 17. Township supervisor Chris Eckert led the group beginning in the back room, which was the last one built.
Later a fire destroyed much of that room but the main part of the hotel was protected by the stone center section.
As the tour left the back room for the center someone casually pulled open a drawer and discovered letters, postcards and vacation brochures - a real treasure. They're tokens from a time when the hotel was a hub of activity and they reveal additional details about everyday life 100 years ago.
One unopened letter from 1917 was for Mrs. Gould from a stamp company. There was a renewal card for Successful Farming magazine. An unsigned birthday card had never been used.
Eckert said "This is amazing. It will be taken to the township building."
A sign bracket awaits the original sign that hung on a tree along the road. The sign is housed in the Monroe County Historical Association museum. Nancy Christman hopes it can be returned to the hotel, but otherwise she would like a replica made.
The back room had a stove in the fireplace but people knew it had never been used for cooking. An icebox-refrigerator had an opening where ice could be pushed through the wall. A sign on the front said it was a Butcher Boy refrigerator made by Mintzer & Kneisler.
Shelves along one side of the room served as cupboards.
At one time owners, the Shiffers tried to make an antique shop by joining the two back rooms but it did not succeed, said Kathy Getz.
There is a toilet and sink on the lower level. Upstairs where there were rooms to rent there was a sink in each room and two complete baths with claw-foot tubs to serve the 13 rooms.
The main portion of the hotel was built in 1902. Historical Society member Ron Ely said a coat of paint is needed to protect the outside.
"I was always fascinated by the building," said Leah Wohrbach. She knew it from when Bill and Norma Gould owned it before the township bought it.
Barbara and Bill Shiffer sold it to the township and its history is compelling. It was a tavern, then a restaurant and then a boarding house. Board was $2 a week. Stagecoaches stopped at the hotel in the early years.
Ely, a ghost hunter, mentioned some of the ghost stories connected to the hotel. Others offered their own stories.
A black and white fireplace was probably built with bricks from Saylorsburg. Other colors of glossy bricks, such as the black ones also in the fireplace, were made in Kunkletown. Bricks are marked by the maker on the inside but no one is going to tear one out of the fireplace to be sure.
A large cupboard in the room has a bit from a horse's bridle hanging on the wall over it. The nine-over-six windows would be original, said Norman Burger. The glass is wavy.
A plate in the back of a fireplace is dated 1756. It may have been a clean-out. That date is when "Old Man Merwine" came into the area, said Burger.
On the table is a gunstock. One room features bookshelves with some "really old" books.
In the hallway at the bottom of the stairs is a tapestry of a garden scene with one man sketching a couple that are sitting together. In the darkened hallway there is no color but along the bottom it looks like there was and it shows in the photograph.
The wide plank flooring indicates there was wall-to-wall carpeting. In one room is a picture left behind by an artist who boarded at the hotel. Across the bottom it says there is a price list. There are also picture frames.
The bedrooms wound around and the last one is reached by walking through several others, presumably occupied by strangers.
Christman said she would like to have historical society meetings at the hotel.
The land around the hotel is about six acres, with another 40 on the opposite side of the road where there was a barn, chicken coops, trails for hiking, fishing and a swimming pool.
A grant was received to repair the roof but there is much more to be done.