Friday, December 17, 2010

LANCASTER COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA

Moravian House Antiques
Brrrr. It was cold today when the Box (which warms up quickly -- thank you, Mr. Box) and I picked up my retired friend David in order to head to Lancaster County, where David was hot on the trail of a throw rug for inside his back door. David's house is beautifully decorated in the early American style, so it was important to get something that fits in and enhances the place.

We hit pay dirt at our first stop, the Moravian House Antiques shop on Main Street in Lititz. I was barely inside the door and getting my camera turned on when David was standing at the cashier counter with a beautiful rug in just the right colors. Talk about efficacy in shopping. No window shopper he!

I mosied around taking pictures of the merchandise, so nicely presented in various settings. There was some great redware -- locally made! -- but I resisted. David was interested in some specialty light bulbs that he did not see, so I asked the owner, who happened to have just the number he needed in the stock room! Mission accomplished!

Next, we walked around the corner to Moravian Square with its beautiful church and associated buildings. We found the Moravian Gift Shop, run by volunteers to benefit foreign missions. Since founded, the shop has earned more than $100,000 for missions. Since it is the Christmas season, there were all sorts of candles and holders, and a ceiling full of Moravian stars in all sizes. David bought a crystal star that hangs or sits and becomes a candleholder, and I bought four of the beeswax candles "dressed" in ruffed paper, something unique to Moravian use at Christmas. I wanted to use them in the bargain brass candlesticks from my last blog entry!

At about 11:20 a.m., we arrived back on Main Street to meet Jay, a real estate agent who is selling condos in Pilger Haus ("Pilgrim House"), a large former inn, school, and apartment house on Main Street. David was interested in learning more about condo living, and I recalled having been impressed when Susanne and I saw a model condo sometime last year.

We toured a number of condos with different configurations, saw the covered parking and garages, the future community room, and my favorite (and most expensive), the top floor unit, which includes a loft area in the attic above, and with a spectacular view of the stone and log houses across the street. Like an idiot, I forgot to take any photos inside! The price tags were a little high, but this is a great place for the person that is looking for something different.

What I liked most was that you can walk out your front door and you ARE somewhere. You don't have to get in your car and drive to a nice town for shopping or lunch or dinner or musical events or museums or soft pretzels or a chocolate factory -- you're already THERE!

Our next stop was down the road at Smoketown, where we enjoyed variations on the T. Burk & Company's turkey Reuben sandwich, preceded by a delicious tomato bisque. It's one of David's favorite places in the area, and the food was indeed very tasty.

The deli also had cases with donuts and desserts -- but no a whoopie pies in sight! How could this be? A Lancaster County eatery with no whoopie pies? I asked the ladies behind the counter where these delicious little treasures could be found, and they recommended a bakery down the road in Bird-in-Hand, appropriately called the Bird-in-Hand Bakery and Creamery. There we found a collection of cookies and whoopie pies, along with fruit pies, cakes, and the ubiquitous shoofly pie. David enjoyed an oatmeal raisin cookie while I managed to resist the whoopie pie until later in the day.

I engaged the ladies behind the counter in conversation about the so-called "chocolate shoofly pie." They claimed that they stopped making it because no one bought it. Wow, those people down there are really missing something good. I know for certain that it is the most popular dessert (besides Oram's donuts) in New Brighton, Pa.!

Walking back to the Box, we enjoyed the view across the field to some farm buildings and an expansive winter sky.

The Old Philadelphia Pike took us to Route 30 and then to Route 501, which we took north to Neffsville, a crossroads community near where is located the famous Landis Valley Museum. We turned right at the "square" and then into the parking lot of the Tin Bin, a shop full of more early American d├ęcor. They have all sorts of lighting fixtures, as well as decorative arts. Unfortunately, much of the redware in the Pennsylvania German style was actually made in China to American specifications. It costs about half as much as the "real thing" made here in Pennsylvania. Well, I ranted about this in an earlier blog, so I will say no more.

The Box then led us through the farmlands along Route 772 until we met up with I-283 north toward Harrisburg and home to David's waiting Corgi, Ernie, who gave us a piece of his mind for being gone so long.





This little table was made near Gettysburg.

A pretty blue lamp shines on holiday figures.
 
David pays for his rug near the tree.

An old farm table was in great shape.

A Peter Sculthorpe painting on the wall.

Jay leaves the real estate office
 to return to Pilger Haus.

The bakery at Bird-in-Hand.

Pumpkin and red velvet whoopies.

Whoopies in bread trays.

Shoofly pies abound!

Monday, December 13, 2010

DUNCANNON AND COVE, PENNSYLVANIA

After church yesterday (where the choir I am in sang like angels), my sister Rachel and I decided to treat ourselves to a gourmet lunch at Chez Ronald and then drive the Box a few miles north along the Susquehanna River to the far side of Duncannon in Perry County.

It is named after the coastal town of Duncannon in Ireland.  Lightning Guider sleds were manufactured in Duncannon from 1904 until 1988, and we were headed to the former sled works, now an antiques mall, for some unusual reason known as Old Sled Works Antique and Craft Market.

The poor Box had to navigate through the World's Worst Parking Lot, which consisted of gravel, pot holes, and humps where former holes had been overfilled. And, of course, it was raining like mad. After sloshing around in the muck, we headed back to the wide paved entrance to the lot, where another car single-handedly had started a row. Naturally, we were happy to join in. Can you spot the Box?

Adjacent to the parking lot stands a metal tower. The Sled Works' website describes it thus:  

"Moved to the Old Sled Works in July 1998, this Forest Fire Lookout Tower (formerly known as the 'Dauphin Water Gap Tower') was a fixture for more than 50 years along Routes 22/322, a few miles west of Harrisburg, PA.

The tower had been closed for more than 30 years to foot traffic due to lack of proper maintenance and insurance. Still it remained a visible, outdoor icon for thousands of cars that passed by it each day. Due to a recent highway project, this 110' dinosaur was right in the path of progress and was destined for the scrap yard.

Luckily, a few miles away, owners of the Old Sled Works had the idea of saving the tower and re-erecting it in their parking lot. After months of planning and many bureaucratic hoops, the Duncannon Tower now stands proud for all to see and enjoy.

The first thing that caught my eye was right inside the door. A collection of old television sets, many recognizable from my youth, were lined up. Several were playing -- in black and white, of course. I can recall in the 1950s when our family got our first set. It was a Hallicrafters brand. It must have been around 1954 or 1955, because I recall watching the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953 at the Cartwright's house, and we got our first TV some time after that. I also recall walking around our neighborhood in the evening (it was safe then!) and seeing who had bought a television -- the evidence being the ghostly blue-gray light coming from darkened living rooms.

After the television display, we started cruising up and down the aisles in search of some elusive treasure. I had called Susanne earlier to let her know where I'd be but had to leave a message. In the junky furniture aisle, I got a call from her, wishing she had known, because she would have come along. Alas! She wanted me to look for a two tables -- one for bedside and a long farm table for dining. Mercifully, neither was to be found, saving a ton of money.

They say about antiquers that we are buying back the things our mothers threw out. I hate to say it, but we're now old enough to be buying back things we ourselves threw out! For example, the Pyrex casserole dishes with the little blue flower on them. We still have a stack of them we use all the time in the microwave. Who knew they were antiques?

Well, a couple of things amused us, but I bought only two small snow-flecked brush trees to add to our collection.

We decided to head back to The City and stopped on our way at the Cove Antiques Barn. There were some bargains to be had there! First of all, everything was spotless, including the old gentleman sitting inside the door. We both assumed he was a mannequin as we walked by. It was only when he moved that we discovered he was not such a dummy after all.

I purchased some little goodies for Susanne -- two little white creamers and a small round dish, made from the thick porcelain that you find in restaurants. She has a nice little collection of them from various sources. I also bought a pair of small Baldwin Brass candlesticks. Talk about a bargain. These little beauties retail for $42.50 each. With my shrewd bargaining skills (and the fact the the price was marked right on 'em) I got them for $1.50 each. They are perfect for the little ruffed beeswax candles they use in the Moravian Churches at Christmas. You can see an example here.

Anyway, bargains aside, the highlight of our visit at Cove was running into old friend Michael, with whom I worked at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission for many years. He is editor of a fine magazine on Pennsylvania's history, culture, and art (lavishly illustrated, as they say), published by the PHMC and Pennsylvania Heritage Society. Michael is one of the most knowledgeable people I know and a skilled writer and editor.

Michael was on his way back to town from his weekend retreat upcountry, and although he could open his own antique mall with his current collections, he still loves to browse. When he spotted the Box in the parking lot, he came looking for us inside. We had a pleasant conversation, looked at a few items together, then took our leave with a promise to chat on the phone sometime this week.

To reach the Box in the parking lot, Rachel and I squeezed past a giant waterfall coming from the barn's roof and then headed south to home, happy to be in out of the cold and rain.

 This was my favorite stand in the mall, although 
I suspected that some of the items where only 
passing as antiques, but, hey, I am no expert!

I loved this little Coke Can Car!

An older poster was aimed at attracting 
shoppers to downtown Harrisburg. 
Click on the photo to enlarge it.

There's a nifty little museum exhibit about the Sled Works.

Susanne always liked these splay-legged
Victorian tables, which I don't care for.

The Cove Barn antiques spilled out under the overhang.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

HARLEYSVILLE, GREEN LANE, AND PENNSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA

Mennonite Heritage Center
Some time ago I read about a Pennsylvania German Art Sale at the Mennonite Heritage Center in Harleysville, Montgomery County, about 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Their Web site showed a list of craftspeople, and they were top notch. So, I mentioned this to a friend from Philadelphia, and he agreed to meet there to see the show and the heritage center.

Keith is actually a former student of mine from eons ago, when I taught in the middle school. He likes all things Pennsylvania German and is going to study their houses and furnishings (and other stuff) at a prestigious school in Philadelphia. He brought his friend Ken, who is an architect. I arrived a little late, having misjudged the time it would take to get there, even with the Box outdoing itself on the Northeast Extension of the turnpike.

Redware pottery
We looked through the wonderful pieces in the art sale, including redware pottery (some from Breininger pottery, of course), fraktur and scherenschnitte, hooked rugs, wooden painted cabinets, tin, textiles, and toleware. I had my eye on a wooden hanging cabinet but noticed some others across the room. When I got back to the first one, it was being sold to an elderly woman. I think I could have taken her and wrestled it from her frail and bony fingers, but I hesitated to jump on someone in a wheelchair.

Next we took a look at the oil painting exhibit, another with antique fraktur, a third with antique clothing, and finally, the permanent exhibit of Mennonite Church history. A quick stop in the gift shop completed the visit.

Ken, left, and Keith at Schwenkfelder Library
Soon we were headed down the pike to Green Lane to see the Goschenhoppen Historians' museum. They were having a sale of sorts, too. But it had to wait, as we whizzed by, missing the turn, and ending up at our third destination, the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center.

Caspar Schwenkfeld von Ossig was a Protestant Reformer in 16th century Europe. His followers, known as Schwenkfelders, settled in southeastern Pennsylvania in the 1730s and still have churches in that area today.

The heritage center exhibits items owned and used by the Schwenkfelders, many of them from the 18th and 19th centuries. The center also tells their story and describes the current six congregations, all of them in the Philadelphia area, with 3,000 members. The Schwenkfelders never adopted a distinguishing form of dress, like the Amish or Mennonite groups did.

In the lobby, there was a sale of crafts by heritage center members, I think, and a small gift shop. Once again, we resisted buying anything. Two ladies inside the door were handing out delicious cookies and attempted to direct us back to Green Lane and Red Men's Hall, where the third Christmas exhibit was taking place. They were both so accommodating and talked over each other so much that I had to step away, fearing a stroke or brain aneurysm, and left Keith and Ken to figure it out.

Soon we headed toward Green Lane, stopping briefly to see a handsome stone house with brick trim and imagining how much better it would look without the aluminum columns and the plastic shutters.

Red Men's Hall in Green Lane
Making the right turn this time, we came across Red Men's Hall and followed signs directing us to the bank lot across the street. As we approached the building, we smelled the scent of peanuts roasting outside. A man gave us directions to see a museum General Store, the baked goods and lunch sale, the Christmas Market, and the general exhibit area on the top floor.

We checked out the baked goods and Christmas Market, then climbed a very tall flight of steps to see the general museum, filled with such goodies as iron stoves, a church pulpit, farm implements, home furnishings  -- just a very nice collection of old things from the area. Goschenhoppen Historians was formed when local folks realized that the things and activities associated with "the old days" had begun to disappear.

Chamber organ at Goschenhoppen
According to their Web site, "Goschenhoppen, correctly pronounced Gush'n hup'n, is one of the oldest existing, continuously Pennsylvania German communities in America. Settled in the early eighteenth century by Mennonite, Lutheran, Catholic, Schwenkfelder, Reformed and Dunker farmers and artisans, it was a center of Palatine German language and culture, with Alsatian, Swiss, Bavarian, and Hessian influences.

Many descendants of these early settlers live in the community today. Our concerned community members support the Historians in the collection, preservation, and dissemination of the history and folk culture of the Pennsylvania Germans in the Goschenhoppen and nearby areas."

Our final stop there was the General Store, where, with the smell of roasting peanuts wafting through the door, we saw all sorts of items one would find in a store about a hundred years ago. We were met at the front door by an effigy of the Belsnickel, Santa's evil counterpart, who scared kids into being good in the early Pennsylvania German communities.

It was very obvious throughout this visit that the people volunteering at these places were completely devoted to their missions of preserving and sharing their knowledge. While some of the institutions were more sophisticated than others, I really have to commend these folks for their work.

Don't let the Belsnickel get you!
By now it was one o'clock, so we stopped in a restaurant housed in an old building (what else?). We were assigned to a smallish dining room in which a couple of generations of a family were already eating, and having a loud and raucous time. So much so, in fact, that they were beginning to annoy me! I tried to get the other guys to go over and rough them up, but they declined. The food was so-so, but the company was fine.

As the Philly men headed off to buy a Christmas tree, the Box and I headed back to the northeast extension of the turnpike and arrived home after dark, having fought our way through a huge number of 18-wheelers that liked hanging out in the passing lane.







 The museum at the Mennonite Heritage Center.

The Mennonite kitchen exhibit.

 Vintage clothing on exhibit.

The art sale items were quite fine.

A beautiful scherenschnitte, or 
paper cutting.

Hand-made rugs are colorful.

 This woman was demonstrating scherenschnitte.

 And this one was hooking rugs.

Back in the museum, the bedroom display.

A fine cupboard houses china.

 China on a hutch at the Schwenkfelder Heritage Center.

 This jacquard coverlet hung near an antique loom.

 This organ (c.1825) must have been for
a home, since organs were not allowed
 in Schwenkfelder worship.

 Redware!

 Schwenkfelder chests made in Germany and
used to travel to the colonies.

Bed, chair, and decorated chest.

 Nineteenth century mourning attire.

A child's coffin, filled with ice or herbs for the wake.
It is sitting on a bier for carrying to the cemetery.

 The Schwenkfelder Center's putz or Christmas village.

Farm animals are a feature of the putz.

 They were serving lunch and selling baked
goods at the Goshenhoppen museum.

 Paper chains on a natural tree--
no shearing and shaping here!

 A candle "construction" with apples and boxwood.

 A branch wrapped with cotton and 
decorated with mid-20th century ornaments.

 Flag chains on another natural tree.

 In the museum, another pipe organ!

 A ten-plate stove cast at an iron furnace.

 A pulpit and table from an early church.

This decorated hutch held china.

As we left the Goschenhoppen museum, 
Ken and Keith try out the door's 
not-so-subtle peephole.