What is the Origin of the Rehabilitated Dover Log House

NOTE: This story was originally published on August 17, 2013, and was located on the archived Preserving York website. It has been republished here for your enjoyment, and may have been edited for content and clarity from its original form.

I was asked if I could offer any information about the log house found at Dover Community Park, located along West Canal Road and a short distance west of Dover borough. Its beautiful facade is reminiscent of the days of yesteryear, and one wishes they could take a step back in time and experience it during its heyday. It’s hard to believe that the home originally stood miles away before being moved to its current location.

The history behind the house…

Dover-Log-HouseThe Greater Dover Historical Society has done a fantastic job with the facts they have featured on their website about this log house. The below information is credited to their site:

The 1740’s log house was moved from Black Bridge Road, York, PA to the park on West Canal Road, Dover, PA.

The log house was dismantled piece by piece and log by log by the students and community volunteers of Dover. It involved taking apart walls of logs up to 30 feet long, a foot to a foot and a half thick, and getting them onto a flat bed truck. Some of the logs were made from Oak and very heavy. The bottom logs were from chestnut and even heavier.

When the house was dismantled all the logs had turned out to be notched. (There wasn’t a nail in the place.) Framing of the four original windows were of half logs. The floor boards – later to disappear along with their joists while they were stacked awaiting transport –were random width and original. Another telltale sign of the age of the house was the whitewash used as a wood preservative.

Much of the window glazing was the wavy glass of antiquity. Some of that was lost to vandals during the reconstruction, but the builders pieced together enough of the original panes for the first floor windows. The doors are original, along with all but 12 of the logs.

The house underwent updating during the centuries on Black Bridge Road, as evidenced by the clapboard covering the logs and the brick chimneys. It now has a few modern improvements like treatment of the logs with pentachlorophenol, a strong wood preservative, and chinking of styrofoam and chicken wire under the rough plaster.

John Schein the former director of Historic York, Inc. discovered the log treasure hidden under German-style wood siding and advanced Deterioration. The former owner, the J. E. Baker Co., made the building available to anyone who would move it from the firm’s quarry property near the San Carlos Restaurant.

Research traced the house back to 1744 and found it had ownership connections with several old York area families. Because of its size the house likely was built by someone of means.

The aerial image below was taken on August 11, 1971, and can be credited to the Penn Pilot website which offers “Historic Aerial Photographs of Pennsylvania”. At the top of the image, you will see the original location of the log house when it was located in Manchester Township. Additional landmarks in the immediate area have been marked.

Note that “Old” Black Bridge Road is labeled as shown on some online maps. This was prior to the road being shifted to the west where “Current” Black Bridge Road is labeled. Toronita Street may extend to the north from Route 30 and change into “Current” Black Bridge Road.


The below image was extracted from the Penn Pilot photograph above and is expanded so that the farm can be seen more easily.


The book – Combined Atlases – 1876 York County, Pennsylvania and 1903 City of York – offers us additional clues, and it appears likely that the property in 1876 was owned by Zachariah K. Loucks, owner of many area mills and properties. A map of the location is shown below.


Questions remain…

Even with the history from the Greater Dover Historical Society, we still do not have any information about the former residents of the home. If anyone would be able to help, we’d love to hear from you. In addition, if there are any photographs of first-hand accounts of the home before, or during, its relocation we’d love to see those as well.


Zion Lutheran Church – York’s Forgotten Treasure (Part 3 of 3)

NOTE: This story was originally published on March 27, 2011, and was located on the archived Preserving York website. It has been republished here for your enjoyment, and may have been edited for content and clarity from its original form.

The government of York County, Pennsylvania purchased the Zion Lutheran Church property on South Duke Street in late 1995 and owned it for just over 10 years. During that time, it was used for storing obsolete or non-essential items belonging to the county –  chairs, desks, computers, and countless other items. It was common for homeless individuals to make entry into the church for shelter, and some even used a stairway leading to the basement for the same use. Time and neglect were against this aging treasure, but hope wasn’t too far away.

The county originally purchased the property during discussions about courthouse expansion. One idea on the table was to demolish the Zion building and use the space to add on to the existing courthouse. When York County made the decision to construct a judicial center at a different location instead of expanding the current courthouse facility, they were left with a dilemma – what to do with the Zion property, now non-essential to the needs of the county government.

Tower of Zion Lutheran Church, built 1886-1887

According to the Wednesday, June 21, 2006 edition of the York Daily Record:

“The county announced plans last month to sell the old church and placed an advertisement in the newspaper Monday. That same day, Christ Lutheran Church delivered a check to the county for $125,000 – the price established in the ad.”

The article further stated this was the only offer received for the church property, and an agreement of sale was being worked out. According to the York County Assessment Office website, the date of sale for this purchase was August 16, 2006.

Newspaper article detailing pending purchase of the Zion Lutheran Church property by Christ Lutheran Church. (York Daily Record, June 21, 2006, page 1A)

With this purchase the Zion Luther Church property, noted as “one of the most endangered historic properties in the City of York”, was back in the hands of Christ Lutheran Church, where it originated over 150 years earlier.

Shortly after the sale of Zion, I corresponded with The Rev. Patrick J. Rooney, Senior Pastor of Christ Lutheran Church. I expressed my appreciation for saving the old church and was relieved it was back into caring hands. We discussed the graves, and what the future held for the property. We spoke a few times over the years, but knowing the church was safe, I placed it in the back of my mind.

I recently decided to visit the old church property again to take some updated photographs. I thought this would be a great time to meet Pastor Rooney in person, and we also decided to visit the old church so I could give him details about the hidden graves I had visited years before.

Pastor Rooney was very busy that day but was gracious enough to sit with me in his office for a few minutes as we discussed the old church. As I have never visited Christ Lutheran, he also gave me a brief tour of the facility, and shortly after, we met with Robin Reed, Property Manager for Christ Lutheran who would be joining us.

As we entered the gymnasium of Zion, I immediately noticed damage to the floor and ceiling from a leak some time before. The flat roof of the aging gym was prone to this sort of thing, and repairs to it eliminated the problem for the time being. The facility was eerily cool, and caused goosebumps to appear on my arms. We made our way to the same narrow stairway leading to the basement that I walked down years before and cautiously made our decent.

Water damage to gymnasium of Zion Lutheran Church

Over 10 years had passed since I was in the basement of the church, so it took a few minutes for my memory to return. I was soon able to relay the exact locations of most of the graves still standing under the church. We were able to see one from an opening in the wall, but the others were out of site. We hadn’t planned on entering the crawlspace that day, but the potential for a return visit is very high.

As Pastor Rooney and Robin returned to their other responsibilities, I wandered around the outside of the church, admiring the building and graveyard standing before me. I gazed at the church’s brick tower, and slowly walked past each tombstone resting along the north wall. I tried to imagine  what went through the minds of those who moved the tombstones during the construction, but was unable to do so with any certainty.

Tombstones along north side of Zion Lutheran Church

There are no longer problems with homeless individuals entering the building, but a bundled up blanket tucked away behind a nearby bush makes me think the stairway may still be used as a quiet place for someone to lay their head at night.

The early plans Christ Lutheran had for the Zion property were unable to materialize for varying reasons, so the property is once again sitting idle. Pastor Rooney told me of new plans they have, but I will not disclose them here, as I was unable to get his permission to do so. I choose not to disclose such information without authorization, so our relationship is not tarnished for future endeavorers I may have at the Zion property.

Graves located on the south side of Zion Lutheran Church

For now, the Zion Lutheran Church property, rich with history but largely ignored, is silently waiting for its next mission. This former house of worship served the York community for 145 years before it was tossed aside. Following that, it was used as a mere storage facility by York County and a shelter for the homeless who were able to make entry into the abandoned rooms. Now, there is a bright light in its future, where one day, I envision it serving the York Community once again.


Zion Lutheran Church – York’s Forgotten Treasure (Part 2 of 3)

NOTE: This story was originally published on March  22, 2011, and was located on the archived Preserving York website. It has been republished here for your enjoyment, and may have been edited for content and clarity from its original form.

In early 1998, I discovered the identity of my 5th great-grandparents, George Christopher Stoehr and Maria Dorothea Doudel. George, born to John Mathias and Johanna Catherine (Steinicker) Stoehr, was most likely well known in York Town. He was a Revolutionary War veteran, potter by trade, and served as York’s first High Constable, or Chief of Police after York Town was incorporated. George was affiliated with Christ Lutheran Church and was a member of “The Singing Choir”. He is depicted in some Lewis Miller drawings, and the York Heritage Trust Museum even displays a portrait of him. Paintings of him and his wife were seen 10 years ago at a local antique show, listed at $15,000. Dorothea was born to Jacob and Anna Maria (Spangler) Doudel, and gave birth to 8 children between 1776 – 1794.

Upon leaning of these early family members, I discovered a photograph from 1937 that showed a pair of tombstones which turned out to be George and Dorothea. The description stated the stones were discovered in a crawlspace under Zion Lutheran Church during renovations. This made me want to learn more about the church, and how the tombstones ended up in such an unlikely location. (See part 1 of this blog series)

Photograph of George and Dorothea Stoehr tombstones which are located underneath Zion Lutheran Church. This photo was taken on July 27, 1937.

While investigating this church and its “tucked away” graveyard, I learned that Zion Lutheran Church had moved out of the city in 1995, and that same year, York County purchased the property for possible use in pending courthouse expansion. I was determined to do what I could to save this property and locate the graves.

I contacted York County government officials and was directed to Charlie Noll, York County Chief Clerk/Administrator, who was very eager to assist me. He agreed to allow me to search for these graves and had me contact Charlie Tyson, who at the time was the supervisor in charge of all of York County’s properties. We scheduled a day to meet at the church, so I could do a preliminary investigation of the property.  Mr. Tyson was a very pleasant man and gave me a tour of the facility. I was surprised to find some large grave markers in the actual church. There were 4 of them in a hallway area and still has me wondering what made the men who built this church implement them into the construction.

These 2 grave markers are located in the floor of Zion Lutheran Church. There are also 2 additional markers in the immediate area.

After finishing a tour of the church, we headed down a narrow stairway to the basement and discovered the first crawlspace. The height of this area allowed you to hunch over while walking through it. Located underneath the gymnasium, which was added years after the original construction, this crawlspace did not contain any graves. In another section of the basement was a small opening in a wall which we peered into with a flashlight. In the distance, and barely visible in the darkness, was a lone tombstone. This was what I was looking for, the crawlspace containing my ancestors graves. Unprepared for more thorough investigation, I returned home to prepare for my next visit.

Seeking to gain publicity for this discovery, I contacted local newspaper “York Daily Record”, who was eager to cover the story. During my next visit, former co-worker Jim Kohlman accompanied me, out of curiosity as well as “safety in numbers”. Moments after meeting again with Charlie Tyson, YDR reporter Mike Mender and photographer Paul Kuehnel arrived. Jim and I previously discussed what we would need for this adventure – long pants and shirt, bandana, gloves, face mask, a miners type headlamp, flashlight, and camera. Unfortunately, the camera I had at the time was a 35mm, so my photographs were not as good as I had hoped for.

The opening to this crawlspace was very small and was only large enough to slide a body through. The area we would be exploring was very low, and you were forced to use an “army-crawl” approach to get around. The dirt was not exposed to sunlight or any type of precipitation in over 100 years and was very dry and powdery. Even wearing dust masks, you could taste the dirt in your mouth. Surprisingly, when I turned around to see how far from the opening I had traveled, Paul was right there at our feet, camera in hand.

The entire crawlspace was the dimension of the old church, but it was separated by stone supporting walls. There were parts of these walls that were removed to allow access to each sub-section. I chose to investigate one area at a time and crawled from the back to the front of each one. When I reached the area that would be the front of the church, I could peer into the crawlspace of the vestibule. I chose not to enter, as this was lower than what we were currently in.

Navigating over loose rocks and pieces of wood, I examined the tombstone we saw from the opening in the wall. The stone was difficult to read, but I could make out the name Ilgenfritz. Upon examining other sections of crawlspace I discovered two large grave-covers. It appeared that they were pulled off of the original graves, and a shallow hole remained. It’s unknown if the bodies were moved to another cemetery.

Starting to feel disappointed that I did not yet find my ancestors graves, we made our way to the final section of crawlspace. There before us was what I was hoping to find, the tombstones of George and Dorothea Stoehr. I remember my heart racing, and I’m sure there were tears in my eyes to have found something that was hidden away for so many years. I was one of a few people who have had the opportunity to see these stones, and touch them with my hands. These were a part of me – this was my family.

Newspaper article detailing the discovery of George and Dorothea Doudel graves under Zion Lutheran Church. (York Daily Record, March 10, 1998, page 1A)

While investigating this crawlspace, we discovered some other interesting things. Behind my ancestor’s tombstones was a trench dug into the ground, most likely for access to pipes and wiring. In the walls of the trench, you were able to see small pieces of wood from caskets, and even some pieces of bone from those buried in the old graveyard. The most surprising find was a small wooden box resting in the area of my ancestors tombstones. The box was either damaged or partially open, but appeared to contain bones. My guess is when the trench was dug, the bones that were unearthed were placed in this box. We gave this find a brief moment of silence, and decided we had overstayed our welcome. We made our way out of the crawlspace, clothing and faces dirtied from this isolated cemetery.

George and Dorothea Stoehr tombstones (photo taken in March 1998). Notice the stones sitting between boards supporting the floor.


In Memory of GEORGE CHRISTOPHER STOEHR who was born February the 8th 1751 departed this life July 22nd 1821, aged 70 years, 5 months, and 14 days.

In Memory of DOROTHY STOEHR who was born February 14th 1753 and died September 19th 1833, aged 80 years, 7 months, and 5 days

A few years later, I returned to the church with Lila Furhman-Shaull, Director of Library and Archives at the York Heritage Trust. She has been investigating York County cemeteries, and certainly did not want to miss this one. On this trip, we entered through a side doorway, which was only feet from my ancestors graves. It was a short visit, but certainly brought back memories of my previous adventure.

After the adventure was over, I contacted the York County Commissioners to tell them about my findings. It was later decided that a courthouse would be built at a different location, so this property was safe once again.

Part 3, and the finale of this series will explain the current standing of this historic and unique York city property, and what is in its future.


Zion Lutheran Church – York’s Forgotten Treasure (Part 1 of 3)

NOTE: This story was originally published on March 20, 2011, and was located on the archived Preserving York website. It has been republished here for your enjoyment, and may have been edited for content and clarity from its original form.

York, Pennsylvania is home to some of the most historic and beautiful churches in the area, and the attention they receive is well deserved. Unfortunately, some city churches do not fare so well and are glanced over without a second thought. Once such church is the former Zion Lutheran Church, which sits quietly along North Duke Street.

Tucked away behind the Yorktowne Hotel and Christ Lutheran Church, this former place of worship was active for 145 years. As attendance began to dwindle to less than 50 people each Sunday, the congregation chose to build a new facility in Manchester Township, where attendance quickly grew.

This is part 1 of a 3 part blog series about the history of the facility, the reasons behind my interest in the property, and what the future holds for this aging treasure.

Zion Lutheran Church – circa. 1880 (before the addition of tower and vestibule)

  • Oct. 19, 1847: An ”English-speaking” congregation broke away from Christ Lutheran Church, which sits along S. George Street in York, and formed its first constitution.
  • Christ Lutheran gives this newly formed congregation land to build a new church. This land sits directly behind Christ Lutheran and contained a cemetery.
  • 1850: Construction begins on the new church facility, and is built over the existing cemetery.
  • Aug. 25, 1850: The cornerstone is laid for the church.
  • Jul. 13, 1851: Church is dedicated during early pastorate of Rev. Charles A. Martin, MD and named Zion.
  • 1869-70: An addition of 22′ is made to the rear of the facility.
  • 1886-87: The entire church is remodeled, and the tower and vestibule is constructed
  • Fall 1916: A 2nd-floor addition is built to the rear of the facility.
  • Feb. 1940: The congregation votes to erect a new building to the rear of the church. This would house a gymnasium, two classrooms, a large kitchen, pastor’s study, and a rear stairway.
  • Mar. 1941: A cornerstone is laid for the new addition. This contains an engraved copper box with a York Dispatch and The Gazette and Daily of Sept. 13, 1941, Lutheran (newsletter or magazine) of July 2, 1941 (includes an article about the previous decade of the church), as well as other items.
  • Nov. 1995: Congregation holds last service in the Duke Street facility
  • End of 1995: Zion Lutheran Church facility on S. Duke Street is decommissioned as a place of worship.


At some point after the decommissioning of the church facility, the congregation chose to sell the property to the Government of York County. In 1998, the County began discussing options for remodeling the courthouse facility on E. Market Street. These options included the demolition of the Zion Lutheran Church building, so the land could be used for courthouse expansion.

Part 2 of this story will detail the interest I have in Zion Lutheran Church, early visits I made to the property, and some secrets contained within the church.