English ar­chi­tec­ture by Ger­manic builders, ar­chi­tec­ture of the PA Dutch

Wide­spread use of field­stone for houses, barns and mills is well-known

The Community Connection - - LOCAL NEWS - Richard L.T. Orth A Look Back In His­tory

Amer­ica’s early hin­ter­land houses, built of na­tive stone, are more than just well­con­structed dwellings, they re­veal the de­sire of the fron­tier in­hab­i­tants to be part of the ar­chi­tec­tural fash­ion of the day.

Even the sim­plest l8th Cen­tury field­stone dwelling, hav­ing no ob­vi­ous Ge­or­gian ar­chi­tec­tural style for that pe­riod, may very well con­tain large “quoins” (pro­nounced coins) or cor­ner­stones that ar­chi­tec­turally gave the home sym­me­try and framed the ran­domly laid walls. To our Penn­sylva- nia Dutch an­ces­tors, the New World was just that, a new be­gin­ning, and wher­ever they looked around, they saw men with ideas.

Pic­ture a typ­i­cal Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch farm­stead with coped gar­den walls, ter­races, a barn­yard, and an oc­ca­sional arched bridge to com­pli­ment the huge Swiss-bank barn and large stone manor house. Not to men­tion a bake oven, smoke­house, spring­house, and other out­build­ings; this stone cul­ture was some­thing to be­hold!

Of all the prac­ti­cal places to have a stone wall on a farm, the most ideal was the barn­yard, and nor­mally, the barn­yard en­clo­sure was done with a five-rail wooden fence that ac­com­mo­dated all the ani- mals in the yard in­clud­ing the pigs. How­ever, this ma­nure won­der­land was hard on the stur­di­est of lo­cust fence posts, and if one was able to lay up a stone barn­yard wall, it may last in­def­i­nitely. An­other ad­van­tage of the stone barn­yard wall was that it could be in­cor­po­rated in ter­rac­ing if the front of the barn was too hard at the hill.

But in the days when there was no ce­ment, the top of a stone wall was vul­ner­a­ble to soak­ing up rain­wa­ter, there­fore, the mud-lime mor­tar would de­te­ri­o­rate and the wall even­tu­ally crum­ble. How­ever, to pro­tect the top of a stone wall, early ma­sons mortared blocks of wood in the last course of stone upon which a short roof was fas­tened.

The roof or “cop­ing” was most of­ten fin­ished off with two or three rows of wooden shin­gles, and when cop­ing was put on a ceme­tery wall, it was most of­ten an­gled that the rain­wa­ter would fall within the walls, keep­ing the grass nice and green. For bridges, the cop­ing roof was an­gled to the out­side. One of the best ex­am­ples that sur­vived in the area was the cop­ing trim on the old Hoch fam­ily ceme­tery, near Lobachsville. Although the rows of wooden shin­gles have been cov­ered with roofing tin, the out­line of the cop­ing is quite ev­i­dent.

The wide­spread use of field­stone for houses, barns, and mills is well­known, and a num­ber of struc­tures that sur­vive in the south­east­ern part of the state, re­main in fine shape. How­ever, the stone cul­ture of early Penn­syl­va­nia was quite elab­o­rate and stone was prac­ti­cally used for ev­ery pur­pose.

Field­stone arched bridges that dot­ted the land­scape by the hun­dreds just a cen­tury or more ago are now rare. Even rarer, if not im­pos­si­ble to find, is the cop­ing-style roof trim that adorned stone walls of the arched bridges that pro­tected the cour­ses of stone from the el­e­ments. To­day, stone walls are most of­ten capped with blocks of ce­ment or mortared stone with ce­ment.

Some of the best ex­am­ples of ter­raced stone barn­yards are the Jo­hannes Keim farm­stead at Pikeville and that of Brethren Ben Fox’s farm, just south of Price­town in Rus­comb­manor Town­ship, down Memo­rial High­way be­fore reach­ing Oley. Here is a barn­yard wall almost 12 feet high from the meadow be­low, and at least eight of the 12 feet are part of a ter­race at the side of the hill. The farm­stead at Jo­hannes Keim, south­east of Oley, is a more typ­i­cal of the style of stone barn­yard found on the flat bot­tom­lands of the Valley. This six foot wall still re­tains traces of the orig­i­nal, wooden shin­gle cop­ing roof. In most cases, peo­ple buy­ing stone farm­steads over­es­ti­mate the dura­bil­ity of stone walls and ter­rac­ing.


The ter­raced stone Hoch grave­yard with once wood cop­ing, though no longer, to pro­tect the stone wall from the el­e­ments. Typ­i­cally, Pa. Dutch farm­steads fea­tured coped gar­den walls, ter­races, and a barn­yard to com­ple­ment the huge Swiss-bank barn and...

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