Re­stored man­sion finds new own­ers

His­toric home built by founder of South White­hall vil­lage

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Kayla Dwyer

In 1905, the founder of the fledg­ling Greenawald­s vil­lage built his stately five-bed­room home, with cus­tom-cast con­crete ex­te­rior and nat­u­ral oak in­te­rior, at an in­ter­sec­tion of two main roads, where passersby had full view of its wrap­around veranda and dec­o­ra­tive col­umns.

It be­came the talk of the young town. Lo­cals then, as now, called it unof­fi­cially the “Greenawald­s man­sion.”

But for those who’ve lived there, it was more than that.

“We never con­sid­ered it a ‘man­sion,’ ” said Bob Schantz, its owner of 36 years. “It’s our home.”

But last week he and his wife, Ch­eryl, handed the keys to their his­toric South White­hall Town­ship home to some­one else.

The Schantzes have opened their home to a fam­ily mem­ber here and there; at one stretch to a young friend they con­sid­ered their “adopted” daugh­ter; to renters oc­cu­py­ing the third­floor apart­ment; and to the scores of de­scen­dants of Aaron and Sarah Greenawald who come for fam­ily re­unions or still live in the vil­lage.

Geri Yar­nall, a Greenawald grand­daugh­ter who lived in the home for the first 7½ years of her life, paid vis­its over the years the Schantzes owned it. She told them mem­o­ries of Christ­mas­time gath­er­ings of more than 50 fam­ily and friends, of play­ing el­e­va­tor in the front-door vestibule and of steal­ing away to her grand­fa­ther’s study to treat her­self to choco­lates in his desk drawer.

“He al­ways had treats for every­body,” said Yar­nall, now 97. “I don’t think he ate them, but he al­ways had them.”

Aaron and Sarah Greenawald moved to the area in the 1880s and bought three tracts of farm­land, ac­cord­ing to a his­tory UCC Greenawald­s his­to­rian Robert Moser wrote for the church. The Al­len­town-to-Slat­ing­ton Trol­ley Line, built in 1900 to ser­vice the slate in­dus­try, ran right through their land.

Af­ter build­ing his house, Aaron Greenawald built other land­marks along the trol­ley line, such as the for­mer Lawfers

Store, now the Ser­fass Con­struc­tion of­fice, and the for­mer Lodge Hall on the cor­ner of White­hall and Focht av­enues. His fam­ily helped pay for sev­eral town­ship in­sti­tu­tions, like the church, and the fam­ily’s old barn housed the first fire en­gine for the Greenawald­s Fire Com­pany.

Many of the homes in the vil­lage were de­vel­oped un­der his guid­ance, ac­cord­ing to his obit­u­ary in a Feb. 25, 1950, edi­tion of The Morn­ing Call. The com­mu­nity legally took his name shortly be­fore World War I.

Yar­nall never knew many of these de­tails — of her grand­fa­ther’s sig­nif­i­cance to the vil­lage or of her child­hood home’s stature as its first real build­ing. Her grand­par­ents, she said, were de­vout Chris­tians who didn’t dis­play it.

“Grammy and grandpa were not brag­gers,” she said. “This is not in the Bi­ble.”

The Schantzes, nonethe­less, em­braced the home’s his­tory, cu­rat­ing their home over time with an­tiques and Arts and Crafts fur­ni­ture with mod­ern ap­peal from auc­tions here and flea mar­kets there.

“Many times we’d come back from va­ca­tions in Florida with a car­load,” Bob said.

“Our dates were go­ing to auc­tions,” Ch­eryl added.

The work on the more than 100-year-old home was near con­stant over the years, and the end re­sult nearly un­rec­og­niz­able — on the in­side — from what they bought in 1983.

But Bob, five years into re­tire­ment from a 30-year ca­reer as an art teacher for Beth­le­hem Area School Dis­trict and as Chump the Clown on the side, and Ch­eryl, six years into re­tire­ment as a nurse at Cedar­brook nurs­ing home, could use fewer projects.

“It’s hard to let go,” Ch­eryl said. “But I’m ready to move on to our new chap­ter.”

They are mov­ing to a 55-plus com­mu­nity in Lower Ma­cungie Town­ship, but not be­fore find­ing the right per­son to care for what was once sim­ply a dream home for them.

That per­son is Lou Fer­nan­dez, a re­tired New York City po­lice of­fi­cer who moved to the town­ship in 2016 and works part time for the Le­high County sher­iff ’s of­fice.

Driv­ing to the house he first moved into, right be­hind UCC Greenawald­s, he of­ten passed the Al­bright Av­enue home.

“I said to my wife, ‘One day I’ll be able to buy that house,’” Fer­nan­dez said. “She would just laugh.”

Four decades ago, Bob and Ch­eryl Schantz had a sim­i­lar ex­change.

In 1976, the Schantzes were newly en­gaged and among those lo­cals who ad­mired the home from afar.

As mem­bers of South White­hall Town­ship’s his­tory com­mit­tee, they per­haps cared more than the av­er­age per­son. Dur­ing the town­ship’s bi­cen­ten­nial, they took a bus tour that stopped at the home, where the grand­son of Aaron Greenawald was pass­ing out an old map of South White­hall that in­cluded a pic­ture of the house.

The home wasn’t avail­able at the time. The Schantzes mar­ried in 1980 and bought a fixer-up­per twin home in the town­ship, where they had to tear out the floors and redo the bath­rooms. They stopped short of re­build­ing the kitchen when Bob drove by the Greenawald­s home in 1983 and no­ticed it was for sale.

“So we said, ‘Stop ev­ery­thing,’” Bob said. “And then we bit the bul­let.”

The Schantzes were shocked to find an ask­ing price they could af­ford. The price — $69,000 — made more sense once they walked in­side. The kitchen sink was rusted, the floors had to be re­placed and the walls needed re­paint­ing.

“It re­ally was a sham­ble when we looked at it,” Bob said. “But I saw the po­ten­tial.”

The bones were strong, the roof in good con­di­tion, the orig­i­nal wood­work and stained glass win­dows mostly in­tact, and the ex­te­rior con­crete cast­ing re­sem­bling stone un­like any­thing one finds to­day, he said.

Bob fixed the walls, re­placed the floors and light fix­tures, and com­pletely reimag­ined the land­scap­ing.

He found a cus­tom car­pen­ter to re­place the door — a muted pink when they found it — with an oak fit. He com­mis­sioned Neff-Chat­toe, a stained glass stu­dio in Al­len­town that made the Greenawald­s’ orig­i­nal stained glass win­dows, to make a copy of one that had been dam­aged. The Schantzes added a three-car garage and over the years had pro­fes­sion­als re­model the kitchen and bath­rooms mul­ti­ple times.

The house has al­ways been a rec­og­niz­able fix­ture in the neigh­bor­hood, even if on­look­ers don’t al­ways know who lived there.

“As soon soon as some­one men­tioned the big house in South White­hall in Greenawald­s, I knew ex­actly which house they were talk­ing about,” said Pat Spitzer, who the Schantzes even­tu­ally chose as their real es­tate agent af­ter in­ter­view­ing three oth­ers.

When the Schantzes bought the home, they filled a time cap­sule with pic­tures of what the early ver­sion of the home looked like, pieces of plas­ter­board from the old kitchen, old news­pa­pers of the day and a cloi­sonne vase. They stashed it in the ceil­ing of an ear­lier it­er­a­tion of the down­stairs bath­room, in­tend­ing for a fu­ture owner to dis­cover.

In­stead they took it down while re­mod­el­ing three years ago. Now they are hand­ing over to the new own­ers, along with the old map that be­gan their jour­ney.

Fer­nan­dez will move in soon with his wife, son and daugh­ter. He said he in­tends for it to be his fi­nal home.


Bob and Ch­eryl Schantz con­sid­ered the Greenawald­s man­sion their dream home when they bought it in 1983. Now the six-bed­room home on Al­bright Av­enue, built by the vil­lage’s founder, has a new owner.

Many of the homes in the vil­lage in South White­hall Town­ship were built un­der founder Aaron Greenawald’s guid­ance.

Bob and Ch­eryl Schantz have em­braced the his­tory of the Greenawald­s man­sion, fill­ing it with an­tiques.

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