The extensive foundation repairs at Laceyville’s Oldest House (above) are finally finished, as are subsequent repairs to the inside of the iconic structure. Deborah Courville (below, right) conducted tours of the historic canal stop on July 14 to visitors like (left) Irene Moran of Wyoming, PA and Mary Begtrup of Monterey, CA.
Photos and Story by Rick Hiduk
It’s not easy maintaining a 230-year-old house, as any of the Friends of the Oldest House in Laceyville can tell you. The iconic “canal stop,” the actual rear of which faces Main Street, has seen a lot of changes over the years – not all of them good. Numerous additions, modifications, and quick fixes had taken their toll on the building.
Despite the replacement of a new roof, exterior and other structural repairs over the past decade, the root of the Oldest House’s potential demise lay in its foundation. The basement wall, especially that along Main Street was slowly caving in and ultimately ready to take the iconic structure down with it.
The lowest bid for the work in 2014 came in at $112,000, and the historical society received a $30,000 grant from the Endless Mountains Heritage Region to get the project started. But, as is most often the case with old houses, every piece that was removed in preparation for the repairs revealed more structural decay and therefore more work that needed to be done.
As the price tag for the repairs mounted, the community rallied behind the effort to save the Oldest House, as did private donors and local municipalities, including the Wyoming County Commissioners, who chipped in $3,000 in September of 2016. That amount, Oldest House friend and docent Deborah Courville told the commissioners last Tuesday “got the ball rolling.”
Friend’s member Tony DeRemer credited Jerry Ganz, Inc. for bringing the project to fruition and, in particular, mason Tom Laborante for reconstructing the foundation and basement wall, reusing as much of the original stone as possible. Joe Sparrow Jr. and Sr. did the excavating, and Artie Metschalat and Tom Snyder performed additional carpentry.
After postponing or moving some of its most popular events for the past year and a half, the Oldest House reopened this morning, and tours of the structure dating back to 1781 resumed. Visitors to the house this weekend will notice that the floor in the living room (above) has been restored, with many boards replaced. The electrical works have been rewired, and a new heating system has been installed though not entirely ducted.
On Saturday, July 15, the house will open at 9 am with an official ceremony commemorating the reopening at 4:30 pm. Throughout the rest of the summer, The Oldest House will be open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 1 to 4 pm and other times by appointment as tour guides are available.
Readers who would like to volunteer as a tour guide or support the Oldest House in any way are welcome to contact DeReemer at 570-869-2333.
Additional interior photos: