Protecting history, Maxatawny creates Township Historical Commission

Photo by AFI. ¬ The historic 1816 Georgian Zimmerman mansion at the intersection of Long Lane Road and Route 222, Maxatawny Township, was demolished in August 2012. A new ordinance delays a demolision request by 30 days so historical artifacts can be collected.

Demolition equipment knocked down the 1816 Georgian Zimmerman mansion in August, raising concerns for the safety of Maxatawny Township’s history.

“It is my sincere hope that a more creative approach can be developed than bulldozing our community’s history and irrevocably damaging its rural identity,” said Robert Reynolds, one of five residents recently appointed to the Maxatawny Township Historical Commission.

After reading letters of intent, the Maxatawny Township Board of Supervisors selected David Hoffman, Brenda Winkler, Victoria Bieber, Carl Peterson and Reynolds. All are residents of Maxatawny.

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Dr. Reynolds, who has lived in Maxatawny since November of 2004, has spent much of his career preserving and restoring vernacular architecture and cultural landscapes.

The Maxatawny Supervisors put out a call for letters of intent for the commission and selected a wide scope of five applicants to be a part of the volunteer commission. The members of the commission will serve for a five-year term and be in charge of archiving the historical parts of homes that are up for demolition or renovation.

“If a demolition request comes in, there will a 30 day waiting period for the commission to collect pictures or preserve parts from the property,” said Justin Yaich the Township Manager of Maxatawny.

In the case of the Zimmerman mansion, the property owner applied for the demolition permit, the board approved it and days later the building was demolished. At the time, Yaich told The Patriot that the township did not have any ordinances that would prohibit the removal of the house by the owner.

“It really got people thinking that just any historical building could be torn down without trying to preserve the history of it,” Yaich said.

He also believes that people became worried that the Kemp Hotel, a hotel that George Washington passed through during the revolutionary war, could be torn down without anything from it preserved.

The Kemp Hotel is currently under renovation.

Dr. Reynolds hopes that he will be able to save other properties along Route 222, which believes will be a challenge because of future growth.

The purpose of the commission is not to obstruct owners of a historical property from renovating or demolishing their property but rather to find a way to archive and perhaps keep some aspects of the historical elements intact.

Yaich said that ordinance would not bind people into keeping their historical homes exactly the way that it was, but rather allow time to archive the parts of the homes or somehow keep a part of the historical aspect to the home.

“For example if there was a home that was being demolished and a development was being put in its place, the committee would try to find a way to keep the well and make it a part of the development,” Yaich said.

The commission’s first task is to create a catalogue of all buildings that were built before 1942. Of the list that the historical commission creates they will note the buildings that have a high historical value and those will be the buildings that will be most protected.