LEWISBURG — Nestled on 110 acres of farmland in Union County is a stone and brick mill that has stood the test of time, lasting more than two centuries along Buffalo Creek in Kelly Township.
Grove H&C Feed Mill, at 2509 Hoffa Mill Road, less than five miles outside Lewisburg, is believed to be the oldest building still in use in Union County, having been built between 1784 and 1864. The Union County Historical Society in 2013 also named it one of the oldest water-powered grain mills in the county still in operation.
“It’s fairly unique,” said owner Curtiss B. Falck. “It’s been in continuous use all those years. The building has stood the testament of time so far.”
So have the Dale Engle Walker House and the original buildings of Bucknell University.
Falck said the eastern part of the Grove Mill was constructed in 1774, but the Union County Historical Society has the date as slightly later.
A book called “Water-powered Gristmills of Union County Pennsylvania,” by Thomas P. Rich and David W. Del Testa, tells the story that John Bear built the original, three-story mill building in 1784.
“Unfortunately, no detailed historical description exists of its original plan and construction, so the details must be partially inferred,” Rich and Testa wrote.
“It is not known whether Bear planned and built the mill himself or employed one of the many interact millwrights who worked in colonial America, or who mill builders contracted from Britain or Germany. It is not known how long the project took and how many workers it required.”
About three-quarters of the current building seen today is original, the other quarter was added in a matched style in the 1860s, Rich and Testa wrote. A seam can be observed today on the outside of the building where the older and newer parts meet.
The first owner was John Bear in 1784 with Samuel and Elizabeth Bear in 1792. William Chamberlin took over ownership in 1793. The Chamberlin, Hoffa and Grove families continued the milling tradition and the later 19th-century brick and stone mill remains on the site today, according to materials from the Union County Historical Society.
The first Groves assumed ownership in 1945. Falck’s grandparents Charles and Bessie Grove took over ownership of the mill in 1981. Falck was in a bad motorcycle accident in 1994 and he lived and worked with his grandparents at age 22. When Charles died in 2000, Falck took over management and full ownership in 2003.
“The building is the same as it was 150-200 years ago, and still has a lot of the original equipment in it,” said Falck. “A lot of the equipment is from the 1800s. The newest piece of equipment is a mixer made in 1937. They put that in in 1959, and it was used.”
The water from the creek pushed an underwater, horizontal wheel that turned the stones that ground grain into flour and then flowed under the stone bridge and returned to Buffalo Creek. Two turbines are still in the basement, said Falck.
Falck said the mill does not mill flour any longer because it’s cheaper to buy and resell. He still manufactures feed, including cracked corn and roasted cornmeal.
“We’re still using it for the intended purposes, even though we’re not milling flour anymore,” said Falck.
“The sad part, those machines when they were built back in the day, we were only making 400 pounds of flour an hour. You have to work a 10-hour day to get 4,000 pounds.”
The brick mansion beside the mill was built by the Chamberlin family in the 1880s. It was occupied later by the Hoffa families and was included in the mill property until the 1900s when Harry Grove purchased the mill separately, according to materials from the Union County Historical Society.
Falck said his grandfather always told him the first Union County Fair was held at the mill, but the Union County Historical Society has no record of that. The records show that the first Union County Fair was held in New Berlin at the former county courthouse on Oct. 13 and 14, 1854. Either way, Falck said he has tables from whenever the fair was held at the mill.
Dale Engle Walker House
The Dale Engle Walker House, owned by the Union County Historical Society at 1471 Strawbridge Road, Lewisburg, was built by Samuel Dale in 1793.
The Engle family operated a dairy at the property in the 1940s.
Subsequent owners, Charles and Rosemary Walker, bequeathed the house and land to the Union County Historical Society.
The society has restored the house and added the 1789 Milne-Drukenmiller log cabin to the site, according to materials provided by the Union County History Society.
Elaine Wintjen, of the Union County Historical Society, said the Society hosts tours of the property and house, provides historical events and programs, including Rural Heritage Days. The Merrill W. Linn Land and Waterways Conservancy also has a conservation easement to maintain the Dale’s Ridge Trail on the property.
“It’s been preserved all these years,” said Wintjen. “It hasn’t been altered. It is the way it was built, which is unusual.”
The front part of the house is original with four rooms and a hallway. An addition with a massive fireplace was added in the 1840s, she said.
According to the historic society, the log cabin was built on Middlecreek by Peter Druckenmiller and purchased in 1803 by Christian Kantz.
It was used as both a family home and trading post serving Native Americans and European settlers along the Tuscarora Path. The home was restored in 1998 after it was moved to the home of David and Marcia Milne — a Kantz descendant — at 203 Stadium Blvd.
The log cabin was moved to the property and opened to the public last month.
“That’s our mission, to preserve history, to teach from history,” said Wintjen. “That’s why the log cabin was up there, so people can see what kind of houses were originally here, to show how people lived at that time.”
Bucknell University has eight surviving buildings that were built prior to 1900, according to information compiled by University Archives staff between 1960 and 2019.
Stephen W. Taylor Hall, named in honor of the first acting president, was the first to be erected on the new 70-acre campus in 1848.
It was located in the area which became known as The Hill. It was constructed in classical Greek style by Thomas U. Walter who was also the architect of the National Capitol dome and wings.
Built at a cost of approximately $8,000, the building was named the Academy Building of the University at Lewisburg, according to the research materials, according to information compiled by University Archives staff between 1960 and 2019.
Classes moved there in April 1849 from the basement of the Baptist Meeting House. In 1889, the Annex was erected shortly before the resignation of President Hill with money given by William Bucknell.
This was a three-story brick building located adjacent to the Academy Building, and connected to it by a covered passageway. Considered part of the Academy Building, the Annex was named Bucknell Recitation Hall.
It was also known as the Bucknell Cottage for Men and East Hall. The Annex contained a recitation hall; teachers’ apartments; dormitory space; classrooms; and laboratories for bacteriology, according to research materials from the university archives.
An extensive renovation totaling $212,363 occurred in 1954 and 1955. Except for the outer walls, the entire main section of the original building was completely rebuilt. The Annex and the main building were connected at all floor levels. The largest room was converted into an auditorium, according to research materials from the university archives.
The decades that followed included more renovations, remodels and repairs, some due to a fire in 1971. In 1991, renovations provided additional classroom and office space. These renovations included: Elimination of the Spotts Auditorium and reorientation of the entrance. The entrance originally faced downhill; the entrance was reoriented to face Seventh Street, according to research materials from the university archives.
In 1994, Taylor Hall was renovated and it is home to the Freeman College of Management. It was added in 1978 to the Pennsylvania Inventory of Historic Places.
The other eight buildings are Roberts Hall, built in 1849, first known as the Main Building which burned down and was rebuilt as Roberts Hall; Larison Hall, built in 1857, first known as the Female Institute building; President’s House, 1879; Bucknell Hall, 1886; Art Building, built in 1889, first known as the Physical and Chemical laboratory building; Tustin Gymnaisum, first built in 1890; and Kress Hall, built in 1899, first known as West College, according to research materials from the university archives.
Bucknell also has an ownership stake in several historic buildings in downtown Lewisburg, including the Campus Theater, at 413 Market St., and the Lewisburg Post Office, at 301 Market St.
The Campus Theatre was built in 1941 by Russian immigrants Oscar, Harold, Barney, and Morris Stiefel. In the summer of 2001, Jacquie Stiefel sold The Campus to a Bucknell University film professor who in turn, started a non-profit organization, The Campus Theatre Ltd, according to materials from the Union County Historical Society and Bucknell University.
In 2006, the university provided Campus Theatre Ltd. with a no-interest loan to purchase the building from its previous owner. In 2011, the University purchased the theater, but oversight and management remained with the non-profit, according to materials from the Union County Historical Society and Bucknell University.
The Lewisburg Post Office was originally built and dedicated in 1934 as the federal district courthouse and post office. Bucknell University in 2011 acquired the upper floors and renovated it into office space. It now houses the Office of Development and Alumni Relations. The Post Office is still active on the ground floor, according to materials from the Union County Historical Society and Bucknell University.
Roller Mills, Street of Shops
The original Rollermills Antique Mall structure, at 517 St. Mary St., Lewisburg, was built as a flour mill in 1883 by Cyrus Hoffa, who also owned the Grove Mill in 1898. Hoffa sold the business in the 1920s to Dietrich and Gambrill Inc., of Maryland, and changed from flour to animal feed. It was then sold to Ralston Purina Co. in the 1970s and continued as a production and warehouse facility until the late 1980s when the structure was purchased by entrepreneur Craig Bennett, according to information provided by Bennett.
“There’s a great satisfaction in the preservation process,” said Bennett, who has restored in excess of 50 structures in Lewisburg’s Historic District since 1976. “You can breathe life back into the buildings that have deteriorated. It’s very rewarding to see tangible results.”
Bennett put 18 months of work into the building, removing tons of steel welded to form bins to inside the structure. Outside bins, elevators and structures obliterated the classic lines of the original architecture. Original trim was returned, windows were replaced and wooden floors restored, said Bennett.
Remnants of a molasses pit used for animal pellets had to be filled in with cement. About 20 percent of the original floor had to be replaced. In order to keep the appearance and dimensions of the original lumber, the pieces that needed to be replaced had to be specially cut or taken from a similar mill that was about to be demolished in Williamsport, Bennett said.
The Rollermills opened in 1991 and now has 400 antique dealers across four levels of the structure, Bennett said.
The beams in the front area are more than 50 continuous feet long without a joint. Stacked on top of those massive beams are 12 100-ton grain bins constructed of full dimension 2-by-10 lumber stacked 60 feet high, Bennett said.
Earlier this month, Bennett and his in-house carpentry crew repainted the entire building. Because sandblasting might cause damage to the original brick, he and the crew members hand brushed every brick, repainted them and also replaced all the windows.
Another notable project by Bennett is the Street of Shops, 100 North Water St., Lewisburg. The original three-story structure was built in the 1860s for purposes of textile manufacturing, and it continued for many years in a wide variety of textile-oriented businesses from fabric creation to assembly of finished garments. Bennett opened the Street of Shops in 1996.
“Both are great buildings on both ends of the downtown,” said Bennett.
Stories bear repeating
Matthew Wagner, the secretary of the Union County Historical Society and members of Preservation Mifflinburg Inc., Mifflinburg Heritage and Revitalization Association and the Mifflinburg Buggy Museum, said history will be lost if it is not preserved for future generations.
“Someone needs to step up and continue to tell the stories,” said Wagner. “The younger generations need to hear it. The stories bear repeating.”
Wintjen said Lewisburg and Union County have well-preserved buildings because people value the history.
“You have to appreciate the buildings,” said Wintjen. “You have to let the buildings be what they are, not something else. You can update inside, you can modernize it, but you really have to appreciate the building and its environment.”
Other properties of note
The following information was collected through materials from the Union County Historical Society, Susquehanna River Valley Visitors Bureau, Mifflinburg Heritage and Revitalization Association and New Berlin Heritage Association; archives of The Daily Item; online business biographies, business owners and plaques on historic buildings:
The former Johnson Mills in Mazeppa ceased operation in 1981. Conflicting records have the structure built in either 1788 or 1818. It has been owned by Harvey Leinbach for the last 16 years and used as storage for his business, Poly Outdoor Furniture, at 2271 Johnson Mill Road, Lewisburg. Leinbach said he is seeking grants to preserve the structure because of its poor condition.
The Lewisburg Club, located on Market Street, Lewisburg, was originally a simple brick building built between 1800 and 1814. It was converted by Joseph and Rebecca Nesbit into a brownstone mansion and sold to the Lewisburg Club in 1911. The Lewisburg Club is a private Social Club belonging to four of the local Service Clubs, and is available for party rentals and meetings.
The stone farm house at Noll Spangler National Historic Farm, located at 1175 Wildwood Road in Limestone Township, was built in 1802. The Spangler family would pass down this farming legacy for over 145 years. With time, the family would add other farm buildings to the property. In 1947, the farm was bought by William and Nina H. Showers, who rented it to tenant farmers.
The Gutelius House Museum, located at 432 Green St., Mifflinburg, was built in 1803 by Frederick and Anna Gutelius. The property is owned and operated by Preservation Mifflinburg Inc., which conducts tours of the house, offers classes and workshops, and presents exhibitions keeping with the historic preservation of this log home.
The Elias Center for the Performing Arts, located at 212-215 S. Fifth St., Mifflinburg, was built in 1806 and used as the German Reformed and Lutheran Church until 1858. It was then used as a school, a barn, a buggy factory and a duplex. The former church is now owned and operated by the Mifflinburg Heritage & Revitalization Association as a wedding and cultural event venue.
The building at 200 Market St., Lewisburg, was constructed as frame structure in 1811 and remodeled in the Queen Anne style in the 1890s. A pharmacy was located here starting in 1841, first by Jonathan Wolfe, with successive owners until 1992. It is believed to be the longest-lived pharmacy business in the same building in the U.S. The building is now home to Transformations Massage.
The Brasserie Louis, at 101 Market St., Lewisburg, was first built as a residence in 1825. It has served as a boarding house, the Lewisburg Inn and the Highland Pub. The Brasserie Louis opened its doors in 2007.
The Mifflinburg Hotel and Scarlet D Tavern, located at 264 Chestnut St., Mifflinburg, was originally the site of Stitzer Inn, built in 1829. The original structure was replaced in 1858 and was known as the Deckard Hotel, the Union Hotel, the Hotel Hopp and finally the Mifflinburg Hotel in the early 1900s.
The Emporium at the Samuel Aurand House, located at 401 Front St., New Berlin, was constructed in the 1830s as a Publick House and Tavern. Around the turn of the century, it was converted to one of the town’s general stores with part of the building functioning as the New Berlin Post Office. In 1994, it was restored to an Inn and year-round Christmas shop.
The Lewisburg Hotel, located at 136 Market St., Lewisburg, was originally established in 1834 as the Kline’s Hotel. It later became the Cameron House in 1874 and the Hotel Lewisburger in 1934. It closed its doors in 1993 until being purchased and restored to its former grandeur and reopened in 1997 by Norman and Nancy Buck.
The store at the corner of North Third and Market streets, Lewisburg, dates to 1835 and has served as a jewelry store, drugstore, and the Banner store, owner by Russell and Lawshe, selling general merchandise and dry goods. In the 20th century, it housed menswear shops and is now a woman’s clothing shop.
The New Berlin Community Center, at 318 Vine St., New Berlin, was built in 1844 as a Presbyterian Church. It was deeded to the borough in 1951. The New Berlin Lions Club converted the church into a community center in the early 1960s. Since then the building was used as a borough office, police office, polling place and community gathering hall. The building was closed in January 2000 due to safety concerns but reopened for rental after renovations.
The former Buffalo Valley Inn, located at 500 Chestnut St., Mifflinburg, was built by William Young in 1860 as the Youngs Hotel. It became known as the Commercial Inn, the Benjamin Hotel, the Odd Fellows Lodge and the Buffalo Valley Inn in 1913. The building now holds apartments, Cathy’s Polish and Style and Artisan Corner Co-Op.
The original Forest House Hotel, at 10410 Buffalo Road, about five miles north of Mifflinburg, was built as a cabin in about 1864 and was first used as a tavern-inn in 1866, local news archives show. Located about six miles east of Raymond B. Winter State Park, it’s operated as a tavern-inn on and off ever since. It was heavily damaged in a fire in August and the owners plan to reopen the building after renovations. It is considered to be one of the oldest continuously operating businesses in Union County.
Chamberlin Iron Front Building, in the 400 block of Market Street, Lewisburg, was constructed in 1855. The face is cast iron over brick. The building occupants over the years include the Order of Odd Fellows, the Red Cross, county welfare, and businesses like Groover’s Hardware and Reish Brothers electrical supply store. It now holds Iron Front Events and Worldwide Insurance and Rinsurance Services Inc., in 434 Market St., and there is a pending liquor license for Iron Front LLC in one of the windows. Around the corner attached to the building is also Bella Salon, at 10 N. Fifth St.
The former Evangelical Church, located at 428 Market St., New Berlin, was built in 1873 after the first Evangelical Church in America was torn down. It was once the Whole Life Society and Integral Yoga Center and is now Poe’s New and Used bookstore.
The Mifflinburg Buggy Museum, at 598 Green St., Mifflinburg, was once home to William A. Heis manufacturer of carriages, wagons and sleighs from 1883 to 1920. The building was used for storage after Heis’s death in 1931. The Mifflinburg Buggy Museum Association offers guided tours through the Heiss family home, the reconstructed carriage house, the original buggy factory and original showroom. The buggy museum’s visitor center was the site of the Mifflinburg Academy, the town’s first public school.
The Reading Railroad Station in Lewisburg at 55 S. Fifth St., Lewisburg, was built in 1883. The surviving freight station building is now the borough offices.
The former railroad freight station, located at 501 Market St., Lewisburg, was originally constructed by the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad in 1884. It was abandoned by Conrail in the 1970s, then restored and adapted for office use in 1986. It is now home to JSC Advisors: Certified Public Accountants.