Last week was a milestone in preserving the 10,000-year history of an Antrim Township property for the future.
On Aug. 29, The Archaeological Conservancy acquired what is known as the Bonnell property, a 5-acre parcel that will serve as the centerpiece of the Ebbert Spring Archaeological Preserve and Heritage Park. The conservancy already owned 3.4 acres in the area and may receive more donations in the future.
The next day, Andy Stout, Greencastle native and eastern regional director of The Archaeological Conservancy, and Bonnie Shockey, president and CEO, on behalf the board of directors of Allison-Antrim Museum Inc., signed a 99-year lease which transfers the care of the standing structures to the museum.
Buildings on the property, located off U.S. 11 south of Greencastle, include the original house that was built in 1750 by William Allison, father of John Allison, founder of Greencastle. The museum board has not made any decisions about what to do with the structures, which also include a springhouse, garage and storage shed, according to Shockey.
However, the Allison-Ebbert House will be on the Greencastle-Antrim Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Heritage Christmas house tour.
The Ebbert Spring archaeological site contains evidence of human occupation dating back thousands of years and the springhouse may be the location of the French and Indian War fortification known as Fort Allison, according to Stout.
The archaeological site has been dubbed a "super site" by the state. The artifacts range from prehistoric to early contact with white men and are housed in Allison-Antrim Museum’s climate-controlled storage area.
Over the next two years, TAC will create trails with archaeological, historical, geological, ecological and environmental history kiosks throughout the property. The trails will be completed by Old Home Week 2019.
“It took a tremendous amount of effort to get to this point. I have personally been working on this since 2004. It has taken a huge time commitment and effort on the part of my office, both in assembling the partnership for this project and in the grant writing and fundraising efforts, but that's what we do here at The Archaeological Conservancy,” Stout said. “Being from Greencastle, and having known Al Bonnell for as long as I've been involved with archaeology (nearly 25 years), and being able to make his wishes come true in preserving the property is a special gift. It's a really great thing for the local community, the state and the nation in seeing this site permanently preserved. Special thanks go to Antrim Township, the PA DCNR and the Elfrieda Frank Foundation for the funding making this all possible.”
Other partners in the overall project include the Greencastle-Antrim School District, Shippensburg University, and Greencastle Area Franklin County Water Authority.
It was the wish of the late Al Bonnell, who owned the property for 50 years, that the grounds, structures, archaeological artifacts and its archaeological history be preserved.
“Al passed away in April 2016 and since then his son Terrance “Terry” Bonnell has been diligently working to bring his father's wishes to fruition,” according to Shockey.
Over the next two years, TAC will create trails with archaeological, historical, geological, ecological, and environmental history kiosks throughout the property, which currently is not open to the public.
“Work on this project is always ongoing. The Archaeological Conservancy establishes all of its properties as permanent archaeological research preserves that are managed under our guidelines. Professional archaeologists who wish to conduct research at our sites can submit a proposal to my office for review,” Stout explained. “That much is now done, and 8.5 acres of the Ebbert Spring Archaeological Preserve has been established. We have also assembled a steering committee for the property to help the heritage park component take shape, and that work is also ongoing. We will start work on the the design and content of the interpretive kiosks this fall.”
The trails will be completed by Old Home Week 2019.