Conservationist faces deadline to turn Ebbert Spring into a park in Antrim Township
An initiative is underway to turn an Antrim Township property into The Ebbert Spring Archaeological Preserve and Heritage Park. Andy Stout, Eastern Region director of The Archaeological Conservancy, is on the last stretch to save a site pivotal to Greencastle’s history.
Stout has contacted key parties with a stake in the project. He addressed the township supervisors Jan. 19, and they will cast a vote on his request Jan. 26.
He asked the board for a commitment of $250,000, payable over two years, to help pay for the stone house, accessory structures and 5.22 acres at Ebbert Spring. The property is privately owned, and the family is willing to sell it as a bargain sale to charity, because of the guarantee the space will be preserved as it is. If Stout cannot broker a deal by Feb.1, it will be put on the open market at a significantly higher price.
Stout has worked for the Conservancy for 12 years, and for just as long has been dedicated to saving the site.
“Once we acquire land, it is never built on or developed,” he said.
His organization, formed in 1980, is the only national non-profit dedicated to preserving the most significant archaeological sites in the United States. It has purchased 500 places, with monies from membership dues, and contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations. The Conservancy also publishes a magazine and give archaeological tours around the world.
Stout is only interested in the land, but other entities care about the house, built by William Allison. His son John founded Greencastle. Sons Patrick and William Jr. also lived there.
A valuable property
An additional asset to the site is the likelihood a stockade once stood within running distance of the house. Fort Allison was probably next to Ebbert Spring, erected due to the access to fresh water, so people could survive for a long time, Stout said. The wealthy and elite family would have built it as a haven in case of a siege.
Cumberland Valley Chapter 27 of the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology excavated the front yard periodically over the last decade. It found artifacts from Paleo-Indian times, through the French and Indian War, into the modern era.
That time span was “extraordinary” to archaeologists, said Stout.
“For the first time ever, we learned Native American peoples were on the landscape here in the great valley, not only along the rivers. It is an isolated spot.”
Chapter 27 found fire pits, trash pits and wigwam remnants, containing items used in daily living. One was a 1750s crucifix, and another a spear point 12,000 years old.
“There are some pretty amazing artifacts,” Stout told the supervisors.
While the house is actually a detriment to Stout’s purpose, it is important to local historians. According to information from Allison-Antrim Museum (AAMI), it is the first one in the area that had “fire” or double walls, almost three feet thick. The entrance hall is fifteen feet wide, with double parlors. It is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
Stout envisions walking trails and educational kiosks throughout the property. Schools and the public could visit the interpretation center to learn about the past.
The property is surrounded by Antrim Commons Business Park, off Route 11.
Developer Atapco donated 3.44 acres to the Conservancy in 2010, and Stout is optimistic it will add more from a conservation zone, to become an eight to 14-acre park.
The contribution from Antrim would ideally be matched by the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). The extra $50,000 would be seed money for maintenance of the house and grounds.
“These situations present themselves but once,” Stout said.
He has already received favorable reactions from needed partners: the Conservancy, which would own the property; AAMI; Chapter 27; Greencastle Area Franklin County Water Authority; Greencastle-Antrim School District; DCNR and Atapco.
Stout has obtained another property in Franklin County. In 2007 he bought over four acreas near the baseball field in Mercersburg. A local archaeologist saw unusual pieces sticking out of a groundhog hole. He excavated a test unit and found worthwhile artifacts.
If Stout’s plan goes through, a board would be formed to oversee the park, and several parties have indicated they would help with maintenance.
Stout has a professional role in obtaining the site for the Conservancy, but he has some personal investment, too. A native of Greencastle, he does not want the opportunity to slip away.
“This means a great deal. It is important to me to see this through to its conclusion,” he said. “If we can save it, we should do it. The people of Greencastle deserve it. It is ultimately about Greencastle and its history.”