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Preserving a Gift to the Future and a Link to the Past
Written by Larry Roeder, Editor
2012-02-23

Vital project close to the finish line; you can help get it there.

A huge, open hearth fireplace fills the back wall of one of the rooms in the 255-year-old home.

        Many people don’t put a lot of thought into preserving land, forests or open space in general. Most believe that it is a wonderful and right thing to do and should be done whenever possible. Sadly, there isn’t always money available to do so and it falls on conservancy groups to pick up the banner and find the funds. That’s not an easy task.
        When you have the opportunity to preserve 78 pristine acres of forest surrounding an architecturally and historically significant house, you need to work harder to find the money or simultaneously lose a gift to the future and a link to the past. The public needs to remember that.
        In the midst of a property that straddles Route 63 on both sides of Sumneytown Hill is a sparkling diamond that was once home to the prominent Hiester family.
        Built in 1757, it is a structure that begs to be studied and would be a welcome site for visitors. It is historically significant for the family that built and lived in it as well as the architectural beauty of it. The forest surrounding it, some of it once fertile farmland, would be a woodland adventure for scholars and hikers. The property is in Upper Salford and Marlborough townships.

The home's iron hinges and other door and window accessories could have been made just down the road at the Mayberry Forge in Green Lane.

        The Montgomery County Lands Trust (MCLT) has seized on the opportunity to preserve this entire property that sits on the edge of the Unami Forest, a notable section of the nationally recognized Highlands. They are armed with a $678,000 grant, awarded to them from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), which will go directly to help fund the conservation of the property. 
        According to a press release from the MCLT, the property has been ranked for three decades as “highest priority” by the Montgomery County Parks and Heritage Services Department. The DCNR grant can be used for only the land acquisition.
        Funding for preservation of the historic building as well as the remaining money needed to complete the purchase of the land must be sought from other sources.
        The grant is not the end-all to financing the preservation project that that will cost more than $1.6 million. According to Dulcie Flaherty, executive director of the Lands Trust, with the grant, the project has nearly 93 percent of the amount needed in committed and pending funds to purchase the land but needs funds to complete the purchase and preserve the house.

The nine-room, Georgian-style brick residence was built in 1757 by Daniel Hiester, an immigrant from a region once known as Silesia. The home quietly sits among trees and shrubs at the bottom of Sumneytown Hill.

        The prominent location of the property, combined with its natural resource value, rich history and potential access to public trails and parkland, make it a significant acquisition project. The confluence of the Unami and Ridge Valley creeks, Montgomery County’s only high-quality streams, is located on the property. 
        The nine-room, Georgian-style brick residence was built in 1757 by Daniel Hiester, an immigrant from a region once known as Silesia. Hiester was an influential person in Montgomery and Berks counties during the late 18th century. The offspring and siblings reached prominence as Revolutionary War officers, members of Congress, judges and governors of Pennsylvania.
        In more than two and one-half centuries, the home was never remodeled and remains in excellent condition. The structure has exceptional, unaltered period features.  It’s easy for one to imagine that the iron hinges and other door and window accessories could have been made just down the road at the Mayberry Forge in Green Lane – but that’s for the experts to determine.
        On a recent tour of this magnificent house Flaherty said, “We must get the land preserved so we can safeguard the house.” The breathtaking beauty contained throughout the property and potential access to public trails and parkland make preserving this property a must.
 

The main staircase of the Georgian-style brick residence built in 1757 was never remodeled and remains in excellent condition. The structure has exceptional, unaltered period features.

       The fundraising to preserve this part of Upper Montgomery County history is not over. With 7 percent of the funding still to be raised, the MCLT is working hard to close the funding gap before their time runs out to purchase the property on March 31.
        To find out how you can help, visit the MCLT website at www.mclt.org and read the “Roger’s Property and Daniel Hiester House” page. It is a rare conservation opportunity and you can donate and be a part of it.
         The MCLT is a non-profit conservancy that works to preserve and connect the natural areas, farmland, and neighborhood green spaces which contribute to our quality of life, to a clean and abundant water supply and to the health of the region’s economy.

 

 

 

 

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