Pennsylvania Historic Preservation

Blog of the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office

The Keystone Fund Partners in Preserving James Buchanan’s Wheatland

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The home of James Buchanan, the 15th President of the United States, BHP Key No. 001061

Wheatland, the home of James Buchanan, the 15th President of the United States, BHP Key No. 001061

I realize that when it is cold outside, it might be more comfortable to hibernate on the couch watching television, but this is a great time of year to visit the Commonwealth’s museums and historical sites.  Always in need a last-minute hostess gift for a party, I often pop into the Landis Valley Museum Shop for a unique gift or just take respite in exploring the material cultural of our great Commonwealth.  One of my favorite historic houses to visit this time year is President James Buchanan’s Wheatland in Lancaster.  Constructed in 1828 for William Jenkins, the president of Farmer’s Bank of Lancaster, the Federal-style brick house and surrounding 24 acres were purchased by retiring U.S. Secretary of State, James Buchanan, in 1848.  Wheatland remained Buchanan’s home during his presidency until his death on June 1, 1868.  The Mansion was sold in 1935 to the James Buchanan Foundation for the Preservation of Wheatland to develop a Presidential House Museum. 

As a lover of historic buildings, I find Wheatland to be one of the most architecturally significant residential houses in Lancaster County.  Its current steward does too. Buchanan’s Wheatland is in the midst of comprehensive Preservation Plan that will guide the stewardship of this National Historic Landmark for the next 20 years.  LancasterHistory.org, the umbrella organization that owns and interprets the historic site, pulled together a project team already somewhat familiar with the property.  Carl M. Dress, AIA and Richard I. Ortega PE AIA FAPT of Heritage Design Collaborative from Media, Pennsylvania conducted a conditions assessment of the Mansion, smoke/ice house, privy and carriage house as well as three landscape features.  Their findings catalogued the existing condition and identified elements in need of repair, but most importantly prioritized the future work plan.  Most fascinating about the Preservation Plan is combing through decades of past maintenance records of the James Buchanan Foundation to discover their restoration plan and efforts from the 1950s through the 1990s.Those earlier initiatives and planning documents provide a good foundation for understanding the evolution of the building and appropriate interpretation of the house in Buchanan’s lifetime.  A wealth of historic fabric remains.  LancasterHistory.org hopes that the Preservation Plan will be finished in early spring.

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The PHMC is pleased to provide funding to LancaserHistory.org for Wheatland’s Preservation Plan through its Keystone Historic Preservation Grant program.  Long thought only to provide money for bricks and mortar construction projects, the Keystone program also provides money for planning initiatives that ensure the long-term preservation of National Register-listed or eligible resources.  Although existing grant programs may not support educational or interpretive programming, the PHMC empowers our partner organizations to be strong stewards of their historic treasurers through planning.  Preservation Plans, Historic Structures Reports and Conditions Assessments are important tools to ensure organizations are strategically prioritizing the needs of the historic resource under their stewardship.  Most importantly, these documents can organize past reports and studies into one master planning document and articulate future phased capital improvement processes for the site.

The PHMC is now accepting applications for fiscal year 2014-2015 funding under the Keystone Historic Preservation Program.  Applications for either the Keystone Construction or Project grants are due on March 2, 2015.  If you want more information about the Keystone Grant program or to inquire if your project may qualify, contact me at the PHMC-BHP, Karen Arnold at (717) 783-9927 or kaarnold@pa.gov  Check out eGrant for more information about the application process and begin today!

But more importantly, take a few minutes this December and January to visit a historic site in your neighborhood.  Visit the LancasterHistory.org website at http://www.lancasterhistory.org/visit/wheatland for guided tour hours.

 

 

Author: Karen Arnold

Karen Arnold manages the Keystone Historic Preservation Grant program at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC).

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