BY JOHN B. HORNER, FOUNDING CTHS MEMBER / JULY 2019
The Horner Homestead House contains approximately 90 percent of its original materials. These would include all brick work, four chimneys, 33 out of 35 windows, all mantle pieces, stairs and hand rails, brown plaster, etc. There is a garret over the entire House with a cellar under the Back Building and a crawl space under the Front Building, whose metal roofing shingles have not been replaced for at least 100 years.
Some of the awards and recognitions the Horner house has received through the years include:
• A brass plaque near the front door is inscribed Alexander L. Horner, 1819, testifying to the name of the constructor and the date of construction.
• The house is located in Manor of Maske, a 43,500-acre tract of land set aside by William Penn for the enjoyment of his heirs and their descendants, later made available for purchase to those who had established rights of ownership (plaque displayed to the left of front entrance and certificate displayed in house).
• In 1986, the homestead house was recognized in Historic Gettysburg/Adams County’s house restoration program as being acceptably restored, according to an examining committee (plaque displayed to left of front entrance).
• In 2007, the house was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, having been cited for a “property which embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction, possesses high artistic values, and represents a significant and distinguishable entity whose components lack individual distinction” (plaque displayed to right of front entrance)
• The Horner farm, of which the Horner house is a part, was designated in 2002 as a Century Farm in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, having met three requirements: 200 or more years in the ownership of the same family; still inhabited by a descendant of the original family; and still producing a certain amount of income from the sale of farm products. (Sign in front yard).
The present owners of the Horner House are not interested in “authentic” restoration. The large, rambling farm house has been redesigned for comfortable living. A large downstairs bedroom became the kitchen. A room on the second floor became a bathroom-laundry room combination. The four large rooms of the front building each contain a fireplace, the main source of heat in earlier years.
The historic name of the Horner property is “Locust Grove Farm,” because the house was built originally in a grove of locust trees. The trees are long since gone, but some years ago, four honey locust seedlings were planted around the house, seedlings budding with their own lineage, and propagated from a tree in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, believed to be the last surviving tree to witness Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. One day the Horner house may again exist in a grove of locust trees.
It is the kind of house that’s said to be built with a moral obligation, an obligation to be plain and true and reliable, hopefully reflecting the attributes of those reared within it.
Further information, including photos of the house, may be found at youtube.com/Horner Farm.
John B. Horner is a founding and life member of the Cumberland Township Historical Society, and the fifth generation owner of the Horner Farm.