Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Coyle House

Curiosity creates wonderful things, and curiosity is easy to satisfy.  People seldom get an opportunity to talk about themselves and share their lives, so it is a rare occasion when people don’t take advantage of the opportunity to share of themselves.  Charles Kuralt made a career out of following his curiosity, and it helped him build “A Life on the Road,” which was also the title of his autobiography.    It’s a principle I’ve seldom had the chance to pursue, but here’s one small example of the idea at work, which gave me a chance to meet some nice people.

I love the colors and the great attention to detail.

We were on our way with the family to visit Kings Gap Mansion and state park, near Carlisle, PA.  We were just riding down the road when we passed a house that riveted my attention.  It was an old home, but it had been beautifully and tastefully preserved.  I wanted a picture of it, but when we returned that afternoon, the sun was in the west and the house was covered with the shade of a large tree.  I was determined to return the next morning and ask permission of the owners to take a picture of their home.

I found the owner in the driveway when I returned the next day.  He introduced himself as Clyde Widener.  A bit suspicious at first as to why I was there and what I wanted, he warmed quickly when he understood that my interest was in something that he had dedicated a lot of himself to.   Their home was the Coyle House, built in 1901, as part of the Coyle Lumber and Millworks.  The millworks, still operating diagonally across Old York Road from the Widener’s, was started in 1879 and originally ran off the water power created by Yellow Breeches Creek, which runs directly behind Widener’s home.  (I have paddled the Yellow Breeches.  Well, I paddled most of it, and swam the last bit while upside down.)  The millworks was operated by four generations of Coyles for over a hundred years, being sold after the death of William Coyle in 1992.  They still make solid wood windows, doors, and cabinetry, in addition to special custom jobs.

The cooking house still stands directly behind the Wideners’ home.  Meals were prepared there to both reduce fire risk in the house, and also keep the house cooler during the summer.  A hand pump by the back porch was used to pump water up from the cold creek so they could bathe right there on the porch.  There was a lot less traffic by the house in those days.  Mr. Widener took special delight in showing me the moldings around the eaves and windows.  When they bought the house, many of those custom-made moldings were in bad condition, and several sections were missing entirely.  On a lark, he went over to the millworks to see if there was any way they could make a molding that would come close to matching.  To his amazement, they still had the original handmade molding cutter blades from a century before.  It’s refreshing to find that there are indeed still a few places in America where everything isn’t thrown out with the release of the newest catalog.

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