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.