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Sunday, September 25, 2016

The "Rooftop Forecasters" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Lancaster County is alive in history, both urban as well as suburban.  Today my story will deal with both varieties and the rooftop predicators of changing skies and wind currents.  
A Lancaster County weathervane.
When ever I travel along Lancaster County roadways, I always seem to see the traditional weathervane atop a barn roof or manor house.  The earliest weathervane known honored the Greek god Triton and was located atop the Tower of the Winds in Athens and was built in 48 B.C.  The figurine on the top had the head and torso of a man and the tail of a hush holding a wand which was to be used to command the winds to arise and abate.  The weathervanes that I have noticed in and around Lancaster County probably aren't as ornamented as the one in Athens.  The weathervane on the top of the administrative building at the Landis Valley Farm Museum in Lancaster appears to be an arrow while the one on another outbuilding at the museum features a rooster with an arrow under it.  
The parts of the traditional weathervane.
The arrow points in the direction that the wind is blowing.  I recently made a trip to the museum to see the collection that they now have on display from all over the United States.  Weather- vanes at first were to detail the weather as well as tell the history of the structure it sat upon.  Many others were primarily for decoration and perhaps didn't tell anything at all about the weather.  When designing a weathervane there are two rules you needed to follow. (1) the ornament must be unequal on opposite sides of the vertical rod and (2) the ornament must have equal mass or weight on each side of the vertical rod.  
The Administrative Building at Landis
Valley Farm Museum.  The weathervane
on the top sports an arrow I believe.
As the wind blows, the ornament rotates to indicate both the direction and the speed of the wind.  The lightest and smallest portion of the ornament should point into the wind and the wind always comes from the direction the weathervane is pointing.  If the weathervane has directional letters, such as "N", "S", "E" and "W", they should be fixed to the vertical rod so they do not move.  Many weathervanes had dates cut into the metal to show when the structure was first built.  When William Penn first opened his business in Philadelphia with two other partners, they commissioned a weathervane for the roof of their grist mill which told of the business and the year it opened.  It is the oldest weathervane in the country and is one of the weathervanes that is on display at Landis Valley.  
Another building sitting closeby has the arrow and rooster.
Back then the weather- vanes would be made by blacksmiths while today they may be stamped out of metal.  There are some items that are featured on weather- vanes that are a sure clue as to what sits underneath it.  Fish and roosters were usually placed on churches, quills were placed on schools, and the American Indian was a symbol of good luck.  
This weathervane, featured in the display
at the museum, has a "GDL" and "1867" on the
back of it.  One of the founders of the museum,
George Diller Landis, was born on Sept. 7, 1867.
My trip to the museum was to photograph the many weathervanes they have on display, but I soon saw a big sign that read "No Photos".  After asking, I was told the collection has many private weathervanes that the owners didn't want photographed.  Oh well!  The photos I have included were photos I took before I saw the sign and were part of the collection from the museum.  The art of the forecast has certainly changed over the years, but weathervanes still sit atop many buildings in Lancaster County to help with wind direction which ultimately may help with weather prediction by those who have a knowledge and feeling in their bones for a rainy day or a beautifully sunlit day.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

This is the Star Barn that was in Dauphin County, PA and has been dismantled and moved to a site in Lancaster  County.  The barn's cupola had a weathervane inscribed with the name of the farmer who owned the barn and the date the building was built.  The smaller outbuildings also had weathervanes with a pig weathervane above the hog barn and a horse and wheeled wagon above the carriage house.  After it's reconstruction there will be a few new weathervanes which have been created and are shown in the photo below.

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