Extraordinary Stories

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The "Housing For Skinny People!" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Driving around the city of Lancaster searching for a few houses that I had heard about that were over 100 years old and less than 10 feet wide.  Seems simple, right?  Now, the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania has a storied history.  It originally was called Hickory Town and eventually renamed after the English city of Lancaster by native John Wright.  Lancaster actually was part of the 1681 Penn's Woods Charter of William Penn, and was laid out by James Hamilton in 1734.  It was incorporated as a borough in 1742 and incorporated as a city in 1818.  So you see, looking for a few houses that are more than 100 years old was a big task.  Well, as I scoured the 7.413 square miles of buildings in the city, I came across a few other pretty neat places that I thought I'd share with you.  I may have briefly posted something in the past about a few of these, but I will list them once again along with photos of them from now as well as in the past.  And then, at the end of my story, I'll show you some of the 10 feet wide homes I found.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.


416 S. Queen St. which was known as the Shiffler House.  It was the Shiffler Fire Company from 1854 to 1886.  I have found minutes, constitution and by-laws from the fire company as well as an invitation to the annual ball that they held.  At the time there were a few other private fire companies in the city of Lancaster such as the Humane Fire Co., Washington Fire Co., American Fire Engine and Hose Company and the Friendship Fire Company.  Most ended service in or around 1882 when the first paid City Fire Department came into existence.
This is what the building looks like today.  Remarkable shape for the age of the building which is now a private residence.
This is the Sehner-Ellicott-von Hess House at 123 North Prince Street in downtown Lancaster.  It was built in 1787 by German builder Gottlieb Sehner.  It was here that Andrew Ellicott, commissioned by U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, taught Meriwether Lewis surveying techniques for the Lewis & Clark Expedition (1803-1806) of western territories.
This is a current photo I took.  The house was restored from 1978 to 1981 by the Louise Steinman von Hess Foundation and now houses the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County.
This is a postcard showing 533 S. Prince Street.  The house was built in 1873 because of a bet.  It was built in 10 hours by 100 workers.  Turned out great. 
This is what the house looks like today.
This residence at 213 Church Street was built in 1890, also in 10 hours.  The house is in "Olde Town Lancaster" and is 10 feet wide. Under the Hamilton Plan of the 1740s, standard lots in Lancaster were 64 feet wide.  At times there were spaces between houses as well as alleyways.  Could be this home, and the two that follow, filled one of those open spaces.
This house at 428 E. Orange St. is also less than 10 feet wide.  Certainly would be easy to heat and cool, but might be tough to turn furniture around inside of it.
This is 216 1/2 West Walnut Street in the city.  It is the narrowest house at 8 feet, 9 inches wide. It was built in 1840. 
   

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