What we learned from our study of Williamsport’s historic architecture
Recently, our Aunt Lizzie spent some time teaching us about Williamsport’s interesting architecture and the history behind it. She showed us pictures of famous houses in Williamsport and described what type of houses they were, like “Queen Anne, Romanesque and Gothic.” She described the special names for their parts; like “gingerbread, swag and verge boards.” Then she told us about the people who lived in those houses and the people who built them.
We drove all around town looking and pointing, until our final destination, the Peter Herdic House and the bed and breakfast next door. We met Liz Miele, and were given a tour by Lena Yeagle, an artist who lives and works at the inn. (She is a great artist.)
We learned what a recessed roof is, and what dormers are. We learned that another name for a wrap-around porch is a verandah. We learned that a Romanesque house is made of heavy stone and that Gothic houses have sets of three windows and gingerbread on the verge boards.
We learned that Peter Herdic built houses for his employees and did many generous things for his community. We wondered if we would do that, if we had a million dollars.
And we saw amazing craftsmanship – beautiful, tiny details in hidden places like on hinges and ceilings. We saw miniature angels carved into doors and a very large and beautiful stained glass window with many colors. We also saw chestnut floors and cherry fireplaces and work that mattered in places that did not matter.
We think the craftsmen who built Williamsport’s houses must have been some of the best in the world. In fact, we think Williamsport’s houses are some of the best in the world, and we are really grateful that people like the Miele’s and Penn Real Estate have preserved them so that they are still here to see.
What we learned about the people in Williamsport’s past was not surprising. We think people are about the same today. People used to try to impress each other with their houses and fancy things, and some people still do.
People used up the lumber to make money and didn’t think much about the consequences. Except we think maybe some people did better work back then, and worked harder.
It was obvious that the men who worked on Williamsport’s houses were hard workers and took pride in what they did. Ordinary men with ordinary jobs made houses so beautiful that their work is still worth looking at more than 100 years later. We learned that we want to do work like that.