Conrad Weiser Springhouse

One of my followers asked me to repost this from my old blog. Forgive me if it’s redundant, but as spring approaches the anticipation for anything with “spring” in the title looms large.

Imagine you’re sitting on the sofa, snuggled under a comfy blanket and watching a good movie. Only one more thing is needed… a snack. Easy enough. Just go to the kitchen and get something out of the fridge. Now imagine it’s 200 years ago. Grabbing a quick snack now requires a long walk outside to another building. Don’t forget to take a lantern. It’ll be dark in there.

Colonial era springhouses were very common on homesteads. Erecting a structure over a natural spring served a couple purposes. First, it acted as a modern day refrigerator maintaining a cool temperature all year round. Foods that might spoil, like meat, fruit and dairy products, could remain fresher longer. Second, the building kept the spring water clean from leaves and debris. It also secured the items inside from animal interference.

The cold spring would run through a trough in the floor. Some items would be stored in crocks and partly submerged in the running water and others would remain stockpiled on the floor taking advantage of the cool temperatures. Often times, depending on the size of the building, springhouses also served as milkhouses, root cellars and pumphouses.

Although it is believed that Weiser built the springhouse himself the structure has gone through some changes over the last couple centuries; for instance at one point in time an oven used to occupy space on one of the walls and was removed prior to 1904.

In February 1729 Weiser moved his family to the Tulpehoken Valley. “Tulpehocken” is a Native American word for “land of the turtle,” according to the Conrad Weiser Homestead website. Tribes of this area were the Lenape (or Lenni Lenape) Indians. His homestead is located in Womelsdorf, Berks County on land granted to him by the William Penn family.

Conrad Weiser was an important figure during the early era of American settlement. He was a Pennsylvania Dutch pioneer who began his life in the Tulpehocken Valley as a farmer, but he rose in significance when he began serving Pennsylvania as a diplomat and interpreter between the colony and the Native American people of the area. He and his wife, Anna, had fourteen children with only seven reaching adulthood.

The Conrad Weiser Homestead is located at 28 Weiser Lane in Womelsdorf, Berks County, Pennsylvania. For more information go to their website http://www.conradweiserhomestead.org.

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