Appalachian Trail Conservancy moves regional office to Craighead House in South Middleton Township

Craighead House celebrates its 10th anniversary this year at 318 E Old York Road. Photographer Jason Malmon offers a look inside the restored home and property.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy moved its regional office to the second floor of the Craighead House at 318 E. Old York Road in South Middleton Township.

Volunteers renovated and converted upstairs bedrooms into offices for eight ATC staff members who began using the historic building in early September, said Craighead House Committee Corp board member Tom Benjey. .

“We are very happy to have them as tenants,” he said. “ATC is the type of tenant we were looking for. They have a mission that merges with our mission.

Ten years ago, a group of local residents took over the house and began a grassroots effort to not only restore the building, but also turn it into a nature and education center with lectures and programs. interactive for children and adults.

From the start, the goal was to restore the house to its 1930s appearance, when the Craighead children were at their most active. At the time, the building served as a summer residence for twin brothers John and Frank Craighead Jr. and their younger sister Jean Craighead George.

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The brothers became naturalists credited with saving grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park and writing the language that became the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. They also popularized falconry in the United States

Their sister was inspired by the landscape and wrote over 100 nature-related books for young adults. Her work includes the Newberry Award-winning book “Julie of the Wolves” as well as “The Summer of the Falcon,” which documents what it was like growing up in central Pennsylvania in the 1930s.

George wrote a chapter on the Appalachian Trail in one of his books, Benjey said. It was one of the first writings of any length on the trail that runs nearly 2,200 miles from Maine to Georgia, he said.

The regional office occupies all rooms on the second floor except for George’s bedroom, Benjey said. The committee plans to turn this space into a museum exhibit in recognition of her career as a writer, which began when she was a teenager and staying at the summer retreat.

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The ATC pays rent to the committee to offset maintenance costs, Benjey said. “We have a lot of expenses there. In addition to utilities, we have insurance which is important. We always have something to fix.

In addition to the second floor, TAC staff members have access to a large meeting room on the east side of the first floor in which the committee recently installed a digital overhead projector for presentations.

Outside on the second floor, tenants used a summer porch as an informal gathering space where the twin brothers slept on overnight stays, Benjey said. “He has a wonderful view.

“Having people there is a good thing during the day,” he said. “It deters criminals. If the place is occupied, it helps with insurance because insurance companies don’t like to insure empty houses or buildings.

ATC staff members use the same parking lot as house visitors.

Restoration work on the second floor included removing wallpaper, patching cracks in walls, painting rooms, finishing woodwork and sanding and finishing floors, Benjey said. Volunteers also removed a tub in the upstairs bathroom, converting that space into a coffee nook with a sink and cabinets, he said.

“I think they’re happy in their new location,” John Coyle, chairman of the committee’s board, said of the ATC workers.

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“It’s nice for them to work somewhere with a little more space and nice outdoor scenery,” Coyle said. “And they are allowed to bring their pets to work, two at a time. It was in the lease. It will be good for all of us. At this point, we’re just trying to get used to each other. We are happy to have them. I think it’s a good game. »

In February, the Township of South Middleton took ownership of the former ATC Mid-Atlantic Regional Office building near Children’s Lake.

That building is vacant as the township prepares to solicit proposals from consulting engineers to assess the condition of the property and conduct an analysis of its possible future uses, Township Manager Cory Adams said Friday.

While there is talk of possibly using the building for parks and recreation programs, that has yet to be determined and will be based on what the township needs to do to upgrade and renovate the interior, a said Adams.

Joseph Cress is a reporter for The Sentinel covering education and history. You can reach him at [email protected] or by calling 717-218-0022.

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