The nearly 300-year-old York County building is undergoing an extensive renovation that will bring new purpose to this historic property.

Restoration and renovation of a long-held York County property will soon provide the York County Coroner's Office with a fresh new home—one first built in the 18th Century.

The Strickler farmhouse in Springettsbury Township, which is owned by York County, was once used by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement but has sat vacant for several years. Some water damage and infrequent maintenance/repairs left the nearly 300-year-old site presently unsuitable for re-occupancy as office space.

But Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects has developed an action plan for the site after consultation with the County. With money set aside in the new budget, that old farmhouse will soon serve as an expanded space for the currently cramped Coroner and her staff.

“The building has good bones,” said Bruce Johnson, an Architect with Murphy & Dittenhafer. “It’s just a matter of taking care of some legacy conditions, and then it seems like it will be a great fit.”

A trip back in time

They don’t build them like the Strickler house anymore, Johnson said.

Construction of the original stone home dates to around 1740, with a two-story addition added in 1835. In 1865, a second addition was tacked on, including a large double-level porch. But over centuries, time has taken its toll on certain aspects.

The additions’ painted-brick exterior has prevented moisture from escaping outward, causing plaster damage inside. The wood-shake roof typical of 1700s-era construction is worn out. And a number of “adaptive reuse” modifications and updates will be required to create appropriate office space for the York County Coroner.

Still, the skill and craftsmanship in the old home is something to see, Johnson said. From “dead head” nails to the rough-sawn board doors, the site is a trip back in time.

“It’s a very representative Central Pennsylvania farmhouse structure,” he said. “These buildings pose specific challenges, but are always very interesting.”

Public-private progress

York County President Commissioner Susan Byrnes became interested in the historic farmhouse soon after taking office.

She grew more interested after a visit to the site with Murphy & Dittenhafer founder and principal Frank Dittenhafer, who indicated that repairs could cost as little as half of a previous estimate.

When York County Coroner Pam Gay expressed interest to Byrnes about a larger office for her department, the serendipitous circle seemed complete.

“Everyone is just thrilled that we’re renovating this property,” Byrnes said. “It’s a win-win in a lot of different areas and a great example of a public-private partnership with Murphy & Dittenhafer.”

Going back, giving back

York County acquired the Strickler house in 1943 when it purchased the York County Prison that sits nearby. That location has long limited its use.

But for Dittenhafer, the recent push to repurpose the property provided a chance to work on a fascinating old building and to help the county where he was born and raised.

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“Restoring and repurposing a historic resource in York County like the Strickler House to serve the current and future needs of the community is very rewarding,” Dittenhafer said.  “I applaud Susie Byrnes once again for her vision and persistence – and the entire Board of Commissioners for their commitment to this important project.  I consider it a privilege for Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects to have contributed to the successful preservation and adaptive reuse of this notable structure.”  

That sort of dedication to the community should serve as an example for businesses and officials across the area, Commissioner Byrnes said.

“Murphy & Dittenhafer always works so well with us on projects,” she said. “They’ve given so much to this community, and that is continuing with the Strickler house.”