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Littlestown, PA 17340
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Littlestown, PA 17340


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Littlestown was layed out by
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Byers-Hess House
Byers-Hess house being renovated in 2006-2007
Harney Road

In 1862 an Austrian artist visited in the vicinity and he painted the walls of a farmhouse. One of these walls appears above; similar ones may be seen in the rooms of the farmhouse of Luther Hess, first farm on the Harney Road, built by John G. Byers.
Littlestown Bicentennial Book- pg. 259


History and Facts

The Byers-Hess House was built in 1861 by John G. Byers, the original owner. It was used as a residence by the Byers family. Carrie Hess, a direct descendent of John Byers was the last of the family to own the house. During the period of its origin into the early twentieth century, the house was used as a meeting house for the Order of the Free Masons. Ancestors tell of secret meetings where men in dark coats came and met in the house during the night. During these meetings, the family stayed in the back of the house. Through research it was discovered that the Byers-Hess House was considered a black lodge. A black lodge was one that functioned out of the bounds of accepted Masonic law and codes.

The significance of this house is three-fold. First, it is a prime example of Federal style architecture for its location. Second, it has significance to the Masons as a historical meeting place. Meetings in that time were held in secret and usually in the private residences of members. Third, the house exibts well-preserved examples of itinerate primitive artwork in the murals on the walls an ceilings of the central hallway. The Masonic overtones in the murals describe John Byers' affilitaions with the Free Masons. They also describe the patriotism of the family, considering they were painted during the time of the Civil War and the proximity of the house to Maryland, a slave state.

Other Facts:
Barn Corner Stone - 1859 J.G. Byers
House - 1861 J.G. Byers
Brick Kilned on Property
Union Troops Quartered there enroute to Gettysburg.
Indian activity on property - Burial Grounds and mounds to North side of property.


Physical Description

The physical appearance and condition of this brick farmhouse, built in 1861 by John G. Byers, is very close to the original. It is built with brick and mortar with a post and beam log structural system. The original mortar, which was disintegrating in some places, was removed and new mortar was put in its place during the summer of 2006. It is 2.5 stories on a stone foundation over a full basement. The style is Federal with a rectangular shaped plan. The main floor contains a central open entrance hallway, four main rooms, an attached summer kitchen, an open porch, and a closed porch which was converted into a small room. The upstairs contains five main rooms, two small rooms, a central hallway, and one balcony porch. There are two main stairways to the second floor, one from the central hallway and one from the central room, and one stairway to the full attic. The stairway to the attic and the stairway from the central room were renovated and made wider and extended during the winter of 2006-2007. The roof is fiberglass, faux-slate shingle over the original wood roof structure with three original brick chimneys, one at each gable end and one on the interior wall between the main structure and the attached summer kitchen. All windows are glass paned sash windows in heavy surrounds with heavy exterior cornice heads. The front entrance doors are double solid oak with overhead transoms. Twenty-four inch thick walls have original horsehair plaster on the interior. The walks in the central downstairs entrance hallway are hand painted, floor to ceiling. The background is painted to resemble a stone temple. Specific murals include a deer head with antlers holding a hat, powder horn, sack, and long-barreled gun and another that is a mural of a nature scene that has a painted frame to give it the look of a framed painting. On the landing between the first and second floors in the central hallway is a full size portrait of George Washington in full military dress uniform, flanked by stone pillars. the upstairs central hallway contains the stone temple background with two murals on the ceiling. The first is a circle with a bald eagle. Surrounding it two thirds of the way around the circle are the words, "Procure Peace With God, in thy Family & With All Nations." The second mural is also a circle and depicts a handshake with both wrists tied together by a green ribbon. All of the murals seem to have some Masonic significance. The murals were done by an unknown itinerate artist, though ancestors claim he was Austrian, in the early 1860's.


Below are some pictures of the paintings as they appear today.

Picture contributed by Bill Stevens

Picture contributed by Bill Stevens




Picture contributed by Bill Stevens

 


Picture contributed by Bill Stevens

 


Picture contributed by Bill Stevens


Picture contributed by Bill Stevens

 


Picture contributed by Bill Stevens


Picture contributed by Bill Stevens


Picture contributed by Bill Stevens

 


Picture contributed by Bill Stevens

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