The Future of 1215 McCormick Rd. is in Question
Upper Allen Township purchased the 60.9 acre horse farm at 1215 McCormick Rd. in April, 2020 for $1,100,000 with the intention of expanding recreational opportunities. “From sports fields to boat ramps along the Yellow Breeches, the potential of this land is virtually unlimited,’’ said board President Ken Martin at the time. “Moving forward, we’ll be seeking input from residents as to what they would like to see in their newest park.’” The township recently hired Derck & Edson, a consultant from Lititz, PA, to develop a Master Plan for the property and, following public input, that plan is expected to be completed by the end of 2021.
Public input sessions have now been scheduled for Upper Allen Township Residents at the municipal building at 100 Gettysburg Pike:
Monday, November 8th 7:30am – 9:30 am
Monday, November 8th 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Saturday, November 13th 11:00am – 1:00pm
Tuesday, November 16th Noon – 2:00pm
Please see Menu bar and Latest Farm/Park news for more details on the public input sessions and other recent developments.
Our Vision for the Farm
Our vision for this beautiful and historic property is that its historic buildings and features be preserved, that 10-12 horses be returned for use in existing REC Board programs, and that the farm/park be developed “passively” with such amenities as nature trails, community and wildflower gardens, and unique recreation and education features not found in most parks. We also suggest utilizing McCormick Rd. as a walk and bike friendly Greenway or Green Rt. connector to Lower Allen Community Park, McCormick Park and (possibly) Simpson Park.
Friends of the Farm has worked with Ms. Joanne Hocker and Total Equine Learning Center (TELC), the long time provider of equine programs to Mechanicsburg and West Shore REC Boards, as she faced a October 31, 2021 deadline to move from a leased facility on Sawmill Rd. To learn more about the TELC, Click Here or visit them on Facebook.
On October 6, 2021, the Board of Commissioners said “NO” to TELC’s request to use part of the farm. Ms. Hocker has now been able to sub lease the 20 acre Maplewood Farm at 1206 South Market St., Mechanicsburg; however, this is not a long term solution if the Maplewood Farm is also developed.
By preserving some pasture, barn space and the main riding ring as part of the park design, Upper Allen can create a focal point for the farm/park and continue to allow for future equine activities by TELC, Messiah, Penn State, or others.
Historic Significance of the Property
The historic name for what is now the Upper Allen Farm is the Lambert Farm. It is included on Page 44 of “Early Architecture in Upper Allen Township” by The Upper Allen Heritage Committee (1976): “Michael & Mary Lambert Homestead. Built in 1855, this 4 bay German-Georgian farmhouse has a dressed sandstone foundation. It has its original 6/6 sash with 10” x 12” panes. The double chimneys are noteworthy. The front doorway is shown in Plate 9. Set into a cinder block wall of a modern addition is a carved oak lintel beam marked ‘W.S. 1789’ which came from the log house formerly occupying the site built by William Scoot, who was taxed for a log house on this land in the 1798 Direct Tax.” It should be noted the Lambert Barn predates the farmhouse; it was built ca. 1825-30.
Historic significance is largely in the eye of the beholder. George Lantz, builder of the Glen Allen Mill, 3/10 of a mile away, had ownership of this land in the 1830’s. The Lambert homestead was deeded from a larger tract in 1846 and John Scherich built a farmhouse on his portion of this tract in 1852. The Scherich farmhouse (see photo gallery) at 1450 Main St., Lisburn / LowerAllen Township has been restored and is registered with the Cumberland County Historic Society. The Lambert farmhouse has been less fortunate. Despite the farm being sold for $1.7 million in 2003, the 1855 farmhouse has been used as a rental in recent years and has fallen into disrepair. Upper Allen Township has most recently used it for police training drills. We suggest the Lambert farmhouse is historic; its just hasn’t been registered as such. And it may be more historic than any of us realize because we don’t know what happened to Michael and Mary Lambert – they sold the “plantation” on March 29, 1861 (two weeks before the start of the Civil War) and apparently left the area.
Given that much of McCormick Rd. is already a historic district and the Glen Allen Mill is recognized as historically significant – the Township can best preserve the farmhouse, its value, and the character of McCormick Rd. by considering its re-use or offering it for sale with the stipulation that its exterior be restored to period and subject to Historic Architectural Review Board (HARB) oversight. As the 2 acre creek side lot across McCormick Rd. contains the septic system for the farmhouse, it makes sense to include this lot in any sale so as to make up the approximate 3 acre minimum lot size required by current zoning. Estimated sale proceeds of $250,000+ can be used to fund further farm/park improvements or development a more suitable creek access point.
Yellow Breeches Creek Access
Access to the Yellow Breeches Creek is important to many area residents because of the scenic beauty, serenity, and recreation opportunities it provides. Yet many people are unaware the Yellow Breeches is a protected watercourse by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Township Ordinance S 245-13.1.
Instead of considering creek access on the 2 acre lot across McCormick Rd. from the farmhouse, the Township is encouraged to work with the new owner of the 17 acre “Hobbs” parcel further down McCormick Rd. and consider acquiring a portion of this vacant tract. This tract extends to the Eastern end of McCormick Rd. and provides more creek frontage and better access and parking opportunities near the new bridge to York County on Lisburn Rd. This is the same area identified as “Scherich’s Fording” in the 1858 Map of Cumberland County.
The new owner is willing to work with Upper Allen Township on selling up to 7 acres to create a new access point if it can be done without compounding issues and traffic from the park at 500 McCormick Rd., while retaining mature trees and providing a suitable buffer.
McCormick Rd. – An Ideal Greenway
Many area residents know that McCormick Rd. is a beautiful place to walk, jog, bike, or take a scenic drive. The road meanders along the Yellow Breeches for 2.4 miles and features 12 historic buildings, 2 arched bridges over the creek, open space and many scenic views. The road will not be as beautiful or have the same character if it is ever widened and most McCormick Rd. lovers do not want to see this happen. Keeping McCormick Rd. walk and bike friendly is important and it is fortunate that the Upper Allen Farm property extends to Rt. 114 so that the main entrance to the farm/park can be from Rt. 114.
Traffic on McCormick Rd. is increasing nonetheless and many drivers are ignoring the 25 mph speed limit. There is a need for traffic enforcement, calming devices, speed limit reduction or, perhaps, a “One Way” designation. Another solution is to designate McCormick Rd. as a historic Greenway or Green Rt. and recognize and develop it as the walk and bike friendly link it already is between Lower Allen Community Park, Upper Allen Farm, 500 McCormick Rd. and (possibly) Simpson Park. A Greenway was suggested nearly 20 years ago in the 2002 Comprehensive Recreation & Open Space Plan and reiterated in the 2016 UAT Parks, Recreation & Open Space Plan (see Page 32); i.e. “Develop a master plan for a selected Greenway, preferably with a trail, as a pilot project”. Note that McCormick Dr. already connects with a trail to Lower Allen Community Park in Lisburn.
The close proximity of the 110 acre Lower Allen Community Park deserves special consideration because it makes sense for Upper Allen and Lower Allen to cooperate in planning the UAT farm/park and leveraging park resources where possible; ie, Lower Allen and West Shore REC will be affected by the closure of TELC – Upper Allen has a horse farm. Upper Allen may want/need another soccer field – Lower Allen has 6 of them at Lower Allen Community Park. Cooperation permits us to work together to create rewarding solutions.
A Cohesive Theme and Time Tested Design Principles
Language in the 2016 UAT Parks, Recreation & Open Space Plan suggests having a “theme” for each UAT park. The suggested theme for the Upper Allen farm/park is that it be “passive” and natural with historic / working farm on the McCormick Rd. side and become more traditional or even futuristic on the Rt. 114 side. From the past to the future or vice versa if a visitor enters the park from the Rt. 114 side.
The time tested design principles of Frederick Law Olmsted, “the father of American landscape architecture”, are particularly relevant for this site. Olmsted’s works include Central Park and the U.S. Capitol grounds. See Menu bar for links and topics such as “A Genius of Place”, “Unified Composition”, “Sustainable Design”, etc.
Per pages 47-48 of the 2016 UAT Plan, “Significant insight about the existing parks and recreation programs were relayed through phone-call interview with key persons. The roster of interviewees were Township Commissioners and residents of the community who were somehow involved in the parks and recreation system, whether it be through holding related positions or were actively passionate about the community’s parks and recreation system.”
“Overall, the big take aways of the interviews were: The partnership with the Mechanicsburg Area Recreation Department is valuable but can be improved, there needs to be more park facilities and programs which focus on passive recreation to accommodate its citizens and mitigate pressure put on parks which experience high volumes, and there needs to be a higher focus on preserving the Township’s natural assets while connecting them to other community resources.”
There is an overwhelming economic case to design a park “passively”. Per page 121 of the 2016 UAT Plan: “Maintenance is typically the single largest recurring expenditure in parks and recreation operations. Over the lifetime of a park, about 75% of its cost can be attributed to its maintenance needs while the remaining 25% can be associated to the cost of acquisition, development, design and construction of the facility itself.
Visualizing The Plan
A good way to visualize any plan for the Upper Allen Farm is by using the aerial photo and viewing the farm in sections or “tiers” that roughly follow the existing fence lines. Note that the photo is taken from the South and the property extends approximately 200’ beyond the fencing (into the wooded area) on the Eastern side.
A perimeter trail (beyond the outer fencing) could be developed for equine or walking. Special holiday activities such as horse drawn sleigh rides could be offered. There are a multitude of unique features and activities we can devise as a community. Friends of the Farm will post an ongoing A to Z list of possible activities and amenities so please share any suggestions you may have.
The Annex building deserves special mention. This is the 2 story building to the left of the barn in the aerial photo. It was built in the 1990’s as a gym, guest apartment and garage. The gym area faces McCormick Rd. and is open to the 2nd story. The annex would make an excellent classroom for equine and other park programs and the apartment could be used by the farm manager, caretaker or park ranger. The main/open area could also be rented out for certain community functions.
Full Utilization of the Property – by Tiers
- Tier 1 – would be open space, pastures, farmhouse, barn and annex fronting McCormick Rd. There is little reason why the Tier 1 suggestions can not be adopted quickly so that horses can be returned and the farm comes to life again. Until a main entrance drive is constructed from Rt. 114, the existing stone drive (lower left corner in the aerial photo) could be used except that the first turn off to the barn should be removed so that visitors are diverted away from the barn and to a main parking area near the large ring. The area behind the first turn off could be planted with a large (1+ acre), spectacular wildflower garden that would attract pollinators and visually draw in walkers and bikers from McCormick Rd.
- Tier 2 – would be the area behind the barn and could be used for features such as equine activities in the large ring, community gardens and a shaded parking area. By placing the main parking area near the large ring, visitors would be able to view any equine activities and/or have easy access to community gardens. The gardening opportunities would be exceptional; this being prime farm land with water available in each fenced pasture.
- Tier 3 – would be the 3 fenced pastures and open space behind the large ring. Features could include shaded picnic or camping area, existing wild raspberry patch and there could be ice skating in winter at the low point in the meadow. An unpaved trail from this area could meander through the woods back down to McCormick Rd. on the Eastern (wooded) side of the property.
- Tier 4 – would be the rear 4 fenced pastures and area extending to Rt. 114. The planned entry off of Rt. 114 could be planted with Sycamore trees so as to repeat the tree lined drive when entering the McCormick Rd. from the West(at Bowmnasdale) and the entry could connect with the existing stone drive leading from to the large ring. This last tier (or first tier if one enters from Rt. 114) would be for more traditional park features such as playgrounds or futuristic features such as an geodesic dome. This section could also accommodate utility uses by the Township.
The West Shore and Cumberland County Historical Societies have offered to help in further documenting the historic significance of the property. Preservation Pennsylvania also assists Pennsylvania communities to protect and utilize the historic resources they want to preserve for the future.
In its August 25, 2021 Letter of Support to Friends of the Farm, Preservation Pennsylvania recognizes the McCormick farm “is an intact historic farm resource that is significant for its early architecture and it’s long agricultural history. As Upper Allen Township seeks ideas for its use as a park facility, there are many options to consider, but first and foremost should be the protection, preservation and maintenance of the historic buildings and the surrounding land that connects these buildings to their original uses”
Many people today do not realize how influential the McCormick family was or their involvement in the development of the City of Harrisburg, the City Beautiful Movement, the election of Woodrow Wilson, the Treaty of Versailles – and McCormick Rd. The McCormick summer homes at “Cona” (Henry), “Cedar Cliff” (Vance) and “Rose Garden” (Anne) may be of particular interest. Local and State historical societies and The Center for Pennsylvania Culture Studies at Penn State (Harrisburg) can likely assist in this effort. Another great resource and fun read is the 2004 “Happy Yellow Breeches” book by Paul Miller which provides first person remembrances of working on the Henry McCormick Estate at “Cona”.
We are also very fortunate to have an organization such as The South Mountain Partnership serving our community. From their website: “The South Mountain Partnership envisions a future of — a landscape of conserved resources and vibrant communities sharing a common sense of place and collaborating on well-planned growth and sustainable economic development. Launched in 2006, the Partnership operates as a public-private partnership between DCNR and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and has grown into an alliance of citizens, businesses, non-profits, academic institutions, and local, state and federal government agencies and officials collaborating to envision and secure a sustainable future for the South Mountain landscape.”
The Pennsylvania Historic Museum Commission and South Mountain provided grants for a “historic reuse study” utilized in developing the Corker Hill Farm in Greene Township as a public park. Norlo Park in Fayetteville also provides an excellent case study for historic reuse and utilization of a historic Barn for events. See http://guilfordtwp.us > Norlo Park for more.
You Can Be a Friend of the Farm Too!
Friends of the Farm is anyone who cares about the beauty, history and character of McCormick Rd. and wants to see it and the historic horse farm at 1215 McCormick Rd. preserved for future generations to enjoy as well.
Prior to Upper Allen Township’s purchase of the horse farm in April, 2020, some of us were boarders, some of us neighbors, and some of us regular walkers and bikers on McCormick Rd. We all share an appreciation for the natural beauty that is McCormick Rd.
Friends of the Farm is registered as an unincorporated association with the Pennsylvania Department of State. Registration does not imply endorsement.
Become a Friend of the Farm by sending us an email to register your support and receive periodic updates. email@example.com