Cloister had 1,000 visitors last Sunday

By on March 13, 2019

Back in 1681, Quaker William Penn was granted a charter by King Charles II of England for a substantial amount of land in the New World.

That forested plot became, of course, Pennsylvania. Only 51 years later, German immigrant Johann Conrad Beissel founded a monastic settlement in a quiet area near a running stream, which his followers, also mostly German immigrants, called The Cloister.

Today, the Ephrata Cloister, at 632 W. Main St., is one of 26 historic sites and museums on the Pennsylvania Trail of History, and is administered by the PA Historical and Museum Commission.
Last Sunday, March 10, was the 19th annual Charter Day, named in commemoration of William Penn’s charter, and a day when admission is free to many museums across the state. More than 1,000 people came by on Sunday to walk through the seven original buildings of the Ephrata Cloister, and learn about the early settlement, Councilman Victor Richard told borough council members Monday evening.

Richard was proud their historic site interested so many people, he said.

“We’re very fortunate to have this well-kept site right in our backyard,” Richard said. Richard said he met only a few people from Ephrata who came to see the Cloisters on Sunday, and added that he knows of people who live in town who have never been to see the site.

The history of the area was also brought to the fore by a proclamation by Mayor Ralph Mowen, naming March “Irish-American Heritage Month.” In Mowen’s absence, Council President Susan E. Rowe read the proclamation, which looked back to the thousands of Irish immigrants who came to this country, many seeing their last look at their homeland as they passed through the Galway Port, enduring the transatlantic voyage as they hoped for a better life.

Many Irish settlers stayed in Pennsylvania to work as laborers on the railroad, in shipyards, factories, and in law enforcement. The proclamation honored the Irish for their “indomitable strength” and their “legacy of hard work and dedication.”

Their virtues helped to define the United States character, and the proclamation was written to “celebrate their many contributions” to the nation.

Because the Borough of Ephrata has a historic past, the Council is also considering an ordinance to aid in the preservation of historic buildings in the borough. A zoning ordinance is being rewritten and will contain provisions regarding the demolition of historic structures, or “historic assets.” Currently, the draft of the ordinance requires that if anyone wants to demolish a historic building, they must request a conditional use from the borough.

The issue is how to designate what is a historic structure. One option is to identify various historic districts throughout the borough, while also developing a list of historic structure found outside those districts. Another option would be to consider any structure built before 1940 as requiring approval by Council to demolish. A draft of the “historical assets” ordinance may be presented to council within the next two months.

In other matters, the borough council approved a land development plan for Weaverland Mennonite Homes (Lincoln Christian Homes) at 1307 Apple St.

The Weaverland Homes will be building a 13,155-square foot addition for dementia care. The Lancaster County Planning Commission said “driveway ahead” warning signs must be placed along Apple Street and the Apple Street driveway closest to West Main Street will be made one-way into the site.

Weaverland Homes is expected to make an effort to assist residents with the loss of on-street parking.

Council also approved a change in the traffic code, prohibiting parking at all times on the east side of Apple Street between North Charles Street and the municipal boundary line north of Robert Road, and prohibiting parking on certain days and hours on the west side of Apple Street. Parking would be prohibited on the west side of Apple Street on Tuesdays, between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Council also approved the fourth annual Brewfest, to be held at Whistle Stop Plaza on June 22. This year, a home brewing contest will be held. Approximately 22 vendors will be on hand.
Council approved the payment of $3,375 to H.C. Nye for repairs to the HVAC system of the Ephrata Area Public Library.

Wellspan Ephrata Community Hospital received approval to hold their annual Healthy Day in the Park event on Saturday, June 1. The event will be held in Grater Park.
A bike trail in the borough is still in the planning stages with the Susquehanna Area Mountain Biking Association and Mainspring of Ephrata, the community development organization, but could become a reality.

Kelly Withum, executive director of Mainspring, said a committee has been having discussions with the biking association about the possibility of a mountain bike trail through Heatherwood Park, according to published minutes from a recent Mainspring meeting.

Withum walked through the park with SAMBA representatives and also received feedback from four ninth graders who are interested in the project. A biking club is in the starting process at Ephrata High School, with the help of district Superintendent Brian Troop, SAMBA, Green Mountain Cyclery and Mainspring.

Withum is looking for grants to help fund the biking trail project, which may cost from $4,500 to $6,000. Preliminary plans include three age and skill levels so it can be enjoyed by more people in the community. SAMBA will address environmental concerns and will create the trails, Withum told the Mainspring members. Several steps would need to be taken by borough council before the bike trail could be approved. Council also approved a request from the Ephrata War Memorial Association to use the streets of the borough for the 42nd annual Firecracker Run, to held Thursday, July 4, subject to Police Chief William Harvey’s review and borough receipt of insurance.

Senator Ryan Aument had planned to give borough council an update of state level government for the Municipal Moment, but was unable to attend the meeting.

Marylouise Sholly is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review. 

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