Historic Schantz farm sells for more than $2M

By on January 15, 2014

Buyer not disclosed; sale of property and antiques draws huge crowd

More than 750 people turned out to witness the auction of one of Ephrata’s historic farms on Saturday.

The view of the Schantz farm from Schoeneck Road in Ephrata Township. (Photos by Stan Hall)

The view of the Schantz farm from Schoeneck Road in Ephrata Township. (Photos by Stan Hall)

The 78-acre Schantz farm on Springville Road in Stevens sold for $2,020,000 and was purchased by an unknown trust. Rumors flurried after the auction over whom or what might be the new owner and what they would do with the property. Most of the talk centered around a possible organization or person who wants to create a home for women who are in “difficult circumstances.”

A rare 18th Century Chippendale Lancaster Co. walnut schrank was a star at the auction, selling for $17,500.

A rare 18th Century Chippendale Lancaster Co. walnut schrank was a star at the auction, selling for $17,500.

Mary Schantz, who passed away last year, and her husband, Dr. Paul Schantz, bought the farm in the early 1940s. It was Mary’s greatest wish that her beloved farm be preserved, not altered, and would continue to operate as a working family farm as it has since 1790.

“Mary would have reservations about this,” said Marie Hoover, Mary’s youngest sister. “But I think she would adapt because the one thing Mary always said is, ‘In acceptance lies peace.’

“Mary was an adaptable person and I think if she knew, she would be disappointed but would have dealt with it,” said Marie, politely.

“From what I understand is the farm is in Ag Preserve, it can never be developed,” said Marie. “I’m not sure if that went through the way it was supposed to, but it was her wish that the farm never be changed.”

Marie indicated she did not know who the buyer was and John M. Hess Auction Service Inc., who ran the sale, did not disclose the name either.

From a source at Hess, the farm was recognized by the Historic Preservation Trust. It was never officially deeded into it, so it may be there are restrictions on the land, but not the historic buildings.

If there were a movie based on early American life, this farm would be an ideal set. Not only are the major buildings: the farmhouse, wash house, stone barn, silo, tobacco shed, tobacco barn, and second farmhouse well-preserved, but even the original paint survives. It’s unusual that no signs of new paint on the exterior or interior have been made since the farm was founded. It might be assumed the owners “let it go,” looking at all buff-colored walls with deep cracks, but they must be part of the charm and the plan to keep it as original as possible.

The farm, with prime agricultural soils, is a classic example of rural Lancaster County agricultural and architectural style. Historians refer to the farm as the Hibschman farm, later Anglicized to Hibschman after its early owner. But interestingly, the land was first deeded to Peter and Barbara Heffly in 1761 from an original Penn deed. Just three families have carried on the farming tradition since then.

The barn has a datestone which reads, “Diser bau aufga richwon Wendel Hipschman und Hannah sein weib im yahr Christi 1790.”

Wendel served as a major during the Revolutionary War. His son, Jacob, was a member of Congress in 1819-20 and later became a Lancaster County judge. Wendel’s other son, Henry, sold it to Jacob Landis in 1854, whose family farmed it for three generations.

In 1943, Dr. Schantz purchased the farm at a public sale. Paul and Mary Schantz raised seven children there until his death in 1980. Because of Mrs. Schantz’s love of the land and passion for historic farm preservation, she kept it a working family farm, supervising hired workers until she died on it at the age of 98 of pneumonia. As an RN, she helped her husband with his medical practice and was also a founding member of the Historical Society of the Cocalico Valley, founding member of Ephrata Area Social Services, and founding member of the Ephrata Library Board.

The exterior of the 14-room home and the intact barn is limestone from the area and reflects how the early owners, although they were German, gradually adopted an English design, so the house is actually an example of English-Georgian architecture. Evidence of the mix of English and German designs in the main house is noticed while passing from the elegant center hallway, which has a graceful arch with a keystone and open staircase, to a kitchen with wood beams.

Although the Schantzes bought many of the furnishings at public sales during the 1940s and 50s, there were quite a few pieces from the original owners for auction sale and ready to leave their positions after many years of service. In the hearth room, which features a walk-in fireplace and paneled doors, sat a spinning wheel with flax still attached, which Hibschman initialed and dated 1770. Still legible on the entry sandstone steps is where Hibschman carved his initials. Seemingly in the habit of initialing things, it is wondered if he had the foresight that he would be the steward for future generations.

School pictures of Mary’s grandchildren from her youngest daughter, magneted on the fridge, and a potholder were the only personal things still remaining not for sale. But one of the most interesting items for sale was Dr. Schantz’s medical bags filled with vintage apothecary vials, including a bottle of Phenobarbital and suturing supplies, all full or nearly full as if never retired. The only evidence of age was yellowed medicine labels and some weather-cracked pills. Each bag sold for about a few hundred dollars. One could imagine the bag hastily coming in and out of the farm to his office in Ephrata, as well as throughout the Amish community, where he was well-known.

A rare 18th Century Chippendale Lancaster County walnut schrank was a star at the auction and of great provenance.

“One of the notable items survived by the Hibschman family is the large schrank. It looks like a large wardrobe. We believe the same cabinet maker that made all the architectural cupboards and things that are built into the house also made the schrank,” said John Hess of Hess Auction.

The schrank, which sold for $17,500, has an even bigger story behind it than its selling price.

“At some point before the Schantzes lived in the house, the schrank was moved into a house in Lebanon County and the Schantzes were unaware of its existence,” said Marie. “The new owners knew where it came from and contacted Mary many times saying they had something of theirs. Mary, being busy on the farm, ignored their urgings. At their insistence, the Schantzes finally went to see it. They went back to their house after the woman told them where it originally stood and were astonished that they could see the faint outline on the paint from where the schrank stood.”

“It was brought back to where it belonged and I’m kind of sad it’s not there anymore, “ said Marie

Also sold at auction were a couple original Jay McVey paintings for $500 and $160 each. McVey is a local artist known for his Amish country art.

Here are some additional items and the prices they brought:

  • Red and yellow paint decorated wooden stave bucket with bail handle having three metal bands with yellow, red and green painted vines. bucket on front $650.
  • Blue slip decorated stoneware storage jar $475.
  • Very primitive sandstone rain splash block sandstone $575.
  • Sandstone rain splash block $550.
  • Sandstone step $325.
  • Six plate stove $2,600.
  • Mahogany-looking glass with reverse painting of hunt scene, having crowned molding and grooved half column decoration $1,500.
  • Small Steiff kitten and small dog made with animal hide $60.
  • Steiff fawn with original button and tag in ear $300.
  • Early block pattern quilt $575.
  • Wooden spinning wheel with turned splayed legs $285.
  • Rope bed with shaped headboard.
  • Pencil poster rope bed with turned posts, shaped head and foot board with arched canopy tester $850.
  • Set of eight “historical American Scenes” purple transfer plates made by Crown Ducal for Bailey, Banks and Biddle $50.
  • Coffee grinder with pewter top $250.
  • Birds eye maple Sheraton chest with two split drawers over three full width cock bead drawers. Clear sandwich glass pulls, banded rectangular blocking reeded spiral turned columns turned feet $950.
  • Pedal car not in catalog $120.

Michele Walter Fry welcomes your questions, comments and suggestion via e-mail at michelewalterfry@gmail.com.

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