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Belmont developer to restore historic mansion, move other historic buildings 17 miles

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The Mayer-Hess Farmstead dates to the early 1870s.
The Mayer-Hess Farmstead dates to the early 1870s. - (Photo / )

A landmark mansion across from the planned Shoppes at Belmont development in Manheim Township will be restored and other historic structures on the property moved as part of a preservation effort.

The Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County has announced that it will collaborate with developer Manbel Devco on the project. The Mayer-Hess Farmstead dates to the early 1870s and is at 1580 Fruitville Pike, beside Red Rose Commons Shopping Center and near Route 30.

The farmstead's most recognizable feature is the Italianate-style mansion, a three-story, five-bay residence complemented by a central cupola with a bracketed cornice. Phil Frey, principal owner of Manbel Devco, plans to restore the mansion and add iron fencing typical of that used in gardens in the 19th century.

Frey said the plan is to develop interpretive trails on the Belmont property explaining the farm's history and the significance of its lime kilns, cemetery and wetlands. The trails will be open to the public.

The property's other buildings, including the barn, will be disassembled and then reconstructed on Ironstone Ranch, which, according to the news release, is 17 miles away in West Donegal Township.

“We were hoping all buildings would remain on the farmstead,"  Lisa Horst, president of the trust's board of directors, said in a news release. However, since that part of Fruitville Pike became such a busy commercial area, the trust agrees that the relocations are "an acceptable alternative.”

Horst noted the farmstead buildings have been in decline since Red Rose Commons Shopping Center opened in 1998. The trust hopes, she said, that the collaboration "demonstrates how a positive outcome is possible when developers, builders and property owners work together to find acceptable solutions to historical preservation challenges.”

Phil and Nick Frey are partners in Manbel Devco, according to the news release, and "their family has been active residents of Lancaster County since 1758."

The Shoppes at Belmont is a 71-acre, mixed-use development project that will feature single-family homes, town homes and 370,000 square feet of retail space. Firms working on it with Manbel Devco are R.J. Waters & Associates and Charter Homes & Neighborhoods.

The nonprofit trust was founded in 1966 to “stem the rapid destruction of historic properties in Lancaster County." Its archives now include descriptive files on more than 10,000 historic structures.

Heather Stauffer

Heather Stauffer

Heather Stauffer covers Lancaster County, nonprofits, education and health care. Have a tip or question for her? Email her at heathers@cpbj.com. Follow her on Twitter, @StaufferCPBJ.

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c. witmer August 26, 2014 4:36 pm

I hope the developer is truly sincere in its preservation commitment and has deep pockets, as the costs of moving these structures and restoring them properly will be immense. I also hope people have done their homework as to what it will take to accomplish this. If not, it has the potential to turn into a real boondoggle.

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