Like many area residents, BSWA members were intrigued by the vacant limestone building known to most local people as the Barrel Factory. Members were also concerned by the deterioration of the structure and thought this building should be preserved for the future and put to a good use. In June of 2006, and with the help of local representative Will Gabig, BSWA negotiated and signed a 25 year lease with the building’s owners, the Commonwealth of PA and the PA Fish & Boat Commission.
History of the Barrel Factory
The exact date of construction for the Barrel Factory is still being investigated. Homes in Springfield date from the late 1700’s and one of the largest Big Spring grist mills, the McCracken Mill, was built on the other side of the Creek around 1784. Tracing the Barrel Factory’s early history is complicated as it may have been inventoried with other buildings on the deeds—it doesn’t appear officially as a separate structure until 1862 when it was purchased by George Carothers from the heirs of Jacob Keller. Mr. Keller had been a multiple business owner in Springfield during the 1850’s and he had also owned the McCracken Mill.
Earlier deeds mention a still house, saw mill, plaster mill and barrel factories in the same area and there are historical references to Springfield’s production of water kegs and sauerkraut barrels. In the early 20th century, the Barrel Factory was bought by Raymond Woodrow in 1905, Nancy Spidle in 1908, and Anne Stackhouse in 1926. Except for a period between 1933 and 1937, Henry and Anne Stackhouse owned the Barrel Factory between 1926 and 1966, when they sold it to the PA Fish and Boat Commission. Residents of Harrisburg, the Stackhouse family used the Barrel Factory as a summer home along the Big Spring. To many locals in the area the structure is still known as the Stackhouse building in addition to it being known as the Barrel Factory. Today the blue front door of the Barrel Factory is used as a backdrop for many Big Spring High School students for photographs before dances and the prom.
Further research and/or archaeological evidence will be needed to determine the age, industrial history and timeline of occupancy for the building known as the Barrel Factory.
PHOTO – 1900-1910(?) of the McCracken Mill with a horse and wagon in front of the Barrel Factory (photo archived at the Cumberland County Historical Society/Carlisle, PA)The Barrel Factory appears to be an example of the Swiss bank house which typically was built with its gable end into a bank, giving ground-level entrances to both the first and second floors. The interesting thing about the Barrel Factory building is that it was once only one story. If you look at the east and west stone facades, which are the gable ends, you can faintly see a diagonal line running through the stonework clearly showing that the building was one story when it was first constructed. A second story was added later. Whatever its history, many parts of the Barrel Factory appear to be original and well worth preserving.
BSWA has filled in paperwork for nomination of the Barrel Factory to the National Register of Historic Places and this information has been submitted to the PA Historical & Museum Commission. We are presently compiling additional information requested from PHMC. Successful nomination to the National Register will open up new grant opportunities and make it easier to open the building as a museum for the general public.
BSWA’s Plans for the Barrel FactoryThe Big Spring Watershed Association is hoping to restore the building and preserve it. We would like to establish a museum showcasing local history and an education center for the Big Spring Creek and its watershed.
BSWA has already partnered with the Newville Historical Society which will be providing historical information and artifacts. Beside displays detailing the history of the building itself, there would be information on the town of Springfield, the Spring’s six grist mills and a history of fishing along the Big Spring for its legendary brook trout. As part of the education center, we would feature displays on flora and fauna and the excellence of birding in the area. Educational displays would cover water quality, fish habitat requirements and the watershed’s geology and its direct effect on the Big Spring. The building would house all the data already collected on the Big Spring and the watershed. These displays could be featured in the open first floor area. The second floor could provide a meeting room, storage for BSWA materials and rooms for rotating displays or related art exhibitions. Outside the building and on its grounds, we would like to establish a native plant garden and provide information on this and other important watershed protectors.
BSWA’s Restoration of the Barrel FactoryBSWA has sought and received two grants already: $10,000 from the State of PA as a Community Redevelopment Grant and $1,200 from SPOOM, the Society for the Preservation of Old Mills and related buildings. The SPOOM grant money paid for critical roof stabilization and chimney work and the Community Redevelopment money will be used to repair rotted rafters and joists and to replace the roof with a new metal system (to be completed summer of 2008). BSWA has also received donated services from Cumberland Valley Tree Service. Arborists, Fred Schrom and Gene McMillan, safely removed Norway spruces that were growing too near the Barrel Factory’s foundation and they cabled the venerable Norway Maple that sits beside the structure.
BSWA will continue to solicit grant money for restoration efforts and we will develop fundraising programs. As with all large endeavors, we need volunteers to help with a variety of tasks.
–We have already held two cleanups at the site and there will be many more! Let us know if you have building skills and have some time to volunteer.
–Anyone with experience in electrical or HVAC systems would be most welcome, to provide help or just advice as we bring the building up to date.
–If you enjoy the Internet, we could use someone to investigate grant opportunities suitable for our plans for the Barrel Factory Museum. Grant writers are always welcome!
–We will begin a fundraising drive, so if you have experience – or want to gain experience – in this field, please give us a call or sign up.
BSWA appreciates any persons who are interested in the restoration and development of the Barrel Factory Museum and Big Spring Education Center project. Contact BSWA if you would like to help with this exciting project!
This picture from the summer of 2010 shows Richard Zarnowski repointing the outside of the Barrel Factory. We greatly thank Mr. Zarnowski for his time and efforts in the work.