It is with a great deal of regret that I learned of the fire and wanton destruction of a historic landmark, the 1817 Levi Springer homestead on Fan Hollow Road in North Union Township, which happened April 28th. The regret partly stems from not even knowing about this historic structure until it was too late to see it. When a building like this is gone, it is gone forever . . . they just don’t make them like this anymore.
As a genealogist, I have several families that I’d be happy to find myself descended from. Chances are remote that this will happen, because after 40 years of research I know most of my family tree. But I have always found the Springer family fascinating because they have such an interesting backstory. From p. 781, Genealogical and Personal History of Fayette County, Jordan and Haddon, 1912: “The name originated with Louis II., Count of Thuringia, who was imprisoned by his Emperor in the strong castle of Giebichenstein, from which he made his escape by an adventurous leap from the tall battlements of the castle into the water beneath. When the manner of his escape was explained to the Emperor he pardoned him and in sport gave him the surname of “The Springer,” which he always retained.”
According to Liz Zemba’s excellent article in The Courier, Springer built his massive, 17-room home with the intent of it serving as an inn along Route 40, but that plan didn’t work when the National Road was rerouted and the home was no longer in sight of the road. Which illustrates the point that today’s bed and breakfast, in the form of the old country inn, is a concept that predates the relatively anonymous motel stay by many years.
Lastly, this occurrence points out a problem that our government entities are struggling with – blight. Fayette County Redevelopment Authority, who owned the building since 2003, was left holding the bag on a rundown structure that was not economical to rehabilitate. Here in Connellsville we are experiencing the same problem with our city or county eventually becoming responsible for demolition costs. This is a wasteful use of scarce public funds, and we are working to develop creative solutions to get these buildings back on the tax rolls before they are too far gone to save.