The River Reporter Special Sections Header

Clear sky
Clear sky
35.6 °F
April 24, 2014
River Reporter Facebook pageTRR TwitterRSS Search Login

Custodians of history; Living in a 200-year-old house

John and Dawn Harvey stand in front of the historic Wilmot House in Bethany, PA.
Photos by David B. Soete

By NANCY DYMOND

“Have you noticed any ghosts?” seems like a fair question to put to the residents of a house that has spent 200 years providing shelter and comfort to a veritable pageant of generations. Eight years ago, John and Dawn Harvey fell in love with and purchased the historical Wilmot House, also known as the Solomon Moore House, on Old Wayne Street in Bethany, PA. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places due to its fame as the birthplace of David Wilmot, author of the Wilmot Proviso, a document that is widely credited with being the forerunner of the 13th Amendment. (See: legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Wilmot+Proviso)

“John loves the history of this house,” Dawn explains. “I love the architecture, the way it feels connected to the past.”

The flagstone front steps; the fieldstone foundation; original handmade windows of Bethany Glass, tiny bubbles and waves observable in the windowpanes; and the stonework flowerbeds all conspire to create that connection to the past. Master carpenter John Gustin built the house in 1811 for Solomon Moore, who added a single-story addition for his store and the borough’s first post office. In 1814, Randall and Mary Wilmot bought the house from Moore and lived there for several years.

The dark red, wood-sided house, with its handsome, black shutters, sits on one acre of lawn, which expands into the back yard past a roofed porch and beds of flowering bulbs and perennials. Beyond the period-style garage/studio, erected by previous owner Alex Baker, the lawn gently rolls to the forest’s edge. The original stone (dug) well is still on the property, complete with roof, rope and bucket. The well covering was rebuilt to match pictures from the 1930s.

“Actually, this well came in very handy when we had the hurricane and had no power and, of course, no water,” said John.

As we round the house to enter the front door, the Harveys’ gray cat poses beneath a carved and painted wooden sign above an entrance to the cellar, the house’s original kitchen. “The Old Abolitionist” announces the sign, a pointed reference to its most famously honored, previous historical resident. Now dubbed “The Pub” by the Harveys, it currently serves as a meeting place for John’s book club.

The front entrance is a comfortable distance from the road and a short distance away from a hitching post—a tall, headstone-shaped rock with a metal ring attached. “It has been said,” offers Dawn, “that when the five daughters of a previous owner were growing up, you might see five horses tied to this ring at one time, all prospective suitors coming to visit.”