The Colebrook Mill is one of five state landmarks to be placed on Preservation Pennsylvania’s 2019 At Risk list.
A program director for Preservation Pennsylvania told the Reading Eagle that the building offers great potential for reuse and that the local community “regards this building as an important local landmark.”
The release says that Preservation Pennsylvania will work with the South Londonderry Township Area Historical Society and the South Londonderry Township Historical Commission to find a path forward with the state.
This isn’t the first time that the old grist mill has been the target of local preservation efforts. South Londonderry Township has been in discussions with the Game Commission since at least 2010, with the Lebanon Daily News reporting in 2016 on seemingly-stalled negotiations over land exchanges that would see the land turned into a park with the South Londonderry Historical Commission or another nonprofit taking care of maintenance and operation.
The small industrial village in Colebrook was constructed by Robert Coleman in the 1790’s consisting of a company store, worker’s housing, iron master’s mansion, furnace, sawmill, and grist mill. Today the mill, the iron master’s house, and some cottages are the only buildings left standing. You might also know this setting from the Haunting of the Hounds legend.
Coleman’s descendants went on to leave Lebanon County after losing most of their fortune in the financial panic of 1893, after which point the Lebanon Trust and Safe Deposit Bank oversaw an attempted sale of the Colebrook property (only 60 acres were purchased, apparently because the price was set to high).
The mill would be reinvigorated in the years to come as two men, Benjamin Hoke and Jefferson Heisey, upgraded the wheel to be brand-new “I. & L.” steel overshot wheels. After reviewing other period documents, we believe these would have actually been “I X L” steel overshot wheels, as manufactured by the Fitz Water Wheel Company in Hanover.
The building is about 45’x 60′ and stands 2.5 stories tall. The building has a reddish shade thanks to the red sandstone used to construct the structure.
The State acquired the old Colebrook mill property as a roughly 9 acre plot for $9,000 in 1921. The Game Commission came into possession of the land in February 1938, at which point about 700 of the 2100 total acres were used as farmland (before being occupied by the National Guard) and the rest wooded.
At the time, a columnist for the Harrisburg Sunday Courier said that, “the possibilities of developing a really worthwhile game management area of the Mt. Gretna Military Reservation, and for a greater number of species than customary, are better than for any other tract of State Game Lands yet acquired.”
The Lebanon Daily News has some additional recent pictures of the building here.
Other sites on the “At Risk” list include a farmhouse at the Carlisle Indian School in Cumberland County, the Woodbume Mansion in Delaware County, the Weiss House in Montgomery County, and Camp Archbald in Susquehanna County.