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It was a landmark, even to those who just drove through the busy intersection of routes 72 and 419 without ever setting foot inside the stately white building dominating the northeast corner.

For almost a century, the Quentin Riding Club’s clubhouse was the heart of the private facility that served local equestrians and social members, and hosted some of the biggest horse shows and competitions on the eastern seaboard.

But nothing lasts forever.

The Quentin Riding Club property began as the historic stables of the William Coleman Freeman hackney farm. Its clubhouse building was once known as the Noll House, after its last resident, William Noll, a former county commissioner, local Republican party leader, and manager of Freeman Farms, a dairy operation based at the property after the hackney farm had been discontinued.

Time and changing lifestyles led to a steady decline in the private club’s membership and financial viability. Horse shows, once as many as four annually, went elsewhere.

The club closed its doors in 2018, and the grounds were sold a year later to Louis Hurst, vice president of Cornwall developer Alden Homes, which he later sold to a Chicago-based corporation.

Read More: Quentin Riding Club sells at weekend auction for $2.1 million

The Quentin Riding Club’s annual Labor Day horse show was once one of the biggest on the East Coast. (newspapers.com)

The clubhouse has been empty since, but not unused.

Stanley Singer, chief of the Quentin Volunteer Fire Department, said that firefighters from throughout the county had been attending regular “acquired structure burn classes” for over a year leading up to Saturday.

On Saturday, firefighters carefully burned the clubhouse to the ground in the climax of the ongoing training exercise.

According to Singer, local fire departments had been using the structure since last year to get real-world experience in fighting structure fires.

Local firefighters had been using the clubhouse structure since last year to gain real-world experience in fighting structure fires.
Firefighters test their equipment during a controlled burn exercise at the former Quentin Riding Club on Saturday, May 13, 2023.

“Lebanon County has an awesome burn building [at the Lebanon County Career and Technology Center],” he said, “but the experience you’ll get from an actual building is invaluable.”

The clubhouse was a shell, having been stripped by ignition time of everything inside that could be toxic when ignited, including asbestos. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection had issued a permit allowing the controlled burn, according to Singer.

Smaller burns in individual clubhouse rooms were set and extinguished beginning at about 8 a.m., and puffs of smoke could be seen escaping from the building’s upper floors into the early afternoon.

Before the entire structure was ignited, smaller controlled burn exercises were held within individual clubhouse rooms.

At about 2:30 p.m., hay and old wooden skids were ignited in the building’s basement, and over the next hour the flames fully consumed the three-story structure.

Hay and old wooden skids were ignited in the clubhouse basement and eventually the flames fully consumed the three-story structure.

Neighbors watched from streets on the perimeter of the 46-acre property, many saying they were sad to see the building go but hopeful that the deterioration of the property may be coming to an end.

Neighbors watching the controlled burn of the Quentin Riding Club clubhouse. (LebTown)

Singer thanked Hurst for allowing the property to be used to train firefighters, and for also donating materials removed from the clubhouse before the burn, which were auctioned off to benefit the fire company.

Photo slideshow of Quentin Riding Club controlled burn exercise

Hurst has not announced plans for the West Cornwall Township property, which was rezoned last year with a mixed-use overlay. Preliminary conversations between Hurst and the township have suggested that a land development plan, once submitted, could include a small gas station, commercial stores, an equine therapy center, age-restricted apartments, and houses.

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Chris Coyle

Chris Coyle writes primarily on government, the courts, and business. He retired as an attorney at the end of 2018, after concentrating for nearly four decades on civil and criminal litigation and trials. A career highlight was successfully defending a retired Pennsylvania state trooper who was accused,...


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