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Historic Photo Collection Showcases Area Landscape, Architecture
Written by Kelly Chandler Staff Reporter

Among the photos are also artifacts associated with the photos in the exhibit. One unique display includes a model of the "Krauss Palace," the log house built in 1743 by Schwenkfelder immigrant Balthasar Krauss. The model, built of sticks and shipping boxes, was created by Oscar Krauss in the 1920's.

        The photographic works of the son of a Hereford Township store owner and others that documented the life and landscape of the region in the early 1900's is fast becoming a favorite of visitors to the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center (SLHC).

        Harry Winslow Fegley, or H. Winslow Fegley, as he went by, was a man of many talents with an entrepreneurial flair.  Growing up in Hereford, he later moved with his wife and daughter to Reading.  He was a storekeeper, journalist, wholesaler and amateur photographer. 

        His work was featured in venues like the Reading Weekly Eagle, as it was called at the time, and distributed throughout Berks County on both black and white and colored postcards he published.  

        Hundreds of his photographs, which remained long after his death in 1944, make up one of the most significant collections of its kind at the SLHC.  They have been printed from original five-by-seven glass slides and prints donated in the 1950's. 

        About 150 remaining negatives, never printed, were digitized this year by the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia.

        "It's wonderful that now we and the public have access to those too," said SLHC Curator of Collections Candace Perry.

        While Fegley is known for capturing images from rural life in the region, as is documented in the 1987 photographic essay of his work, "Farming, Always Farming," he also took many, many photos of area architecture and landscapes.  They catalogue buildings that have largely been eradicated from today's landscape.

        The exhibit, "The Pennsylvania Dutch Historic Landscape," opened in July and runs through March 1, 2015.  Photos from the Pennsylvania German settlement, mainly in Berks and Lancaster counties, are highlighted.  While many are from Fegley, the public can also see pieces from photographers Joseph S. Powell of Philadelphia, William Stroud of Norristown and others. 

        One of the only pictures from Montgomery County shows the William and Sarah Hoffman farm in the village of Kraussdale, Upper Hanover Township.  It was the home of Levi S. Hoffman, described as a "beloved Schwenkfelder pastor."  In the photo by Fegley, circa 1905, the classic Pennsylvania Dutch farmstead with an original farmhouse can be seen with an additional farmhouse to accommodate another generation of family members.  A barn, complete with barn stars, and auxiliary buildings round out the frame.  A farmer is seen leaning on a fence of the property.

        A photo of the Geehr family home in Oley Township, Berks County, shows the site of one of the more recognizable local legends/stories.  According to historic accounts, a servant at the home, Susanna Cox, reportedly killed her baby in 1809 and hid its body in a wash house/summer kitchen at the site.  The baby's body was found by her employer, Jacob Geehr.

        Cox was later found guilty of murder and hanged in Reading.  Today, many believe she was hanged unjustly and her account of having a stillborn baby may have been true.                

        Alongside that photo is a piece by Fegley depicting the George de Benneville farm in Oley, Berks County.  The old, picturesque stone mansion, built in 1745, was the home of a Universalist pastor who preached in a meetinghouse on its second floor.  

        Another series features a saw-buck house belonging to Philip Schreiner.  Built in 1750 in Manheim Township, Lancaster County, the photo depicts one of the last buildings with "fach werk" or half-timbering which were reportedly built to accommodate troops in 1758 during the French and Indian War.  The Powell House, located on Howard Avenue in Lancaster County, also shows similar structure.

        The Krauss log house photo, circa 1910-1920, shows the Lower Milford Township site where Balthasar Krauss, a Schwenkfelder immigrant, built in 1743.  The home, referred to as the "Krauss Palace," is also depicted in an accompanying large-scale model built by Oscar Krauss in the 1920's.  The model is made from packing crates and sticks. 

        "It's wonderful to have a physical record of this house; it's amazing," Perry said of the model.

        An early 1900's photograph of the Joseph K. Schultz farm in Washington Township, Berks County, shows the family's shop and a very unique structure – a bee house built complete with a porch, windows and roof for the insects. 

        Approximately a dozen other photographs round out the exhibit that offers an authentic glimpse into both the region's countryside and, ultimately, the people who called it home.

        For more information, visit the SLHC at 105 Seminary Street, Pennsburg, call (215)679-3103 or visit their website at  Admission to the SLHC is free.   





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