Felix Dale House
The Felix Dale House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.
The Felix Dale Stone House is a gabled, five-bay, Georgian styled farmhouse. Originally constructed near a barn, store and two mills, only the house and the barn remain. The house overlooks a grassy slope, where the mills once stood, to Spring Creek. The house is turned away from the road as the gable end faces the road and is angled slightly away from it. A stone fence increases the privacy of the house.
The house is built completely of stone, which has been chiseled to a smooth surface. The stone is laid in the coursed rubble method. The corners of the house are constructed of larger blocks and are quoined. The front facade is fenestrated as that of a typical Georgian center hall plan. On the first floor the window panes are nine-over-six, and the shutters are paneled. On the second floor, the windows are six-over-six with louvered shutters. The only difference the Felix Dale Stone House appears to have from the traditional Georgian facade is two entrances. There is a portico over the two entrances, which is constructed of wood and has a hipped roof. One entrance is in the central bay; the other entrance is in the bay immediately to the right of the central bay.
The arrangement of two adjacent doorways is a clue to the internal configuration of the house. As one enters the house by the central doorway, a central hallway goes through the house and adjoins two rooms to the left. A traditional stairway is in the hallway. On the right side of the central hallway a single room, the kitchen, is appended. The kitchen may also be entered through the outside doorway that is to the right of the central entrance. Although some of the characteristics of the Georgian center hall plan are evidenced, the home cannot be called a center-hall plan. Since the kitchen is shorter in length than the two rooms to the left of the hallway, the plan can be identified as a Georgian side hall plan with a kitchen addition.
The land slopes away on the western side of the house leaving a three-story facade exposed. The land is held lack by a stone retaining wall, which forms a patio along the front facade. On the side elevation there are two basement doors, two first-floor windows, and two second-floor windows. The gable is emphasized by eave returns and two small attic windows.
The rear facade, because of the eccentricities of the floor plan, is seen as two separate gabled, volumes. The difference is marked, by the height of the gables (the smaller wing is correspondingly lower) and the volume of the smaller wing itself. The volume that corresponds to the file of two rooms and the appended hall has only one variation in fenestration from the front facade. The second-story third-bay window is lowered to correspond to the landing of the stairway. The east gable end of the volume has an attic light.
There is a rear veranda which follows the contour of the rear facade. It has a simply executed shed roof supported by squared posts. A railing, which is a pattern of vertical supports and horizontal railings, surrounds half the veranda as the ground drops away.
Generally speaking, the exterior of the Felix Dale Stone House is intact in the original materials and fixtures. The original ironware still anchors the shutters, and the woodwork remains in its original state, unadorned by later additions.
The interior of the home is in pristine condition. The original moldings, doors, stair-rails and mantelpieces remain throughout the house. These have been restored to the natural wood finish and the high calibre of the craftsman's work is evident. Daniel Dunlope, a cabinet maker, was hired to execute the woodwork in the house. The kitchen ell has a large cooking fireplace along the eastern, gable wall, which is completely original. The simple mantle is decorated with fluting and a wide cornice band on the top edge. The fireplaces on the opposite side of the house, in the western gable end, are turned on a forty-five degree angle to the wall, between the front and rear rooms. The mantelpieces are original although the stone hearth has been rebuilt.
The stair-rail is simply crafted. The balustrade is an untapered pillar and the handrail a smooth plank of wood, curved around the head of the first landing. The balusters at the foot of the stairs and the landing are also plain. The only decoration of the stairs are incised brackets placed under the ends on the stringer plank. This bracket is curved in an S-shape, with certain incisions echoing the curves of the edge of the brackets, and an unusual six-point star in the corner.
Upstairs the original brackets are still intact. The difference between the downstairs mantle and the upstairs mantle is in the ornate styling of the upstairs mantle. These details include ionic columns framing a mirror above the fireplace. In the same room another example of the craftsman's careful attention to detail is found in the drawers built into the sills below the windows. The utilitarian quality of colonial architecture is evidenced in these details.
The interior as well as the exterior of the Felix Dale Stone House are unusual examples in Centre County of refined planning and craftsmanship in an early farmhouse. The carefully executed detailing and ornamentation are not the only interesting aspects of the home. The eccentricities of the plan are unusual in an era of consistently designed five-bay, center hall Georgian style homes, yet this utilitarian design fits into the accepted format of this style. The planning and workmanship of the Felix Dale Stone House continues to survive in an unblemished state, as an example of ingenuity, functionalism and beauty in early Colonial architecture.
Felix Dale was an affluent resident of Centre County, a result of his enterprise in the milling industry. Dale's Mills, as the area was once called, influenced the area between Lemont and Oak Hall in three aspects: settlement, transportation and agricultural industry.
The importance of mills to the early development of Pennsylvania is due to the Commonwealth's most available resources: fertile farmland and an abundance of streams and dense forests. The soil and climate of Pennsylvania were conducive to grain crops, which required considerable amounts of manual labor to be profitable on a commercial scale. In addition to the labor of the farmer, the crop had to be processed to a saleable product, and this was done by a grist mill. Because of this, the first industry in a new settlement was a grist and sawmill operation. Roads were the key to the processing and distribution of the crops, making it possible to cart the crops to the mill and the flour to the market.
Christian Dale, Felix's father, was one of the first settlers in Centre County. Christian Dale was "one of those sterling old Germans to whom Pennsylvania owes so much" (Linn, pg. 273). He had settled in two other areas of Pennsylvania, had started a farm and then moved on. Centre County was the last place that he moved to and it was here that he made his fortune. He cleared the land he bought, farmed it and started the grist and sawmills between Lemont and Oak Hall, along Spring Creek. Christian Dale also helped establish transportation routes through the county. He oversaw the construction of General Benner's road (now the Benner Pike) and he petitioned the state government for a road that would run from Dale's Mills to General Benner's road, which was also the road to Pittsburgh.
By 1805 the Dale family had become rich from Christian and his son's pioneering efforts. When Christian Dale died in 1805, he willed his mills to Felix, who had been in charge of them for several years. Felix completed his stone house adjacent to the mills in 1823, and lived there productively until his death. The will of Felix Dale made provision for his wife to stay in the small wing of the house, while his son David lived in the rest of the house and took care of the mills. David was quite industrious and added a hemp mill to the saw and grist mills. He also invented some labor-saving, mill-related machinery.
In later years the mills were removed and the house gained a clear view down to Spring Creek.
Apart from the historic events that are associated with the house, the significance of the house is architectural. The design is a unique variation on the Georgian center hall plan. Although the fenestration on the front facade gives no indication of the change in the proportion of the plan, the pure rectangle of the Georgian plan was not preserved. Instead, the plan was adapted by making the section to the right of the main hall shorter in length than it was normally built. This wing was intended to be a kitchen, and not a drawing room as is commonly found in center hall plans. One postulation by an ancestor of Felix Dale is that the smaller wing was built first, and the rest of the house later, when Felix had enough money. This postulation is convincing in terms of function, as the kitchen is the most necessary room in the house, as well as the fact that it explains the variation of the plan. However, there is no evidence in the construction of the house, most notably none in the stone work, that this postulation is true.
Another unusual variation the Dale House has from the typical Georgian plan is the veranda on the rear of the stone house. Porches were relatively rare in Colonial architecture, although they are well suited to the climate of Pennsylvania.
The craftsmanship of the woodwork in the home is of high quality. There are intricately carved mouldings on the angle between the ceiling and the wall, as well as the chair railing and the baseboard. These original mouldings are continuous throughout the house, and in cases where the original was damaged it has carefully been replaced. The mantelpieces and fireplaces are well preserved. When the house was modernized, the hearth was raised to conform with fire regulations, but the original mantle and stonework were preserved.
The age that produced the Felix Dale Stone House was an era that took pride in the ability to produce a well-constructed aesthetically pleasing and long-lasting residence. The Felix Dale House is a prime example of this type of residence, the quality of the design and the quality of the construction being high. Felix Dale's contribution to Centre County was important on the local level, and it is these contributions that are most important on the growth of our culture. The home's continued protection by the current owner assures its continuation as a well-preserved tribute to one of the area's first pioneering families.
Dale, G. S. The Dale Family History. Private Publisher.
Linn, J. B. History of Centre and Clinton Counties. Louis H. Everts, Philadelphia, 1883.