Boiling Springs Historic District
The Boiling Springs Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.
Boiling Springs is a small, provincial, nineteenth century village that has remained virtually intact since its initial development. The Boiling Springs Historic District consists of the seven acre, elongated, man-made lake, the springs that feed the lake at its north end, the banks and structures that, surround it, and the original six block area of the village. Initial settlement of the area began in the 1740's with the establishment of the grist mill. In the 1750's an important industry of iron manufacture was begun along the east shore of the lake, and continued until the end of the 19th century. The major period of residential development was from 1845, when the village was formally laid out, to the end of the 19th century. The village was significant between 1895 and 1930 for its Trolley Park and the recreational activities it offered to visitors from throughout the Cumberland Valley. A few significant buildings, such as the grist mill, ironmaster's mansion, and the tavern, predate the mid-to-late 19th century dwellings in the village. Many of these Federal with Italianate two and one-half story, gable roof dwellings, of frame or brick, retain their original architectural details; lintels, pediments, cornices, brackets, and shutters. Most of the buildings abut the sidewalk and are unattached. Of the 141 structures in the Boiling Springs Historic District (not including outbuildings) fourteen are intrusions because of age, five are significant and 122 are contributing. Included in the Boiling Springs Historic District are three churches, two stores, one swimming pool, one restaurant, and one office building. The balance of the buildings are residences. The Boiling Springs Historic District maintains a high degree of integrity. The original homes remain intact with the addition of modern conveniences and some infill. The finer homes along the lake front have been well maintained or are undergoing restoration and/or renovation.
Several notable structures are located on the banks of the lake. A mid 18th century grist mill is located on the southeast shore. This building is now converted into apartments. On the east shore, remaining from the prerevolutionary iron forge complex, are the original forge and the ironmaster's mansion with the remnants of its terraced gardens. This 1795 Georgian structure is the most outstanding example of architecture in the Boiling Springs Historic District and of major historical significance as the home of the Ege family. The forge has been repointed and is the focal point of a small township park. The mansion is presently in a deteriorating condition and is uninhabited. The stone stables (1829) from the iron works are now apartments. A later forge building (1850's) is being used as a bathhouse for the Boiling Springs swimming pool. A picturesque, natural stone three arch bridge, built in 1854, stands behind the pool and mill, spanning the Yellow Breeches Creek. On the land north of the lake is the restored Boiling Springs Tavern (1832) and one of the major springs that feed the lake. The natural, wooded area adjacent to the spring is now a municipal park. A steep slope separates the spring, tavern and the lake from the new subdivisions to the north. A steep, wooded ridge visually separates the eastern lake shore from its adjoining properties.
The 19th century residential areas/streets are on lands northwest and west of the lake. Front Street runs north and south, parallel to and along the west shore of the lake. Many of Boiling Springs' wealthier citizens lived on Front Street and the handsome homes they built overlook the lake. Parallel to Front Street are Walnut and High Streets. First, Second, Third and Fourth Streets run east and west, perpendicular to the lake. These streets were all included in the original plan for the village when it was laid out in 1845.
Initial growth (1845-1860) in the village was slow and took place principally on First and Front Streets. These first homes are large, two and one-half story, Federal/Italianate transition style with some modest decorative details. Notable among these early homes are: 101 Front Street, 111 Front Street, 104 First Street, 202 W. First Street, and 208 W. First Street.
In the 1860's and 1870's, growth took place primarily on Third Street where a commercial section developed. Major commercial establishments were located at 109/111 Third Street, and 121 Third Street. The commercial buildings characteristically have pedimented window headers and elaborate brackets and cornices. Today, old store fronts converted into residences as well as a small delicatessen are found along Third Street. Homes were constructed during this period primarily on Front, Second and Third Streets. Many of these homes continued the Federal with Italianate tradition but became somewhat more sophisticated than the earlier homes. 207 W. First Street, 115 Second Street, 125 Third Street, 112 Fourth Street, and 201 Walnut Street are important structures with Federal with Italianate features. Several homes built during this period are fine examples of other late 19th century architecture. 119 Third Street is an admirable Gothic Villa, 102 Third Street is a charming Victorian with mansard roof, 113 Fourth Street is a quaint Gothic cottage, 215 and 217 Front Street is a handsome Second Empire home, and 219 Front Street is a unique example of Queen Anne style. These buildings are situated at intervals within the Boiling Springs Historic District rather than cloistered in one area.
From the 1880's to 1900's, additional modest residences were built, especially on Fourth and Walnut Streets. These homes tend to be small, frame, two-story buildings with minimal decoration. They reflect the social status and financial means of their proprietors. Little building took place again until the 1930's and 1940's when a number of Bungalow style homes were built in the village and in the surrounding area. Interesting examples of the Bungalow style are 106 W. First Street and 308 Walnut Street.
The spaces formed between the lake and surrounding streets and buildings provide space for strolling, picnicking, running, or playing, as well as the boating and fishing available on the lake itself. A prominent space, next to a main intersection by the tavern on the northwest shore, displays a clock tower and military machine gun as monuments to foreign wars. Two old pavilions converted into a tackle shop and a home cling to the north edge of the lake as reminders of the once popular trolley park that surrounded the lake during the late 1800's and early 1900's. A small hump-backed bridge at the southern end of the lake was constructed in 1913 to allow boats to pass under.
There are only fourteen intrusions in the Boiling Springs Historic District. Eight of these are infills built after 1930 but in a style that blends with neighboring structures. Two structures are located in alleys, out of view. Only four are modern structures out of character with the district.
Eighty percent of the buildings that are not considered intrusions are either unaltered or have superficial alterations only. The second floors are often not altered. Most homes are in good or excellent condition. There is, consequently, a high degree of integrity within the Boiling Springs Historic District, and the late 19th century streetscape has been well preserved. The words of Bennett Bellman, as he described the village in the 1886 History of Cumberland and Adams Counties, are as true today as they were then, "The town has many shady trees and, situated as it is upon the beautiful spring from which it derives its name, and with exceptionally beautiful scenery surrounding it, promises to become, if it is not already, as beautiful a town as can be found in the Cumberland Valley."
Boiling Springs is a unique 18th century industrial settlement that became a 19th century provincial village; it developed at the site of a large spring-fed lake. The multi-layered history of this area revolves around its important water resources. In colonial times a grist mill and a significant industry of iron manufacture dominated the village. During pre Civil War times, Boiling Springs was a stop on the underground railroad system. The village formally developed after 1845 in conjunction with its iron industry, and continued to grow until the end of the 19th century. During the late 1800's and early 1900's, the lake area was the site of one of the major trolley parks of the Cumberland Valley, and it is now an angling center of considerable importance. The Boiling Springs Historic District reflects two and a half centuries of its past, and survives as an excellent example of an iron manufacture village, shaped by the industrialists and people who lived and worked here. An excellent selection of local architecture, ranging from late 18th century Georgian to early 20th century, with important examples of Federal/Italianate, reflects the evolution of building styles.
The village of Boiling Springs is situated on land that was originally a part of a tract granted to Rev. Richard Peters by the Penn family in 1762. The 398 acre tract was referred to as the Boiling Springs. The springs that feed the Boiling Springs Lake are the seventh largest in Pennsylvania, delivering 20.4 million gallons of crystal clear, 55 degree water a day, and bubble up to eighteen inches high, to give the town its name. The lake dates back to the 1730's when its waters were dammed up to power a grist mill of the same vintage which still stands on the lake's southeast shore. By 1760, the village consisted of the mill, "miller's house," a blacksmith shop, two store dwellings and several-nearby farms.
A forge was erected at Boiling Springs on lands east of the lake about 1750. Records indicate this to be the oldest furnace in Pennsylvania, west of the Susquehanna. It also represents the beginning of industrial development in the Cumberland Valley. The establishment of the Carlisle Iron Works here in 1762 was of political as well as commercial significance. The manufacture of iron products was contraband in the Colonies at the time. The Carlisle Iron Works was located in a secluded spot to escape detection and therefore avoided England's restrictions. During the evolution, cannons and other munitions were manufactured here for the Continental Army. The original forge has been stabilized and remains as a visual reminder of this early iron manufacture. This area is now a municipal park.
The iron industry drew men of capital and status to Boiling Springs. Michael Ege, younger brother of George, the noted ironmaster of Berks County, gradually acquired interest in the iron works until he became its sole owner in 1792. The Ege family is of major importance in the history of the Pennsylvania iron industry. Three generations of Eges were actively involved in iron manufacture. At Boiling Springs, Michael Ege reached his height of authority and great wealth. He developed an "iron plantation" around his mansion house which he built in 1795. This handsome Georgian structure overlooks the lake and forge area. A community of workers lived in cabins near the forge between the lake and the Yellow Breeches Creek. Ege's influence reached throughout the valley because of his substantial land holdings, notably at Pine Grove. He became the sole possessor of four furnaces and two forges, and had undisputed rights to about twenty-five contiguous miles of mountain tracts of virgin timber and rich ore deposits.
Other than in the area of the iron works, there was little development around the lake during the 1815-1845 period. Michael Ege added a new metal furnace and another forge, additional housing for the over 200 workmen, and stables. The grist mill was acquired by him in 1815 for feed and flour for his estate. Only a few dwellings existed before the founding of the village. The stone tavern at the upper end of the lake was built c.1832. The Breckbill stone farm house (c.1835) that stood on the northwest corner of Front and First Streets was the second structure built in that area. The old frame house on Main Street above High Street, and the brick house opposite, existed, as well as an old log house that stood on the hill near where Third Street intersects Front Street.
Michael Ege's skill, in large degree was developed in his son, Michael Jr., to whom the works passed in 1815 when the elder Michael died. On the death of Michael Jr. in 1827, the plant began to decline; the estate passed to his minor son, Peter F. Ege, who lost the works in 1859. By 1863, D.V. Ahl gained control of the company and operated it until 1885. In 1882 he built a large anthracite furnace a short distance from the first furnace. The last ironmaster of the Carlisle Iron Works was J.C. Bucher, who operated the furnace until 1894.
The village of Boiling Springs was formally laid out in 1845 by Daniel Kauffman, whose family had owned all the land on which the village was built since 1808. The village was laid out in wide streets; Main (First), Second, Third and Fourth, running east and west; Front, Walnut, and Cherry (High), running north and south. This grid plan with numbered and tree named streets is a conventional Pennsylvania plan like Harrisburg and Philadelphia. The iron industry and a large immigration of German settlers from York County were the main reasons for the subsequent growth of the village. Some of these German settlers were employed at the nearby ore banks and iron works, but many were tradesmen, providing services to the growing village and surrounding farms. The village had several dry goods merchants, blacksmiths, builders, carpenters, and a shoemaker, coachmaker, wagonmaker, tinner, harnessmaker, butcher, and baker. In 1872, the village contained about 75 dwellings and had a population of about 400. During the same year, Cary W. Ahl, enclosed the lake with a stone wall and planted shade trees on the adjacent grounds. By 1885, Boiling Springs had, in addition to the iron works, a post office, railroad station, three churches, three schoolhouses, six stores, many private dwellings, and a population of about 500. Also, the villa had become an expression of social hierarchy in architecture. The larger and more ornate homes of the wealthy upper class are located on Front Street overlooking the lake. The commercial district is in the center of the village on Third Street. The modest homes of the middle class make up the remainder of the village with the three churches dispersed throughout.
In the period preceding the Civil War, Boiling Springs was a stop on the underground railroad system. Runaway slaves were brought from Chambersburg along the South Mountain to Boiling Springs. They were hidden in Daniel Kauffman's barn, and an underground room situated in the hill across the road from the Ironmaster's Mansion. This activity led to an interest in the cause of abolition on the part of some people in the village. A sympathy for the slaves of the south was felt at an early day by the people of the area. In 1847 a famous and controversial court case (Oliver vs. Kauffman) resulted from Daniel Kauffman's involvement in the underground railroad. He was accused of housing and assisting twelve slaves who had escaped from the property of Mary Oliver in Washington County, Maryland. Kauffman was found guilty and ordered to pay damages of $2000. The case was appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and reversed. Again, a later suit was instituted against Kauffman and two of his witnesses in the United States Circuit Court in Philadelphia. Abolition societies of the time greatly publicized this case, circulated pamphlets in the area, and solicited public support and money. Kauffman was defended by three of the most learned lawyers of the country, Thaddeus Stevens, William B. Reed and David Paul Brown. After two trials, the final verdict was rendered against Kauffman for $2800 damages and $1200 costs.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the lake area gradually became a popular spot for recreation because of its uniqueness and natural beauty. People came for boat rides on the lake and to carry home jugs of pure water from the springs. In 1895 the Valley Traction Company, realizing the commercial possibilities of the lake area, laid a trolley line from Carlisle to Boiling Springs. In 1900 Valley Traction leased the lake and created a delightful picnic grounds and pleasure resort. This park made Boiling Springs a popular vacation and holiday spot and a prestigious residential community. Trolley lines were extended throughout the valley and crowds traveled regularly from Carlisle, Mechanicsburg and Harrisburg to enjoy the many attractions of the lakeside park, which included dances, picnics, a deer park, a merry-go-round, a small train, novelty stands, refreshments, sports and pleasure boating. In 1926 the trolley service began to dwindle and was eventually stopped in 1930 when the park was closed. The only park buildings still standing are the Park Novelty Store, now a private cottage, and the Dance Pavilion, now the Yellow Breeches Fly and Tackle Shop.
In the last half century Boiling Springs has gained renown as one of the principal centers of American fly fishing. With Charles Fox in Carlisle and Vincent Marinaro in Mechanicsburg, it has been prominently featured in the literature of angling. Principals of habitat management and the conservation of a wild resource have been established in the value system of American fishing out of the Boiling Springs Yellow Breeches experience. As the commercial/industrial uses have changed the recreational use has taken on a larger role in the community.
The Boiling Springs Historic District epitomizes a provincial village that evolved from a combination of man's ingenuity and nature's resources. Notable vestiges of all periods of its development survive as reminders of its story, and blend together to create an entity worth of recognition and preservation.
Atlas of Cumberland County, PA (New York: F.A. Beers, 1872), p. 34.
Beautiful Boiling Springs Park (promotional pamphlet published by the Valley Traction Company, Lemoyne, PA), no date.
Bining, Arthur Cecil, Pennsylvania Iron Manufacture in the Eighteenth Century (2nd ed.; Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1979).
Biographical Annals of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania (Chicago: The Genealogical Publishing Co., 1905).
"Court Records of Mary Oliver et al vs. Daniel Kaufman," November Court of 1847, Cumberland Co., Papers No. 32, 33, 34, 35, in File Box Nov. 1847, Jan. 1848, indexed in Appearance Docket Book No. 23, 1846-1847, Office of the Prothonotary, Cumberland County Court House, Carlisle, PA.
Ege, Thompson P., History and Genealogy of the Ege Family (Harrisburg, PA., The Star Printing Company, 1911).
Flower, Lenore Embick, "Iron Furnaces in the Cumberland Valley," Antiques Magazine, May 1944, pp. 245-247.
Forges and Furnaces in the Province of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Pa. Society of the Colonial Dames of American Publication, 111, 1914), pp. 115-118, 172-175.
Goodyear, B. K., "Blast Furnaces of Cumberland County," Pamphlet. Paper read before Hamilton Library Assoc., Carlisle, PA, 1903.
Historic South Middleton Township (Lemoyne: Conley & Enck, 1976).
History of Cumberland and Adam County (Chicago: Warner, Beers & Co., 1886), pp. 347-351, 549-562.
Miller, John R., "Callapatscink: The Yellow Breeches Creek," Paper read before the Cumberland County Historical Society, Nov. 26, 1909.
Panther, Ida S., Doctor and Annie (New York: Carlton Press, Inc., 1981), pp. 26-38.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 29, 1934, p. 14 A Col. 1, clipping owned by Paul Bucher, Box 82, Boiling Springs, PA.
Thompson, D. W., chairman of Ed. Committee, Two Hundred Years in Cumberland County (Carlisle, PA, The Hamilton Library and Historical Association of Cumberland County, 1951), pp. 172-173, 180.
Wing, Conway P., History of Cumberland County, PA (Philadelphia: James D. Scott, 1879), pp. 215-220.
Zeamer, Jeriemiah. Manuscript Notes (Carlisle, PA, Cumberland County Historical Society and Hamilton Library Assn., approximately during the years of 1845 to 1853).