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Coulsontown Cottages Historic District

Peach Bottom Twp, York County, PA


Coulsontown Cottages Historic District

Photo: Home in the Coulsontown Cottages Historic District, listed on the National Register in 1985. Located on Ridge Road and Main, east of Delta. Built by Welsh slatesplitters about 1850. Photographed by wikipedia username: smallbones (own work), 2013, [public domain], accessed October, 2022.


Description

The Coulsontown Cottages Historic District [†] lies on the southern slope of a low ridge of slate about three quarters of a mile east of Delta, Pennsylvania, and 1500 feet north of the Mason-Dixon line. The village consists of four historic stone cottages, two frame houses, two modern modular banes, and a one story concrete block structure. Only the four stone dwellings and the concrete block structure are included within the district. The stone cottages date from the 1845 to 1865 period, and nearly duplicate slate quarrymen's cottages to be found in the Snowdonia region of northwest Wales. The buildings are stone, two stories in height, 2/3 by 1 bays, rectangular, with gable roofs and end chimneys. The masonry consists of large unfinished blocks laid in randan coursing with the resulting interstices filled with rubble. Inside, there are two rooms downstairs and two upstairs. The Coulsontown Cottages Historic District contains 2.11 acres and five major buildings. Of these, four are significant and one is an intrusion.

Coulsontown is situated about three quarters of a mile due east of Delta at an elevation of about 480 feet above sea level. The village is situated on the southern slope of Slate Ridge, which crests at above 620 feet and trends northeast to southwest. The village is situated at the intersection of Ridge Road, which parallels Slate Ridge, and "Main Street," which meets Ridge Road at a point about 1500 feet north of the Mason-Dixon line. The area northwest of Ridge Road is covered by fairly dense wood and brush, but the Coulsontown side has been cleared. Main Street, which is about 600 feet long and paved with gravel, doglegs at its southern end and becomes a fa.on lane. There are five lots along Main Street besides those included in the district. Two of these are vacant, one is the site of a historic frame house, and two are occupied by one story double-wide modular houses. The district itself contains one lot with an intrusive concrete block structure, and four freestanding historic stone cottages.

The cottage on parcel number six is the prototype of the Coulsontown form and holds the closest relationship with the cottages of the Welsh slate areas. This cottage practically duplicates slate quarrymen's cottages found in the Snowdonia region of northwest Wales. The form is that of a simple, fairly squat two story rectangle of moderate depth. The bay arrangement on both the front and the rear is two over three with a central doorway. The walls are constructed of massive, roughly shaped blocks of mottled red cardiff Conglomerate laid in random coursing.

The gable roof of the structure is covered with local slate, and there is a single interior stone end chimney which has a corbelled stone-course near the top. The eaves project very slightly, and there are plain rakeboards on the gables. The wall plate appears at the gable-ends as a pronounced shelf, on which the bevelled rafters directly rest. The tops of the upper story windows align with the top of the wall plate, and the lintels on the first floor are formed by single blocks of conglomerate, while the sills are formed of slate. The windows are six over six double-hung sashes, with the wooden casings joined by the pegged mortise and tenon method. The doorway has no transom, and the door reveals are not paneled. The cellar is entered through a steeply sloping exterior bulkhead.

Inside the dwelling are four rooms, two downstairs and two upstairs. The partitions which divide these rooms are simple wide-board partitions, and decorative interior woodwork is sparse, and, where present, is plain. The winding stairs are located in the left rear corner of the structure, beneath which is a small, enclosed cupboard. Adjacent to this is the fireplace, which has a simple board mantel. There is a one story frame kitchen addition in the rear of the structure, and a two story frame extension on the south elevation.

The other three cottages differ in minor ways from the first. The chimneys are brick instead of stone, and there is one on each end of the structures. The later cottages have modest corbelled brick cornices of four courses, and the slope of the roofs is more shallow than on-the first .cottage. The quoins do not extend beyond the wall lines, and sane of the exterior and interior woodwork is a bit more elaborate. However, overall, i.e. in size, layout, proportions, and masonry work, the later cottages are very similar to the first.

The Coulsontown Cottages Historic District contains 2.11 acres and five major buildings. Of these four are significant and one is an intrusion. The single intrusion is a fairly recent one story concrete block structure with a gable roof which matches the roof slope of the adjoining cottage. This, in addition to the structure's small scale and six over six windows, make the intrusion appear almost as an outbuilding. It does not detract substantially from the character of the district.

The integrity of the four significant structures in the district is generally good. All of the structures, due to their extremely small scale, have received some sort of frame rear or side extension. As is often the case, the 1:::est maintained structure has the poorest integrity, and the poorest maintained has the 1:::est. Hov.ever, none of the structures can 1:::e said to have lost its identity as a Welsh slater's cottage. Together, these structures make up more than the sum of the individual components, and provide a glimpse into an obscure and long.forgotten pocket culture.

The Coulsontown Cottages Historic District shows local significance in the areas of architecture and industry during the 1845 to 1865 period. The slate industry in the Peach Bottom region began on a large commercial scale in the 1840's when Welsh slaters b:gan to move into the area, and continued into the 1910's and 1920's. According to one source, Peach Bottom slate was "unquestionably one of the best roofing slates in the world." The Welsh were directly responsible for the developnentof the Peach Bottom slate industry, and the Coulsontown Cottages stand as York County's only architectural evidence of the once substantial ethnically Welsh community. The cottages themselves are examples of an extremely rare form. They appear in size, proportions, fenestration patterns, and method of construction, as a remarkably pure transferral of an obscure cottage form from the old world to the new, and are important resource for cultural and architectural study.

During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the predominant slate producing areas of Pennsylvania lay in the northwestern part of the Great Valley in Lehigh and Northampton counties. There was, however, a secondary slate-producing regionin Pennsylvania. This was the Peach Bottom district, a shallow ridge which begins in southern Lancaster County, crosses the Susquehanna River at Peach Bottom Ferry, extends across the southeastern tip of York County, and ends in northern Maryland. The total length of this slate ridge is about thirteen miles, and it does not exceed one-half mile in width. Although only about six miles of the ridge are in York County, that county saw the bulk of quarrying activity in the Pennsylvania portion of the district.

Significance

The first quarries to be operated on a commercial basis in the Peach Bottom district opened as early as 1785, but quarrying on a large scale did not begin until the 1840's, when Welsh immigrants, among whom were experience slaters, settled in the area. By 1850, when samples of Peach Bottom slate were awarded a prize at London's Crystal Palace Exposition, quarries were in operation in both the York and Lancaster areas of the district, as in Maryland.

In 1931, after the slate quarrying industry in the Peach Bottom region had all but vanished, thirty quarries were described in the York County portion of the district. Three of these long.abandoned quarries, although small, are in the immediate vicinity of Coulsontown. One opening, so small it is unnamed, is roughly one quarter of a mile north of the village on the southeastern slope of the slate ridge. The Lloyd quarry, about one-half mile west of Coulsontown, once produced graphite filler. The Stewart quarries, one-third of a mile west of the settlement, consist of s pair of small openings about 100 feet apart. The builders and/or residents of Coulsontown may have at one time worked these or any of the other. score or so of quarries in the immediate vicinity.

The Coulsontown cottages, erected by or for immigrant Welsh slate workers, appear in York County as an extremely rare form. Upon examination, this form may even appear as a rarity when considered within a state or national context. These cottages\ stand as the county's only architectural legacy of a once substantial ethnically Welsh community. Presently, they provide the most direct link to the slater's cultural heritage and.they appear as a remarkably pure transferral of an obscure Old World cottage form. The method of wall construction is also significant due to its atypical nature; the massive, shaped blocks with their smaller surrounding infill are unique in York County. Regionally, the form's rather shallow roof slope and its shelf-like wall plate are also very uncommon. In addition, the building material itself is rare; cardiff Conglomerate is found only in the Peach Bottom district.

The Welsh were directly responsible for the development of the Peach Bottom slate industry. That the slate quarrying industry was important in York County is perhaps most obviously evidenced by the fact that the Peach Bottom district, the area of the county farthest removed from the center of activity, had rail service north to York by the mid 1880's and south to Baltimore by1890. An additional outlet was provided by a rail spur which linked the area with the Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal at Peach Bottom Ferry. While the town of Delta reflects architecturally the wealth generated by the slate industry, only Coulsontown remains to mark the lifestyle of the lower echelon pit workers. These cottages are a highly important resource for cultural and architectural study.

Adapted from: Thomas L Schaefer and revised by Jay R. Barshinger. istoric York, Inc., Coulsontown Cottages Historic District, nomination document, 1981, revised 1984, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Street Names
Main Street • Ridge Road