Exploring Lancaster’s Past at the Rock Ford Plantation | Home & Garden
Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in 2015.
Nestled in Lancaster County Central Park is an architectural gem with a long history.
Plantation Rock Ford was the home of General Edward Hand, an Irish hero of the Revolutionary War who was a compatriot of George Washington. Hand and his wife Katherine built the house between 1792 and 1794 and raised seven children there.
The name “plantation” can be a bit misleading, says Samuel Slaymaker, director of Rock Ford. It does not refer to a large estate with slave laborers, as you may have found in the South at the time, but rather refers to a large farm.
During the days when the Hands lived on the property, Rock Ford included approximately 177 acres of land on both sides of the nearby Conestoga River and was divided into upper and lower farms. Today, Rock Ford spans 33 acres of land.
After the house was sold in 1810, it belonged to a series of absent owners, says Slaymaker, and was occupied by sharecroppers.
âThe Hands were the only homeowners to ever live here, and that remains true today,â he says. âOver the years, the house has never been renovated and has never been extended. “
By the mid-1900s, the property had been purchased by Pennsylvania Power and Water Co. for use as office space and was then sold to a local waste company, where the land and mansion were to become the site of a waste incinerator and landfill. .
The Junior League of Lancaster intervened in 1957 to save the property. The organization conducted extensive research into the history of the building, restoring both the exterior and interior before opening the property to the public in 1960.
Today, Rock Ford Plantation offers tours from April through October, with seasonal events until Christmas.
Why is it called Rock Ford Plantation?
Before the Hands bought the property, the area was known as Rock Ford, referring to the Conestoga River, says Slaymaker, noting that a “ford” is a place where the water is shallow and the bottom is hard enough to be walked through easily. As for the “rock” part, there are different versions of the story, but Slaymaker says it most likely came from the rocky cliff face of the property.
What is the style of the house?
Brick house built in the classic Georgian style, Rock Ford reflects a popular house structure in Hand’s homeland as well as in the British colonies. The structure emphasizes the symmetry of doors and windows, with four-by-four plans and central halls.
âIt is considered the best-preserved example of Georgian architecture in Pennsylvania,â says Slaymaker.
What is the special feature of the porch?
Called a âcolonnaded piazza,â the wraparound porch is the only major structural part of the house that is not original. Originally built from exposed wood, it had rotted over the years, but the restoration group were able to reconstruct it using 19th-century photos to be as close to the original as possible, explains Slaymaker. The current porch was built in the mid-1960s.
What is the particularity of masonry?
Careful observation of the exterior bricks reveals a perfect example of a technique called âpencil drawing,â where a round rod was pulled through still wet mortar between the bricks, creating a concave line. This technique gave the appearance of very sharp lines in the mortar, making the less than perfect bricks appear more symmetrical.