The Muhlenberg Parsonage
Shortly after their marriage in 1745, Henry and Mary Muhlenberg built and furnished a house in Trappe with funds provided by Mary’s father, Conrad Weiser. Located near Augustus Lutheran Church, the house served as both a parsonage and the Muhlenberg family’s home. Eight of their eleven children were born there before the Muhlenbergs moved to Philadelphia in 1761 (when they returned to Trappe in 1776, they lived in the now-restored house at 201 W. Main Street). Although humble by today’s standards, the parsonage was quite impressive in its day—built of stone, with multiple rooms, two stories, and an attic—much grander than the one-room log houses in which most early settlers lived. Thanks to a generous donor, the parsonage was recently donated to Historic Trappe to ensure its long-term preservation. The three-acre property also includes an early root cellar, summer kitchen, and a small caretaker’s house.
We are now investigating the parsonage’s history and stabilizing it to prevent further deterioration while also starting to raise funds for its future restoration. Our initial efforts have focused primarily on the roof, which dates to c. 1850 and is in poor condition. A dilapidated modern lean-to was also removed and the masonry foundation patched. Temporary repairs have been made to reinforce the roof and patch holes to minimize leakage. Fragments of the original roof’s oak rafters were re-used in the cellar, which indicates that it was framed in an early Germanic style (known as a liegender Stuhl). The original roof was steeply pitched and covered in either wood shingles or clay tiles; archaeological study will be needed to look for tile fragments. We are in the process of removing non-original plaster and drywall on the inside of the house to expose the original structure. Based on our cumulative experience in restoring both the Speaker’s House and the Henry Muhlenberg House, we expect to find much more evidence in the coming months.
Determining the original roof’s appearance will simplify our efforts to consolidate the current roof while planning for and raising funds to restore the original roof. Restoration will include removal of the c. 1850 slate roof, rebuilding the peaks of the stone walls on the gable ends and any missing chimneys, raising a new roof frame, and shingling it. A similar process was followed at The Speaker’s House from 2015–17. Other future steps will include removing stucco from the exterior, which was added circa 1870 or later, and replacing the windows, doors, and cellar bulkhead to secure the building envelope before turning our attention to the interior. Fortunately, the structure itself is still sound, so restoration of the roof will preserve the building for many years.
Donations of all sizes are welcome to help us stabilize and restore the parsonage. Donate online today or via a check with “parsonage” written on the memo line and mailed to Historic Trappe, P.O. Box 26686, Trappe, PA 19426.