Mt. Gretna, Pa. . . .'Not a place, but a spirit." -- Marlin Seiders
February 1, 2011
Man-about-town, bon vivant and stained glass artisan
Dale Grundon can't be sure,
but he thinks there may be fewer people in town this
Timber Hills resident Sarah Ellis says she walked all the
way around the lake a few days ago without seeing a single soul. In the
last several years, "that's not been unusual," she says.
Perhaps everyone's gone to Florida,
Arizona or California. Or maybe to one of those islands
where people favor frothy drinks dotted with cherries,
orange slices and tiny umbrellas. If so, they're missing
a distinctive season of Mt. Gretna, perhaps one of its
For this is the time of year when a rare essence spreads
across the landscape. Beneath a blanket of white, Mt.
Gretna's iconic image -- the one known to visitors who
come only in summer -- suddenly is transformed.
Draped in an ermine mantle -- white, fluffy and pure
-- edged occasionally by minus degree temperatures guaranteed
to etch enduring memories of a season unrivaled, it
is a time when year-rounders discover a richness
that summer residents may never come to know.
It is said that in a normal year, the wintertime population
here falls from 2,500 to around 1,500. Perhaps the absence
of people, however, is itself a myth. Maybe those who
remain merely choose to huddle indoors, lured by friends,
firesides and copious cups of hot chocolate and good
Add to that the alluring mixture of freshly whipped
snow in a swirl of sugar, vanilla, fresh eggs and evaporated
milk, and the snowcream medley proves too tempting to pass up. Not
perhaps, for a season in Sarasota.
To be sure, it is a quieter time. The sounds of February
may be muted. Friends may seem scattered. But something
about the bracing qualities of shared silence proves
riveting. A sensibility perhaps unknown to those who
scamper off to warmer spots at summer's end. Something
that, even in winter, stirs in these cottages on a hill.
Perhaps that is why the opening lines of a poem by Ann
Hark, a Ladies' Home Journal writer of the flapper era who lived and wrote
in a Mt. Gretna cottage, reverberate still --
even in the quiet of winter: Not
for me a hiving city. Not for me the pulsing shore.
But a little woodland corner -- This I ask and nothing
more. . . .
What the Real Estate Market Portends
When it comes to assessing the
strength of the economy, Mt. Gretnans have
their own measuring sticks. Some look to butterbean sales at Marion
Brubaker's roadside stand along Route 117. Others stick a finger in the
wind when it's art show weekend, sometimes
overlooking the fact that a rainy Saturday or Sunday can throw off
statistical comparisons. Still others cast an eye over crowds at the
Playhouse, occasionally mesmerized by the impact of a single star-studded
sellout or perhaps overstating the dark omen of vacant seats on what may
turn out to be the hottest night of the summer.
So for the most accurate measure, one must turn
to more reliable indices. It might come down to Mary Hernley's
flower sales or, equally revealing, the ebbs and flows of Mt. Gretna's
real estate marketplace.
What the home sales statistics revealed last
year are a few hopeful glimmers, a suggestion that sellers' expectations
may now be a bit more realistic, and that buyers seeking bargains may be
edging ever closer to a decision to finally act.
But don't think the market is anywhere yet close
to a return of the peaks of two or three years ago, say Mt. Gretna's real
GLIMMER OF A COMEBACK?
27 25 16
Avg. $ Price 230,802 269,000
272,872 239,531 242,000
Mt. Gretna Realty
Mt. Gretna Realty owner Fred Schaeffer, who has
been tracking property sales for the past quarter century, sums it up:
"The broad picture is that prices today are off about 12% from their
peaks of 2007 and 2008," he says. "While that's not bad
compared to California, Nevada and Florida (where sales dropped 30%), the
fact is that it took longer to hit here. The decline wasn't as severe,
but it did occur. And that reality is now sinking in among sellers."
The good news, he says, is
that average selling prices rose a bit in 2010, "so we might be on
the rebound." But he believes that it will take time to get back to
the highs of 2007 and 2008. "I think it's going to be really slow.
It might be years before it gets there again," he
Brownstone Realty's Emi Snavely, another veteran realtor,
agrees. Yet she remains optimistic. "Slow sales in Mt. Gretna are
not because we don't have good homes to offer. Ours are really top notch.
And if somebody's looking for a second home, there's no better place to
find it and no better time to buy."
Fred's advice to sellers?
"You have to be realistic. Look at recent sales prices. The
encouraging news is that it looks like the bottom is now over. So the
marketplace is either going to be steady, based on prices of the previous
two years, or we may see a slow price increase. But don't expect to see
agrees with that assessment, counseling buyers that "prices today
are as low as they've been in a long time. So the time to buy is
* Editor's Note: Penn Realty owner Joe Wentzel,
who normally participates in this annual roundup, was out of town when
this report was compiled.
In a Turbulent Marketplace, Keys that
Mt. Gretna Real Estate
Especially among younger
buyers."Mt. Gretna is unique, surrounded by land that can't be built
on," says Fred Schaeffer. "With the game lands, Governor Dick
Park, the rail-trail, cross-country skiing, mountain biking and hiking,
Mt. Gretna appeals to people who want an active lifestyle."
"Mt. Gretna's cultural
aspects have always been a draw," says Emi Snavely.
"People look forward to all that Mt. Gretna has to offer:
its theater, its music, its summer programs and now even things like birding."
"Everyone benefits from
the summer concerts, plays and cultural programs," echoes Fred.
"If those things suddenly went away, everybody in town would be
affected. Not just those who live in cottages (which generally have
higher per-square-foot prices than suburban-style houses). Whether you're
in Timber Hills, Timber Bridge or elsewhere, even though we have many
different local governments, we're all a part of the same
community," he says.
"This may be the toughest
market I've ever seen," says Emi, "but it's not because of the
product. We have top-of-the line things to offer people who are in the
market for second homes. For buyers, there's simply no advantage in
"Mt. Gretna is always
going to be a nice place to live," adds Fred. "It's always
going to maintain its value. It may not increase as much as it did over
previous years. But there's still going to be a good demand for Mt.
Maddy Allwein joins the parade this month
to remind everyone to fill up their water bottles for the Mt. Gretna Fire
Department's "Dimes in a Bottle" campaign.
The Cedar Crest High sophomore
is the daughter of Lebanon Avenue
Photo: Cindi Dixon
residents Drew and Linda Allwein. Maddy and the
volunteers are counting on Mt. Gretnans to fill those bottles with dimes (folding
currency works, too) for a collection that will help "burn the
mortgage" on that new addition at the fire hall.
An enthusiastic musician who
has twice been chosen to perform in invitation-only-orchestras (the
Lancaster-Lebanon County Orchestra and, more recently, the District
Band), Maddy also toured Germany, France,
Austria and Switzerland last summer with her close friend Nicole Roberts
as part of the American Music Band.
She plans to combine music and
business studies in college.
What might surprise you about Maddy? She's eager to get out of bed at the crack of
dawn to share duck hunting adventures -- joining her dad and granddad
(borough president Chuck Allwein).
The fire department's
"Dimes-in-a-Bottle" campaign ends April 10 when everyone's
invited to bring their newly filled bottles to the fire hall for a big
Erin Hannigan, who once entertained Valley
Road neighbors as she practiced on her parents' screened
porch and scooped ice cream at the Jigger Sh
op for four summers, just added another achievement
to a stellar list of credits.
The Dallas Symphony Orchestra's principal oboist recently
finished that city's White Rock Half Marathon (which
started out in 35-degree temperatures0).
I run, I feel like I can't do anything wrong,"
she told a Dallas Morning
"I may not b
e the strongest or the fastest,
but I've gotten so much out of running," she says.
She took up running to ease back and cramped muscle
problems, likely the result of endless hours of practice
combined with her busy schedule as an adjunct professor
at Southern Methodist University. She performed in Gretna
Music's winter series a few years ago. In the audience
was a sizable Jigger Shop contingent including Chuck
and Charlotte Allwein and their son Drew and daughter-in-law Linda.
If you'll be in Dallas April
28-May 1, stop by. Erin will perform the Strauss Concerto in D major for
Oboe and Small Orchestra.
lives in nearby Lititz and is one of the Lancaster daily newspaper's most
gifted writers, on the topic of "last
meals." What would show up on Cindy's list? "Salmon on the grill;
homemade macaroni and cheese; Dad's waffles with bacon, coconut cake
(with the green coconut like my Mom used on her Easter cake), and a hot
fudge sundae with peanut butter ice cream served in a metal dish, just as
they do at Mt. Gretna's Jigger Shop."
At a small church in midwinter: a big agenda
"Believe it or not, winter is a busy time at the church," says
Pastor Mike Remel, who leads a tiny but devoted
congregation at the town's only house of worship.
Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church, to the surprise of many, gets off to
an exuberant start every Monday morning, rumbling to the music of Zumba Gold, an exercise group that is but one of
several groups that use the church's facilities.
Diversity becomes an integral part of the delights that now attract
growing numbers of people to the church on Fourth Street and Boehm
That includes children.
Last month, the church expanded its Sunday School program to include an
additional children's class. Youngsters in grades three to five now meet
during the 10:00 a.m. worship service, in addition to Nursery and
Beginners classes which also meet during that time.
favorite at Nursery School
Feb. 2 at the nursery school, there's an event everyone looks forward to:
the annual celebration of Groundhog Day, with a visit from Penny (left),
Mt. Gretna's very own groundhog. She drops in to meet the children (ages
3 to 4) who sometimes prove unusually sophisticated. "There's a man
inside that suit. I know. I've been to Disneyworld," said one.
Pastor Mike says the church members will be fueling up for the Big Game
with their annual Souper Bowl Sunday, Feb. 6.
On that happy occasion, everyone will gather in the social hall following
the 10:00 a.m. service for homemade soup and fellowship.
Besides being lots of fun, the event also helps a local food bank since
everyone usually brings a can of soup or monetary donation to help the
local food pantry.
Feb. 23 will mark another favorite time of the month: An assembly that
turns the church into a "Gathering Place." There, a luncheon
awaits everyone from the community who cares to stop by and join in the
fun at noon for conversation, conviviality and a "great home-cooked
meal," says the enthusiastic reverend.
Pastor Mike also notes that the choir already is tuning up with
rehearsals for the Lenten Season. With a flourish he announces,
from the 2011 calendar by Carol Snyder
"heads up; rumor has it that the Sunday School kids are
planning (with the help and guidance of their teachers) another program
for Palm Sunday."
Somehow, with its tiny congregation and band of energized volunteers, the
church -- tucked away in the Campmeeting in
what one might have thought would be the quietest time of the year -- is
a minor miracle, regularly occurring.
A Reminder to Mt. Gretna Residents:
This is the time of year when ice storms can bring down tree limbs
and cause power outages. Remember to call Met-Ed immediately when you
lose power. Met-Ed prioritizes its responses, giving top priority to
outages affecting the greatest numbers of people. The number to
Mt. Gretna Fire Company provides emergency shelter during power outages
lasting more than three hours.
Remember to bring medications and medical equipment; a sleeping bag or
blanket and pillows; food for yourself and family members; books, games
and other materials to help pass the time and, if the stay is likely to
be for several days, a change of clothes. Pets cannot be accommodated.
Here's the latest Fire Department
Save on everything from pizzas,
computer services and bowling to pet toys, greens fees and nail care with
the fire department's new Merchant Discount Card. You can even use it to
slim down this year at Curves!
firefighters' newest fundraiser that -- with a $20 donation -- offers a
year's worth of savings.
More than 20
local merchants at spots like the Hideaway, Tony's
Mining Company, Mt. Gretna Pizzeria, Mt. Gretna Emporium, Tree Top Golf
Course, Lazer Factory and other outlets are
through Joe Shay [717-821-6413] or Mark Miller [717-269-8961], the cards
offer money-saving discounts through Jan. 22, 2012.
In other news. . .
Gretna's newest residents: Lois Herr, a former candidate for the 16th
Congressional District (Lancaster) seat held by Republican Joe Pitts. A
Lancaster newspaper reported that she does not intend to seek the seat
now held by Congressman Tim Holden, Pennsylvania's senior Democrat. Lois,
a former telecommunications executive, served under President Gerald Ford
in the Office of Management and Budget. She is the author of two books,
including one, "Dear Coach: Letters Home from WWII," based
on letters to her dad from athletes he had coached at Elizabethtown
winter's doldrums with these sparkling solutions:
Gretna Theatre presents a Valentine's Weekend
12-13 at Myerstown's Lantern Lodge, a romantic evening with Broadway stars Timothy Shew
and Jane Brockman in "Love 'Round the Piano."
company also plans a bus trip to see Jersey Boys on Broadway March 26.
Click http://www.gretnatheatre.com/ for details.
Valentine's treat to keep in mind: Le Sorelle Porch and Pantry's special dinner,
Saturday, Feb. 12 from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. For details, see their new
month at Gretna
Music: another opportunity to combine dinner, a pre-concert talk and
then an evening of fine music with Imani Winds
March 5 on the campus of Elizabethtown College. Details appear online at http://www.gretnamusic.org/etown/default.htm
Perhaps it's the persistence
of what already seems a long winter. Or maybe it's because Mt. Gretnans have a long tradition of playing board games
out on their expansive front porches. But there's something intrinsically
appealing about the latest idea from those imaginative volunteers at the Mt. Gretna Fire Company.
next? A Family Game Night at the fire hall. Coming this
Saturday (Feb. 5) from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m., it's not really a fundraiser.
Rather, "it's just an opportunity for a community get-together in
the middle of this relentless winter," says organizer Karen Lynch.
"A friend does this at her church. I thought it might be something
fun to try," she says. "If it goes over well, maybe we'll do it
more than once a year." To join in the fun, bring your family and
friends, your favorite game and a dessert or snack to share.
Spacht (right) was scheduled to
describe his work at a Winterites' meeting
today (Feb. 1), but the session has been canceled because of expected bad
weather. Planners hope to reschedule his appearance at a later
date. Spacht is part of a Community Supported
Agriculture program that can, if enough people are interested, make
weekly produce deliveries to places such as Mt. Gretna. A grower of
mostly medicinal herbs and rare specialty varieties of fruits and
vegetables, he also manages Lancaster FarmFresh
Company, a non-profit organic farmers' co-op. Now
in their 57th year, the Winterites encourage
everyone in the Mt. Gretna area, both women and men, to join them
Tuesday, March 1, when they will hear a presentation on search and rescue
hounds. Their monthly meetings begin at 1 p.m. in the Mt. Gretna fire
Robert H. Coleman impersonator Franklin Bergman brings the
iron industry magnate to life Tuesday, Feb. 8 at Freeman Hall auditorium,
Cornwall Manor. The 7:00 p.m. lecture, with Bergman in period costume, is
the second in a series of Friends of Coleman Iron Furnace programs.
Timber Hills home of Ceylon
and Karen Leitzel was the spotlight feature of Professional Remodeler magazine last month. An article describes how the couple, with
the help of architect Don Klinger (Karen's uncle), transformed a
"plain jane 1970 two-story" suburban
home on Village Lane into the "ornate, luxurious, Victorian-style
'Painted Lady' they envisioned that it could become," says the
magazine's writer. The project took two years to complete, but the wait
was worth it, says Ceylon.
From a guy who
knows how to enjoy one!
In the middle of winter, here's what you call a party
he's known as SuperPumpkin, parading down Route
117 with a street-filled assembly of
goblins who look on him in utter amazement.
Junk Day," he's the happy hot dog vendor of Lancaster Avenue,
welcoming passersby to an impromptu supper of succulent wieners roasted
on a discarded grill he discovered years ago. It's a celebration of --
well, nothing in particular -- except just another excuse to have a
month, Thatcher Bornman -- Mt. Gretna's
loveable free spirit -- is helping whip up enthusiasm for the Mental
Health Association's Feb. 19 bash at Marabelle's
Waterfall Room in Lebanon.
dance party for all ages," says Thatch, who serves on the
association's board of directors. He devotes much of his attention to a
bipolar disorder and depression support group, available without charge
to Lebanon County residents.
got everything for this occasion -- even a limbo line," says Thatch,
who knows how to throw a party that positively everyone enjoys.
cost is $20 and includes snacks and refreshments, door prizes, raffle
baskets and a dessert table. There's also a cash bar.
Doors open at
8:00 p.m. at the ballroom entrance, to the rear of the building at 1352
Cumberland St., Lebanon.
Speaking of pictures. . .
The joys of winter as seen through the viewfinders of Mt. Gretna
These scenes from the storms of January capture a wonderland for all who
were here to enjoy them. . . recorded by photographers Dale Grundon, Madelaine Gray,
and Judy Bojko.
Campmeeting cottage, you can bet there's hot
When it comes to clearing snow, nobody does it better.
is your idea of a wonderland? Forget it!"
canoe permits needed... for today, at least
to guy above (with the mustache):"I'm with you, pal"
in winter, at the Hall of Philosophy the colors unfurl
bow to the onset of winter's first big storm
The Campmeeting's narrow streets call for special
woods these are I think I know...."
never guess, but that's cross-country skier Elaine Feather, out
outside mean somebody's inside the pizzeria having breakfast
Yes, there's something special
about winter in Mt. Gretna: A time for friends and family in a season
where memories are made. . . in a place unlike
none other, anywhere on earth.
LaVerne Wiebenga Hunley 1932-2011
If there's a common thread among those who seem
to get the most out of living in Mt. Gretna,
it may be something like this: Love life and the people
around you. Look for ways to make yourself useful. And don't take yourself too seriously.
who lived here for more than four decades and died in
a Lebanon hospital Jan. 18, deftly combined tho
se qualities. She met Jim, her
future husband, at the lake in the 1940s. He was an
accomplished swimmer, she a lifeguard. They were married
in 1953. Seven years later, they moved to Mt. Gretna,
first in a log home at 4th and Birch, then to a cottage
at 3rd and Maple, where their neighbors included multiple
generations of the Hoober
family, the Hoffman-Garman family, the Louders and Nancy and Russell Hatz.
She and Jim were enthusiastic volunteers at the fire
company; LaVerne organized a subscription renewal program for
Gretna Theatre, was a big supporter of Music at Gretna,
and supervised the box office at the Playhouse, where
she also kept the books and helped with fundraising
Known as the "frog lady" because of a collection
of stuffed frogs she took along when she moved to a
retirement home after Jim's death, she said the decorative
pets reminded her of a frog pond in back of her house.
She didn't mind the nickname, nor dressing
up occasionally in funny hats that she sometimes fashioned
for herself (like the one pictured, made from assorted
artificial flowers she had lying around and created
especially for a Victorian Christmas Tea in 2006). "She
loved dressing up and wearing silly hats," says
her cousin Joan Terwilliger.
A student at the Peabody Institute and Lebanon Valley
College, she had been a music teacher and choir director.
She and her husband had also contributed to a restoration
of the C.S.S. Hunley, the
Confederate submarine that became the first to be used
in warfare. In addition to her husband, she was also
preceded in death by their daughter, Ruth Angel Hunley.
Contributions in her memory are being received by the
Humane Society of Lebanon County, Annville Free Library
and the Sexual Assault Resource and Counseling Center
of Lebanon County.
Other newsletters you
may like to receive. . .
Mt. Gretna Updates -- Issued occasionally by e-mail and primarily of interest to
year-round residents. News of temporary road closings, utility repairs
and other conditions affecting people who live in the seven neighborhoods
served by the Mt. Gretna post office. Send an e-mail request, with
"LOCAL UPDATES" in subject line, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Week in Mt.
Gretna -- Issued during summer months; a week-by-week
listing of local events, sent by e-mail on request. To add your name to
the mailing list, e-mail email@example.com.
Mt. Gretna Arts
Council Newsletter -- Now available ONLY
online (no mailed copies). Updated
to include news concerning groups dedicated to the arts in Mt. Gretna,
Calendar of Events, Summer Premier and Arts
Council scholarships. Click
Gretna Music bulletins -- Updates on concert events, schedule changes and other news.
See "Join Our Mailing List" at http://gretnamusic.org/
Mt. Gretna Historical
Society Newsletter -- New Winter
Edition Now Online at http://www.mtgretnahistory.org/newsletter.php
Mt. Gretna Bible
Festival Newsletter -- Mailed in the spring and fall without
charge. Send request to Bible Festival, P.O. Box 408, Mt. Gretna, PA
Governor Dick Park
Newsletter -- New Winter Edition Now Online and by e-mail. See http://by149w.bay149.mail.live.com/?rru=home&livecom=1
Department E-Mail Bulletins --
issued as warranted to update residents on events of community interest,
including crime alerts. To add your name to the mailing list, e-mail
request to firstname.lastname@example.org
Township Newsletter -- of primary interest to Mt. Gretnans in Timber Hills, Conewago
Hill and Timber Bridge; online at http://southlondonderry.org/.
Campmeeting Newsletter -- Available online and mailed to residents.
Mt. Gretna Heights
Newsletter -- e-mailed to Heights residents. Address inquiries
to Michelle Shay, email@example.com.
This unofficial community newsletter has no affiliation with any
particular group or organization and no political, philosophical or
commercial axe to grind.
Mainly, this is a retirement hobby, much as woodworking, crossword
puzzles or gardening might be for others. It has the dual virtue of
keeping us in touch with a community we love and out of the kitchen
where we're apt to make a mess.
We send this letter by e-mail to anyone who asks for it. There is no
charge and no expectation of anything other than friendship,
conviviality and a gentle prodding when we err.
Don't expect to find everything in this newsletter. Some
topics are better left to journalists who are smarter, more skilled and
possessed of greater insights on a wide range of fronts.
Generally speaking, we try to cover topics that readers haven't
already read elsewhere. Yet since well over half of the folks who
receive this newsletter live outside of Mt. Gretna -- in other cities,
states and countries -- we sometimes summarize stories about Mt. Gretna
that appear in local newspapers.
In preparing our reports, we try to keep in mind the example set
by the late Philadelphia Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas,
who felt as if people were inviting him into their homes.
We also like the practical wisdom of Rotary
International's durable Four-Way Test of the Things We Think, Say or Do. . . a useful guideline not just for writers of community
newsletters but for everyone: "Is it the truth? Is it fair to all
concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be
beneficial to all concerned?"
We've been writing this newsletter since January 2001, usually
once a month unless we're traveling, ailing or deflected by domestic
duties that must take a higher priority.
We thank the many people who help us gather the news, take the
photos, and then edit, fact-check and
proofread this newsletter. They include folks with special skills and
knowledge of Mt. Gretna who live not only here but also in places like
New York City, St. Paul, Minn. and Hilton Head, S.C. Other volunteers
are welcome, whenever and wherever they can lend a hand.
If you have difficulty reading or printing the newsletter,
please click on the online version appearing at http://mtgretna.com/news.
Thanks to our friends at Gretna Computers, you can always find back issues of this newsletter on the Web. That online archive, we're told, occasionally proves helpful
to people planning to move to Mt. Gretna and others who want to know
more about what goes on in a community which, as the late Marlin Seiders once observed, "is not a place, but a
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