In a first for Lebanon County, one of its 31 structures on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) has been removed.
The National Park Service removed the John Immel House on Dec. 16, because it is no longer extant.
The Immel house was originally listed on the National Register on April 17, 1980, for its architectural significance. Strategically built near the Union Canal towpath in 1814, in the Pennsylvania German Traditional architectural style, it was an early 19th-century farmhouse constructed of locally quarried limestone and featured superb master masonry work.
The National Register of Historic Places is defined by the National Park Service as “the official list of the Nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archeological resources.”
The Immel family were descendants of original German Palatine immigrants who were influential in the local area during the early 19th-century in religious activities, political functions and various business enterprises. They were akin with the early German (Deutsch) speaking people who settled in Pennsylvania beginning in the early 1700s.
Many of these people were called “Pennsylvania Dutch,” because of the mispronunciation of “Deutch” as “Dutch.” Originating primarily from central Europe the Pennsylvania Dutch imported many cultural, religious, and architectural traditions into Pennsylvania.
The John Immel House was a premier example of Pennsylvania German Traditional architecture as it featured many of the identifiable features of the style including a steep pitched gable roof, thick stone wall and brick construction, four over four front facade design, and two-and-one-half stories in height.
Southeastern Pennsylvania features the largest number of surviving early Pennsylvania German Traditional style buildings. One of the rarest is the Heinrich Zeller House (Fort Zeller) near Newmanstown, which was built in 1745, and has been on the National Register since 1975.
The John Immel House has been sort of a mystery for quite a while as no pictures, articles or mention of this Lebanon County landmark have appeared in print or online publications for several decades.
The author spent many hours in an effort to discover what had become of the historic John Immel House. In 1975, the National Register of Historic Places nomination form included detailed information and pictures of the house. In 1978, a Lebanon County Architectural Survey documented and photographed the house as well, so a fair amount of historic information does exist.
The NRHP nomination form simply listed the location of the house as east of Myerstown on Flanagan Road. However, after driving up and down Flanagan Road many times the house could not be located, and after talking to several locals it turned out that no one knew anything about the historic structure.
The next step was to contact the Lebanon County Tax Assessment Office. Michael Chapin, data analysis clerk, conducted some research. Chapin was able to locate the structure on the county’s mapping system by converting the Universal Transverse Mercator to decimal degrees (latitude 40.367 and longitude -76.272). Chapin also located the John Immel House on maps from 1940 and 1970, but discovered it was missing from the most recent 2016 aerial map.
He also determined that its current address was 138 Flanagan Road, Myerstown. Notes in the county records from a site visit in 2000 recorded that an older building on the property (John Immel House) was no longer standing.
The author then visited the current owners of 138 Flanagan Road and they confirmed that an old house (John Immel House) was already gone when they purchased the property in 2000, but fortunately they knew the fate of the structure.
It was finally revealed that the John Immel House suffered significant fire damage around 1990, and was then demolished without a recorded demolition permit. Additionally, the National Park Service was never contacted to inform them that the John Immel House had been demolished. This is why it remained active on the NRHP for more than 30 years after it was razed.
In September 2021, the author submitted a petition to delist the John Immel House from the NRHP to the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office in Harrisburg. State Historic Preservation officials forwarded the petition to the National Park Service in Washington, D.C., for a final review and decision. The John Immel House was officially, and finally, removed from the NRHP on Dec. 16, 2022.
The mystery of where the John Immel House was located and the story of what became of it was finally resolved. Today, the area where the house once stood is grown over with vegetation, and there is no physical evidence above ground to indicate that the structure ever existed.
After standing for over 175 years the John Immel House became another example of a once impressive, nationally recognized historic landmark that has been demolished and subsequently vanished into the mists of time. Lebanon County now has one less structure on the prestigious National Register of Historic Places.
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