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House of Miller at Millbach - Miller House and Mill, 1933, Cervin Robinson, Stanley P. Mixon Photographer
Miller House and Mill, 1933, Cervin Robinson, Stanley P. Mixon Photographer
One of the
finest and best known examples of Pennsylvania-Germanic architecture of the Colonial era to become available for public auction was held October 28, 2017 by Conestoga Auctions at Millbach, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. It is known as the House of Miller at Millbach and is owned by the Millbach Foundation run by Earle (Chip) and Yvonne Henderson, the same owners who restored the nearby Charming Forge twelve miles away which is currently for sale.

House of Miller at Millbach - The House of Miller at Millbach present day.
The House of Miller at Millbach present day.
The House of Miller was donated along with thirteen acres to the Millbach Foundtion by Richard Flanders and Joane Smith. Richard and Joane built a stone house and reassembled an old log house from York County across the street next to the barn instead of living in The House of Miller. Richard stated to Pook and Pook in 2010, "People driving by would routinely come up the driveway, ring the doorbell and ask, 'When are the tours?'" Colonial Sense was fortunate to tour the Smith's house on a Cornwall Bridge Christmas House Tour. 

The House of Miller at Millbach also known as Mueller House and Illig's Mill was built in 1752 by George Miller (1706-1791) and his wife Maria Catharina Stump (1711-1787) on Mill Creek. Scandal broke out when George left his wife behind and moved to North Carolina with a servant girl to be a tavern keeper on Abbots Creek in Rowan County where he established a gristmill.

House of Miller at Millbach - Prior to the start of the auction at Millbach.
Prior to the start of the auction at Millbach.
George Miller deeded the house, mill, and 144 acres to his son Michael (1732-1815) in 1753. Michael took over the ownership of Millbach at the age of 21. He is the one who added the gristmill to the house in 1784 and expanded the house for his mother's living quarters. He also added a sawmill in 1777. He became one of he wealthiest men in the area.

There are two carved date stones - the one on the house reads “JERG MULER / 17 MARIA CATR M 52” and the other for the mill, “1784 / GOTT ALEIN DE EHR (God alone the Honor) / MICHAEL MIELER / M ELISABET MILERN.” The interior of the house has a Germanic floor plan with a stove room, large kitchen, and bedchamber on the first floor. 

Michael Miller married Maria Elisabeth Becker in 1755. They had eight sons and two daughters, although four sons died prior to Michael and Maria.

House of Miller at Millbach - Inside the mill portion of the property. Notice the catalogues items numbered for the auction.
Inside the mill portion of the property. Notice the catalogues items numbered for the auction.
Prior to his death, Michael Miller faced many heirs to his wealth. The House of Miller along with the mill and 300 acres was willed in 1809 to his son John. His sister Maria Elisabeth who was widowed and childless moved back to Millbach with John in 1830. 

The estate which totaled $1,400 showed the wealth that Maria Elisabeth and John enjoyed at The House of Miller at Millbach. She died in 1843 and John died 1848. The House of Miller transferred to the Illig family which would stay in the family until 1936 when it was known as Illig's Mill. It ceased operation as a mill in 1941. 

It was during the ownership of the Illig family that the newly opened Philadelphia Museum of Art understood the importance of colonial architecture and acquired through donation from Mrs. Pierre S. du Pont and Mr. and Mrs Lammot du Pont the kitchen, fireplace, staircase and other moldings from the interior of Millbach. In 1926, the major woodwork was removed from the original house to the Philadelphia Museum of Art where the rooms were recreated and exhibited and known as the Millbach Rooms.

House of Miller at Millbach - Items displayed inside the barn prior to the sale.
Items displayed inside the barn prior to the sale.
In its Annual Report in 1926, the Philadelphia Museum of art stated,
"Another phase of colonial art in Pennsylvania is shown by the remarkable woodwork of a Pennsylvania-German house of 1752, perhaps unique among those preserved, the gift of Mrs. Pierre S. du Pont and Mr. and Mrs. Lammot du Pont. The house has the structural character familiar in New England work of the seventeenth century, with elaborately moulded posts and summer beams. A partition, of richly moulded sheathing, is of oak instead of the New England pine. The staircase is unique in America, so far as is known, in having square moulded balusters of the type common in the period of Louis XIV and William III. The woodwork will form a harmonious background for the unrivalled collection of Pennsylvania pottery owned by the Museum. With the purchase this year of four additional tulip-decorated chests, representing different Pennsylvania counties, and the gift by Mr. George H. Lorimer of another fine painted chest and two painted chests of drawers, the Museum has secured an unapproached collection in this branch of Pennsylvania craftsmanship."
The Philadelphia Museum of Art opened in 1928 with the new Millbach Rooms. This was the first time an interior from a Pennsylvania German house was ever exhibited in an art museum.

On the 1798 Federal Direct Tax, Michael's property consisted of the large stone house, the new two story gristmill which was 50' X 20', a sawmill 40' X 12' with double gears, a large barn 100' X 28', and a log still house 30' X 20'. 

House of Miller at Millbach - The House of Miller at Millbach. Notice the Germanic style gambrel roof.
The House of Miller at Millbach. Notice the Germanic style gambrel roof.
The House of Miller at Millbach residence which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 has a Germanic style gambrel roof. It contains a large entry-kitchen which is synonymous with affluent families during the second half of the eighteenth century. There was a stove room and a chamber bed on the first floor. There are several additional chamber beds on the second floor and two attic levels along with a cellar.

The original application to the National Register of Historic Places shows some of the additions and deletions to the original structure. 
"The roof is gambrel with a kick or bell cast. A pent eave was originally built around the first floor but was removed as is evidenced by the remaining belt course. A pent eave still can be seen on the open end of the gambrel roof. Originally fitted with a 6-over-6 sash, the house is now fitted with Victorian 4-over-4 and lighter frames. A moulded cornice rounds the house just above the second story. A small pedimented eave portico hangs over the front door while a veranda is on the rear of the house. The house has a basement with windows on the ground level.

Attached to the Miller house is a stone mill building built in 1784 on the foundations of an earlier log structure. The Mill building is built of limestone cut similar the the house. It has a gable roof, is 2 1/2 stories high and has circular windows at each gable end of the building. The present porch replaces an original pent roof and the string course between the floors indicates that a pent was once there. Window placement on the outside wall of the mill is irregular and the main feature of the mill is a door built into a dormer with an extended pediment over the door. The mill also has a beautifully done raised panel door." 
House of Miller at Millbach - The audience inside during the bidding.
The audience inside during the bidding.
Along with the auction of the house were some of Chip's prized Stiegel type glassware, jacquard coverlets, beds, and an array of important blanket chests painted in the Pennsylvania German tradition. The day started with uncatalogued items and proceeded with catalogued items until the mill and residence was offered at noon. Chip sat on his foldout chair at the main entrance to the tent to observe the entire auction. His other house in the valley is Charming Forge. He was asked by a gentleman if Charming Forge was haunted as writer's have stated since 1926. He told the gentleman that it was haunted but he or his wife were never touched. There were strange odors coming from areas in the house.

Much of the uncatalogued Stiegel type glassware with aggressive bidding went to David Horst of Lebanon. When the catalogued portion of the auction began, there was a variety of successful bidders including Greg Kramer and other dealers from the Black Angus and Renningers. On site auctions don't have a buyer's premium, but LiveAuctioneers charged a 15% buyer's premium. 

A Colebrook Furnace Cast Iron stove with minor rusting and pitting sold for $500. A late 18th/early 19th century wrought iron hearth crane with an arrow finial support beam sold above its estimate of $300-500 for $1,000. There were many blanket chests to choose from. The first to be offered on the auction block was a Lancaster County, Pennsylvania paint decorated softwood miniature dower chest in original black and red decoration with a molded lit, interior walnut till, wrought iron strap hinges with penny ends, dovetailed case and molded bracket base with spurs. With an estimate of $500-1,000 it brought $3,000.

House of Miller at Millbach - The many pieces of Stiegel Type glass being offered at the auction.
The many pieces of Stiegel Type glass being offered at the auction.
Years ago antique enthusiasts believed that enameled decorated bottles were made at the Stiegel Glassworks in Manheim. Some were made in Manheim; however, it is impossible to determine if the piece was made by Stiegel. Later research proves that most of the bottles and glassware offered are from Bohemia/German/Switzerland region of Europe. This type of glassware is now known as "Stiegel Type." A few mug, cologne bottle and glasses were affordable at $250-275. However, a Steigel Type Polychrome Enamel Decorated Colorless Glass Cologne Bottle, Polychrome Gent in Colonial attire, floral and foliate decoration, with minor wear and losses to enameling at 6-1/2" high sold for $550. A Steigel Type Blown Amethyst Glass Footed Master Salt with a comet tail pontil at 4-1/4" high in good condition passed its estimate of $100-300 at $850.

House of Miller at Millbach - Three of the blanket chests being offered at the auction. Number 62 is Chip Henderson's pride and joy.
Three of the blanket chests being offered at the auction. Number 62 is Chip Henderson's pride and joy.
Colonial Sense has an article on the intricate work of jacquard coverlets. Twelve were catalogued in this auction and realized prices from $200 to $500. One in particular was a rare Mid 19th Century Lebanon County, PA Four Color Crib Coverlet, signed "David Yingst, Lebanon, 1854" with a size of 41-1/2" x 42-1/2" not including fringe and very good condition with an estimate of $200-400 sold for $2,200.

One of the many blanket chests sold was a Berks County Unicorn and Lion Decorated Softwood Dower Chest, late 18th/early 19th century with a front having arched panels, center panel having rampant unicorns under tulips flanked by rampant lions under crowns, side panels with potted flowers. It had a molded lid, interior till, wrought iron strap hinges with penny ends, missing wrought iron jaw lock, dovetailed case and molded bracket base. The size was 25"h. x 53"w. x 24"d. with the condition being mostly wear and losses mostly on lid. With an estimate of $2,000-4,000 the Berks County chest brought $10,500.

House of Miller at Millbach - 3rd Quarter of the 18th Century, Millbach, Lebanon County Kas. The highest realized price for the catalogued portion at $40,000. Photo courtesy of Conestoga Auctions.
3rd Quarter of the 18th Century, Millbach, Lebanon County Kas. The highest realized price for the catalogued portion at $40,000. Photo courtesy of Conestoga Auctions.
The auctioneer, John Hess stated that one of Chip Henderson's prized blanket chests was an extremely fine Dauphin/Lebanon County, Pennsylvania decorated dower chest with a central front panel inscribed "CADRINA/HEMPERLY/1832". The lid had two oval panels with stamped floret design, the front had arched panels with Compass star, tulip and stamped floret decoration and diamond border. It had a molded lid Interior till with secret compartment, wrought iron strap hinges with penny ends, wrought iron jaw lock with wrigglework decoration, dovetailed case and molded bracket base.The size was 25"h. x 53"w. x 24"d.with minor wear. John Hess looked over at Chip Henderson who gave him a thumbs up on his introduction of the chest. With an estimate of $20,000-30,000 the blanket chest brought $21,000.

One of the pieces that certainly fit into The House of Miller was a third quarter of the 18th Century Millbach, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania Kas with a broken arch pediment and central shell carved plinth flanked by scrolling ogee molded cornice. Above a block and triangle dentil molding, central raised panel, flanked by doors with shaped brass key escutcheons, supported by wrought iron rat-tail hinges, pronounced plain quarter columns with molded stiles. The Interior had original shelves and peg hooks secured by rose-head nails, paneled sides, molded base and turned onion feet. All of the raised panels on this schrank had shaped cut corners indigenous to the Milbach area. The size was 96"h. x 72"w. x 23"d. and condition was very good with minor wear and losses. It was the strongest piece at the auction fetching $40,000 with an estimate of $10,000-20,000.

House of Miller at Millbach - The wooden works inside the mill portion.
The wooden works inside the mill portion.
Another strong piece was a Pennsylvania Mid 18th Century Pine Trestle Table with a three board top, shaped supports, mortise and tenon beaded and molded stretcher base with shoe feet. The size was 30"h. x 33-1'w. x 80-1/2"l. and condition was with wear, minor losses and age cracks. It beat the estimate of $3,000-5,000 with a realized price of $9,000. 

The big question was would the famous Millbach be sold along with the antiques. At noon John Hess brought in the attorney A. Mark Winter to announce the terms. There was a reserve on the property. 13.14 acres would be sold with the property. Five percent would be needed that day with the remaining balance in 45 days. John told the audience that he would feel comfortable with a starting price of $200,000. There was one bid. John took a break to discuss the offer with Chip Henderson and the attorney. 

The auction continued with uncatalogued items. Shortly after John returned to the podium and said the Millbach would sell and the audience would be given three chances to place their bid. After the third chance, Millbach sold for $215,000. As Colonial Sense was leaving the auction, we saw the new owner enter Millbach with John and the attorney.

It was a day of pleasure to see the iconic Millbach being sold to a proud owner who would carry on the mystical charm of such an Colonial architectural icon as The House of Miller at Millbach. Check out more auction results when we complete the October 2017 Auction Results. Also make sure you view the slide show provided with the article. There are more photos of inside the house and catalogued items.Source: Research, photos & text by Bryan Wright

Comments (1) 
mccue
11/15/17
GREAT ARTICLE!
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