How will the Lancaster Longhouse be built?
Volunteers will be needed for many aspects of the project—from preparing saplings to providing furnishings. The framing and roofing will be handled by Native American volunteers and professional contractors.
Log posts and beams will form the interior supports. A lattice of bent saplings will arch over the interior structure to make a single curved roof and walls. Sheets of bark material will be lapped over the sapling frame like shingles. There will be a doorway at each end of the house and at least one fire pit and smoke hole in the center. Two wide shelves—supported by log posts on one side and the wall saplings on the other—will run the length of the longhouse on both sides of the room inside. (These shelves would have been used as both sleeping and storage areas.)
The Longhouse Project is committed to historical accuracy but builders will make several adjustments to improve the building's safety, durability and utility as an educational exhibit. For example, many Eastern Woodland longhouses were covered with elm tree bark. Large sections of bark would be peeled off standing trees and tied to the sapling framework. This method killed the tree. With respect for longevity, aesthetics and the environment, we will be using Flex-Bark, a high-quality synthetic material manufactured by Replications Unlimited (replicationsunlimited.com).
The longhouse will be furnished with reproductions of articles that would have been used by the multiple families who lived in each house. Reproductions will include clothing, pottery, baskets, gourds and tools used for hunting, cooking, food preservation and farming. Some of these items will be made by local Native American artisans and donated to the Lancaster Longhouse; others will be purchased.
The interior of the longhouse will be divided into two distinct parts representing Native American life before and after European contact. The pre-contact area will feature 16th through early 17th-century replica artifacts, such as distinctive clothing and pottery. The post-contact area will illustrate the lives of Native Americans from the mid-17th to mid-18th century. This area will include metal pots and European clothing, such as linen shirts and pants.
In 2011, Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society and the 1719 Hans Herr House acquired a collection of more than two hundred Native American tools and vessels connected to Lancaster County. After evaluation and cataloguing, a portion of this collection will be displayed in the Visitor’s Center at the museum. No original artifacts will be stored in the Longhouse.
Native American artisans and educators will demonstrate the crafts, customs and life skills of 17th and 18th-century Native Americans at regular educational events held on the grounds.
June Heller, former teacher, principal and gifted program supervisor for the School District of Lancaster, is working with 1719 Herr House staff to draft a curriculum for elementary and secondary school students. This curriculum will meet current common core and academic standards and be available to teachers on the Longhouse website. It will include lesson plans with objectives, standard correlations, introductions to materials and procedures and activities that can be completed in the classroom before and after a visit to the Lancaster Longhouse.
Tours of the Longhouse will be incorporated into the current 1719 Hans Herr House & Museum tour offerings. With the help of local historians and Native Americans, a handbook will be written for tour guides. It will include a comprehensive outline of information on the Longhouse and Native American life, culture and customs, as well as a brief history of Native American tribes in Pennsylvania. This handbook will be used by both Native American and non-Native volunteer guides.