Frequently Asked Questions
What is a longhouse?
Why is a longhouse at the Hans Herr House?
There is an old family story that Christian and Anna Herr, who built the 1719 Hans Herr House, woke up one winter morning to find some of their Native American neighbors in their kitchen. The night had been bitterly cold and they had come in to get warm by the fire. According to the story, Christian’s only objection was that the house smelled like bear grease (which some Native People used to weatherproof clothes or protect exposed skin).
Three centuries years later, the 1719 Hans Herr House & Museum includes the oldest building in Lancaster County and two other homes built by descendants of the Herr family—but there are few reminders of the Native People who lived here for hundreds of years. A longhouse on the grounds of the 1719 Herr House enables the museum to tell the Lancaster County story from the 16th century to the turn of the 20th century.
The Longhouse is also a tangible expression of one community’s respect for another. At a service of honor and healing in Lancaster in 2010, Presbyterian, Mennonite and Quaker leaders and local and state officials recognized three hundred years of misunderstanding, neglect and abuse of Native Americans in Lancaster County.
Leaders recounted the infamous massacres of Conestoga Indians in Lancaster in 1763 and the establishment of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School nearby in 1879, as well as a series of insidious offenses: Europeans encroaching on Native land, poaching game, failing to aid Indians in need and imposing their cultural standards on Native groups.
“The fact that all of you would come here, assemble here, to say these things is what I would consider a legitimate act of contrition,” Curtis Zunigha (Delaware) said in response to the church and government statements. “I look forward to … joining you all in an effort to make great change so that we may never feel like this again.”
The Lancaster Longhouse is part of this community’s “effort to make great change” in the way we think and talk about the history of this land.
What tribe does the Lancaster Longhouse represent?
The overall dimensions (20 ft. wide x 62 ft. long) are based on a Susquehannock longhouse that archeologist Barry C. Kent excavated in Washington Boro, Lancaster County in 1969.
Members or descendants of several Native American tribes—as well as local authorities such as archeologist Fred Kinsey and construction manager Ned Pelger—served as technical advisors for the project.
How was the Lancaster Longhouse built?
Log posts and beams form the interior supports. A lattice of bent saplings arches over the interior structure to make a single curved roof and walls. Sheets of bark material are lapped over the sapling frame like shingles. There is a doorway at each end of the house and two fire pits and smoke holes. Two wide shelves—supported by log posts on one side and the wall saplings on the other—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 made 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).
How is the Longhouse furnished
The longhouse is furnished with reproductions of articles that would have been used by the multiple families who lived in each house. Reproductions include clothing, pottery, baskets, gourds and tools used for hunting, cooking, food preservation
The interior of the longhouse is divided into two distinct parts representing Native American life before and after European contact. The pre-contact area features 16th through early 17th-century replica artifacts, such as distinctive clothing and pottery. The post-contact area illustrates the lives of Native Americans from the mid-17th to
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
What educational offerings are available?
Tours of the Longhouse are incorporated into the current 1719 Hans Herr House & Museum tour offerings. With the help of local historians and Native Americans, a handbook has been written for tour guides. It includes 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 is used by both Native American and non-Native volunteer guides.