Historic Binsdale house ‘big draw’ for new owners | News, sports, jobs
The House of Many Stairs at Pennsdale remains a historic monument and family home located in Pennsdale. It has connections to the site on James Wilson’s Declaration of Independence, memorabilia from the long-closed Bull’s Head Tavern, eight staircases, the remains of an Elizabethan pottery house, a tunnel that protected runaway slaves, and a secret compartment in the wall and above the master. A bedroom, an 18th century barn and chimney, and a newly restored 19th century cabin are available for holiday rentals and small events. It is currently owned by Dave and Angie Knight as well as their three children.
Angie Knight detailed the fateful family estate.
“We are a blended family and have been discussing moving to the east coast from Colorado for about six or seven years. In 2017, we took a trip up here to see family and decided to look at some houses. Our goal was to find a house that would rent well and rent it out so we could move .
“We originally looked at the House of Many Stairs when it was for sale in 2017. As much as we loved it, it was not yet the right time for us to consider purchasing our forever home.” She said. “In 2021, Dave was looking for a new truck – a very special make, model and color, and it was the only truck available nationally in Wilkes-Barre. We bought the truck, drove to return it and decided to stop in Muncie and see Dave’s brother on the way. I don’t really remember why we looked About the house, but we looked and found it was for sale again. We stopped to look at it, fell in love again and talked about it during the two day trip back to Colorado and made an offer after we got home.
“The home for us has an incredibly positive energy and we know it encompasses everything Quakers stood for – it truly is a sanctuary, and now it is our sanctuary.” She said
Built around 1790, the house is clad in sandstone and limestone, and displays brachiopod fossils more than 400 million years old. All doors, windows and flooring are original to the house. The house was built by Quakers, a Christian sect that was a known supporter of the abolition of slavery in the United States.
The hundreds of nails in the original Quaker doors on the back and sides of the house are arranged in patterns said to keep out any evil trying to pass through.
Many of the interior stone walls are still exposed, earning it its nickname “Rock hut.”
“It is likely that all of these stones used in the house were quarried from the property.” Knight said. “The original property lines were much larger than they are now… The house is currently 3.5 acres, and the deed states it cannot be subdivided further.”
When asked why the family was interested in owning this historic piece of property, Knight responded: “Dave was looking for a classic farmhouse style house…that was a big draw from the culinary side since he’s a chef who believes in farm-to-table food and eating the way people used to live. The smokehouse was a big draw for him and he He plans to bring it back to life – for real use – in the near future.
“For me, as a real estate agent for over 30 years, I love architecture and I’ve always been more drawn to older, traditional-style homes…To own something so rich in history is an honor and a joy.” She said. “It makes us feel like we’re part of the preservation rather than the destruction. We’re not afraid of maintenance — that’s the reality and responsibility of homeownership in any home — even in new homes.”
The old Bull’s Head Tavern (now a craft room and office) has a false wall with a door cut into the wood paneling. When opened, it reveals a small hatch in the floor, leading to a staircase that descends into a narrow dirt cellar, and undated scratch marks from someone trying to open it from the inside are still visible on the interior of the false wall.
Above the bar in the Mesquite Room (now the bedroom) is a series of wooden cupboards built into the wall. Knight said she found that in her research “This was where the men had to keep their weapons if they were going to be in the tavern downstairs… It was also likely where rifles were stored while the building served as a lookout point for the Native Americans.”
One of the many ways slaves used to escape north was by following rivers, and the House of Many Stairs was a safe haven for those following the Susquehanna River into Canada. Inside are eight stairs that are rumored to have confounded and disturbed slave catchers, along with a secret room and the entrance to an underground tunnel. According to Knight, between 14 and 16 people could have hidden in the secret location while disgruntled plantation owners and slave catchers searched.
There is a small door fixed in the wall “Stairs to nowhere” It leads to a small space with the entrance to a hidden room where slaves and outlaws hide. Once inside the chamber, there is a U-shaped box you can crawl into inside the secret room. The secret room is built above the master bedroom behind another false wall and above a false ceiling.
In the root cellar, under a winding staircase, there is now a modern storeroom – but at some point, the base of this staircase was found “Pig bones buried in the dirt with a wedding ring.” On the other side of the room is an exposed end of the original kitchen hood surrounded by large stones. The previous owners, the Saunders family, have dated and claimed it “This particular tree was a sapling in the time of Christopher Columbus.”
Just a few feet from where the refrigerator now stands was where the previous owners believed the entrance to the escape tunnel was. Dave and Angie Knight assumed this was the tunnel “It is likely that the root cellar (now a modern kitchen) was connected to the smokehouse. We believe the smokehouse is the most likely location given the work it would take to maintain an earthen tunnel and the proximity to the location of the main house/root cellar.” The real exit is still unknown because excavation work has not yet been completed. They told Al-Shams newspaper “We have to dig out the dirt that is preventing the doors from opening to start this research.”
The above-ground part of the smokehouse features two large windows overlooking the courtyard and a since-covered square opening in the wall. Angie said “This is where they used to shoot from when it was an Indian observation post… They used to fire their barrel from there.”
On the back side of the property are a gazebo, water house, windmill, and cabin available for rent on VRBO and AirBNB. The cabin was carefully disassembled near Altoona and reassembled next to the windmill and old well house. Angie pointed out as she walked through the property “You can still see the bullet holes on the windmill blades above the well house. When ice accumulated in the winter, this was the solution they came up with to remove it and pump out the water.
The cabin sleeps six people and features free WiFi, mountain views, a kitchenette and air conditioning. The House of Many Stairs remains a family home and is not available for rent, but may be open for tours in the future.
When asked about the difficulties of living in such a treasured home, Angie said: “Honestly, the biggest challenge is balancing our privacy as our personal residence while respecting the history and supporting the interest of the community. We created the website and social pages as a way to share what we know and what we know about history with the community.
“We’ve only published an estimated 30 to 40% of what we have so far, and we’re continuing to dig forward and find more information. We have a 3D tour of the house posted on our website, which is the next best thing to touring it in person. And now we’re looking About home ownership since its inception.”
For more information about this historic landmark, visit www.houseofmanytiers.com or find him on Facebook and Instagram.
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