Clock ticking for historic Hoke House as Rutter's moves forward with planned convenience store

Noel Miller
York Dispatch

Rutter's is progressing with the construction of a new convenience store and gas station in Spring Grove on the property where the Hoke House sits.

The convenience store chain submitted a preliminary land development plan to the borough late last month, according to the Friends of Hoke House, a local historical preservation group that has been trying to save the house for several years.

The preliminary plan has a sketch of the existing property and the structures on it. The Hoke House is labeled as "stone building" and is pictured on the lower left in the image. The next page shows a sketch of what the new convenience store and gas station will look like.

No "stone building" is featured there.

The borough has 90 days to approve or deny the preliminary plan.

The Hoke House dates to about 1750, when it opened as Wilson Tavern, and has played a variety of roles since then, including as a public library and a farmhouse, the Friends of Hoke House say. In 2019, the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Office indicated that the Hoke House could qualify for a spot on the National Register of Historic Places if an application were made. Local activists are still campaigning for Rutter's to incorporate the house into the land development plan or allow activists to raise money and move it off the lot for preservation.

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However, there's no guarantee either solution would work. The borough could reject the preliminary development plan, but that doesn't mean Rutter's will save the house. And while Borough Manager Zach Gulden did propose an agreement in which the public, the borough and Rutter's would donate $300,000 total to match a grant to relocate the house off the lot, Rutter's never agreed to the deal, Gulden said.

The current layout of the property Rutter's wants to construct the new convenience store on. The Hoke House is labeled as "Stone Building" on the bottom left hand corner.

Activists and local preservationists have not given up.

"We will continue to [fundraise] as long as there is, you know, any hope for the building to stand, or moved or salvaged," said Paul Nevin, one of the organizers of the Friends of Hoke House group. "It's a preliminary plan. Changes can be made."

Even after the June 1 meeting, there is time before the 90-day window during which Rutter's could make changes is up. Another solution to preserve the house, Nevin said, would be for Rutter's to move the gas pumps they have planned on the left side of the plans up higher, where they wouldn't interfere with the Hoke House.

The Friends of Hoke House idea to change Rutter's plans and accomodate the Hoke House.

Rutter's did not respond to requests for comment on the preliminary land development plan or alternative designs to include the Hoke House.

An image of the preliminary land development plan for what the new Rutter's convenience store layout would look like. The Hoke House is not included on the plan and in it's place are underground fuel storage tanks. Some preservationists belive if Rutter's modified the preliminary plan, the Hoke House has plenty of space to be included in the new layout.

This isn't the first time the house has been at risk of demolition.

In 2014, the borough told Rutter's the house had to be renovated to meet borough code or be demolished. The Friends of Hoke House rallied to save the house and signed an agreement with Rutter's allowing the group to restore the structure and find a tenant.

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However, if the building was not leased after three years, the Friends of Hoke House would not interfere with any decisions made over the house's use — including demolition. Although the house was restored to meet borough code, no tenant was found, and Rutter's applied for a demolition permit in January.

When locals found out about the demolition application, they came out in droves for a chance to save what is one of the oldest buildings in Spring Grove.

402 N. Main St. in Spring Grove on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023.

The house, which has a rich historical background, has captured the attention of people outside of Spring Grove. "The American Dream," a TV program that highlights lifestyles and real estate across the county, is filming a segment about the Hoke House for an upcoming episode, Nevin said. It streams on major services including Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire TV, according to the program website.

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Each episode features several cities and local real estate agents who look at properties, he said. The program is working with Tonya Keener, a local Realtor with Century 21, for the show. The episode will focus on the efforts to preserve the Hoke House and have a segment on the Glen Rock Inn, he said.

To learn more about the Hoke House and preservation efforts, visit http://www.hokehouse.com/hoke-house-history.html.

— Reach Noel Miller at NMiller3@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @TheNoelM.