Historic Christian Oyer House c.1830
A piece of heaven in rural Pennsylvania.
Hidden in a peaceful, private rural enclave, near large areas of state forests, parks and famous fishing and hunting areas, this unique house on 1.8 acres is within an easy drive of a major university and the cultural assets it affords. Every effort has been made to restore this house with a restrained hand and a "less is more" philosophy in close conversation with the National Register to be sure its architectural integrity was carefully respected.
The interior is in an unusually fine state of preservation, with original baseboards, chair rails, chimney cabinets, and hardware, including period box locks and door latches. But it is the quality "and the superb original condition of a large amount of decorative painting found throughout the house"* which makes it unique in this area. All the doors facing the first and second floor halls are trompe l'oeil versions of exotic woods as are all the chimney cabinets. The baseboards in each major room exhibit various simulated marble patterns. In the back parlor, under layers of old wall paper, was discovered rows of stenciling, from floor to ceiling, in various states of preservation.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Oyer House is located approximately 20 minutes from State College and Penn State University in a beautiful rural setting on 2+/- acres.
The house, a stuccoed stone, four over four, five bay excellent example of Federal architecture, was built c. 1825-1830. Four prominent chimneys service seven fireplaces, all with their period mantles.
All new mechanicals, wiring and plumbing, were added from 1990 to the present, as the house, when found, had none of these amenities. A new roof, an outbuilding serving as a two car garage and a sun-room were constructed at this time. When the original six dormers were replaced, two large rooms, bath and galley kitchen made a third floor suite, completing the 4 bedroom 3 1/2 bath house.
Main Floor (10' ceiling)
Center Hall 25' x 9' - Wood floor, hang lamp, staircase with faux smoke painted risers, columns, arch, faux painted baseboards, faux painted front & back doors.
Left Front Parlor 15' x 13' - Wood floor, chair rail, fireplace with wood mantel & chimney cabinets, faux painted baseboards, faux painted doors, 3 windows.
Left Rear Parlor 14' x 13' - Wood floor, stenciled walls, chair rail, fireplace with wood mantel, faux painted baseboards, faux painted doors, 3 windows.
Dining Room 15' x 14' - Wood floor, chair rail, fireplace with wood mantel & chimney cabinets, faux painted baseboards, faux painted doors, 3 windows.
Kitchen 14' x 12' - (updated 2012) Wood floor, eat-in-kitchen, oak & pine cabinets, stone hearth with irons, hanging lamp, Samsung refrigerator, Kenmore dishwasher, Maytag electric range, double sink, 2 windows.
Powder Room - Wood floor, off kitchen
2nd Floor (10' ceilings)
Master Bedroom 18' x 12' - (in-suite) Wood floor, chair rail, fireplace with wood mantel, 4 faux painted chimney cabinets, faux painted baseboards, faux painted doors, 3 windows.
Master Bedroom Sitting Room 8' x 7' - Wood floor, chair rail, closet, built-in bookcases, 2 windows.
Master Bathroom 12' x 5' - Wood floor, 2 sinks. shower, 5 cabinets, 1 window.
Bedroom 2 15' x 14' - Wood floor, chair rail, fireplace with wood mantel, faux painted baseboards, faux painted doors, 3 windows.
Bedroom 3 15' x 14' - Wood floor, chair rail, fireplace with wood mantel, faux painted baseboards, faux painted doors, 3 windows.
Hallway - Wood floor, wall sconce.
Hall Bathroom 9' x 7' - Wood floor, bath tub, chair rail, 1 window.
3rd Floor studio apartment
Living Room 22' x 12' - Wood floor, 2 closets, 2 windows.
Galley Kitchen - Wood floor, electric stove top, sink, under-counter refrigerator, freezer in closet.
Bedroom 21' x 10' - Wood floor, 2 closets, 2 windows.
Bathroom - Wood floor, shower, 1 window.
Full basement with fixed staircase.
The Christian Oyer, Jr., House is a good and representative example of Federal style architecture in Huntingdon County, embodying the distinctive characteristics of this early 19th century style. Unfortunately, the builder and the artisan w-ho was
responsible for the elaborate and extensive decorative painting are unknown as is the actual date of construction. The significance of this house lies in the excellent proportions and detailing, the remarkable state of integrity, and, most of all, in the amount and quality of its painted decoration. The fine front and back exterior poly-chromed doors and the doorways with their elliptical fanlights and sidelights, the prominent double chimneys on both sides of the house, the six dormers, and the scoring of the stucco to resemble dressed stone, all testify to the effort made to produce an imposing house of unusual architectural value for a remote farmhouse. On the interior as well, the paneled window reveals, intricate moldings on doors and windows, and the seven fireplaces all contribute to this quality and distinction. The integrity and quality of most of the interior simulated wood and marble painting and the stenciling are not only remarkable but unique to this area. This decorative painting is obviously the work of a talented craftsman.
Christian Oyer, Sr. and Christian Oyer, Jr. variously described as coming from Lancaster, Chester and Dauphin counties, were listed as "yoemen" in the Article of Agreement (1825) between father and son. There has been much speculation about the building of such a formal and impressive house more related to those of neighboring iron-masters than to those of other farmers in the area. There is no way of determining the actual motive, but the fact that Christian Oyer, Sr. felt it necessary to have a legal agreement between himself and his heir in the very year that he also made a will (and the year in which he died) suggests that he felt a strong need to direct with detailed instructions the use of his resources by a son about whose competence, stability or extravagance he may have had some doubt. And, indeed, soon after his father's death, the son embarked on the "substantial improvements now on the farm." Possibly as a result of his improvidence, Oyer, Jr. was sued by David McMurtrie for $3000 and Martin Nouresky for $1000 in 1837.
In 1844 Oyer lost the entire farm at the suit of Dr. Benjamin McMurtrie, who soon after sold the property to David McMurtrie, merchant. The farm was purchased by Philip Silknitter, farmer, and then Samuel Silhitter's administrators sold the property to pay off his debts. Jackson Harmon, farmer, purchased the farm in 1880 and it remained in the possession of his family until 1968. After purchase of the farm by the family of Silas Gibboney in 1968 and the subsequent sale of the house and 1.8 acres to Ellen Gibboney in 1970, the house, after some important structural repairs, (exterior stonework, basement cement flooring and support columns) was abandoned for about twenty years, purchased by William P. Hayes, 1990, and resold within the year to Jean L. Murphy. It was this abandonment and the fact that during the long eighty-eight year sojourn of the Harmons the house had received little attention, as witnessed by several photographs of the time, which was responsible, in a sense, for the preservation of its integrity. Although little was repaired, and that little allowed to languish, little was changed. Nothing was ever repainted with the exception of the dining room and kitchen graining. No running water, plumbing of any kind, central heating, kitchen or bath was introduced into the house.
National Register of Historic Places
National Register of Historic Places - Christian Oyer House
Wikipedia - Christian Oyer House
American Wall Stenciling - by Ann Eckert Brown featuring Christian Oyer House
Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission - Federal style architecture featuring Christian Oyer House
US General Web Project - History of Barree Township
PA Department of Education - Federal Architecture featuring Christian Oyer House
Penn Lines Magazine - Artist Makes Home Live-In Masterpiece
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