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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, June 23, 2008

Why The Bachmann Publick House Should Be Preserved

As both The Express Times and Morning Call reported last week, Northampton Couny Council has postponed acting on a resolution under which the county would commit $520,000, over four years, to revitalize Easton's 1753 Bachmann Publick House. Lafayette College is also willing to commit $320,000, but the vote has been postponed. Ostensibly, this is so the Northampton County Historical & Genealogical Society can consider running the place. In reality, there may not have been five votes to move ahead.

According to Finance chair Ron Angle, more than the historic landmark is being preserved. Two other buildings are included, including a a storefront that sells Bachmann trinkets and another that apparently houses a massage parlor. Angle thinks these nonhistoric properties should be sold.

But the county's first courthouse should be preserved. Easton Mayor Sal Panto, himself a former history teacher, has previously said, "That building is Northampton County and I love it. ... Let's try this for the sake of history." Lafayette's President, Dr. Dan Weiss, has submitted his own business plan. Part of that plan explains why the Bachmann matters, and I want to share it with you.

The General Significance and Meaning of the (1753) Bachmann Publick House

It is important to begin to understand the significance and meaning of the Bachmann Publick House as a valuable public cultural resource. These facets are the following on local/regional, state and national/international levels:

Local/Regional

* The Bachmann Publick House is the only colonial period (up to 1776) tavern to survive in the Easton area, along with a very limited inventory of similar tavern buldings in what was once Northampton County (Now the counties of Northampton, Lehigh, Carbon, Schuylkill, Monroe, Pike, Luzerne, Columbia, Lackawanna, Wyoming, Sullivan, Lycoming, Bradford, Susquehanna and Wayne). Of this limited inventory, the 1753 Bachmann (Tavern) retains the highest percentage of its original historic building fabric. By comparison, the historic Sun Inn of Bethlehem is basically a stone shell with new reconstructed historic millwork.

* The Bachmann Public House was the location of the first Northampton Court of Sessions and county meetings in 1754. These functions were for the area that now includes all of twelve and parts of three counties, forming the Northeast Region of Pennsylvania of today.

Statewide

• It appears that the well preserved Bachmann Publick House is one of possibly only six surviving historic building/locations of Colonial Period (1640 to 1776)county courthouses in the state of Pennsylvania, today.

National/International

• The Bachmann Public House was a significant quasi-govemment building during the October 1758 Easton Treaty conference between British officials, the colonial government of Pennsylvania and Native American tribal nations including the Lenni-Lenape, the Six-Nations of the Iroquois, Nanticoke, Shawnee, Conoy, and others. This was one of the largest gatherings of Native American representatives during the colonial period, and is described by Walter R. Borneman in "The French and Indian War: Deciding the Fate of North America" (published in 2006)as follows:
" The outcome of the conference in Easton was twofold. First, the Iroquois demanded that the Pennsylvanians renounce their purchases, resulting from the Albany Congress, of all lands west of the Alleghenies. These included country around the forks of the Ohio long claimed by the Iroquois through their influence over the Ohio Indians. Pennsylvania's agent agreed, and their acquiescence effectively recognized Iroquois hegemony over the other nations in the region, particularly as the lands were symbolically returned to the Iroquois, not the Ohio Indians.

Second, however, the Delaware and Ohio Indians were appeased by a promise from Governor William Denny of Pennsylvania that despite whatever influence the Iroquois might have over them generally, Pennsylvania would continue to deal directly with them on matters of local concern. These were essentially a respect for past treaty reservations and a resumption of trade once the French were expelled.

This left all parties with most of what they wanted. The Iroquois had reasserted their dominance over the Ohio Indians in external affairs, the Ohio Indians and eastern Delawares had received certain assurances of territorial integrity from the Pennsylvanians; and the Pennsylvanians had won the Ohio Indians and eastern Delawares back into the fold of British influence.

Arguably the most important Indian conclave in Pennsylvania's history, the Treaty of Easton was formalized on October 25,1758. When word of it spread westward and reached Fort Duquesne, those Ohio Indians who had been allies of the French for more than three years quickly melted away into the forest. Suffering from lack of supplies and now deserted by their Indian allies, the remaining French soldiers at Fort Duquesne were feeling increasingly isolated and alone as General Forbes, still in agonizing pain from his illness, considered his next move."

This 1758 Treaty of Easton laid the political foundation and set into motion events that lead to France loosing its hold on Western Pennsylvania and throughout the upper Midwest. This assured that British colonial interests would be dominant in North America, and insured that the legal traditions of Britain would influence the basis of more democratic laws for the future United States of America and Canada. During this 1758 conference the Bachmann Public House would have been a place of numerous formal and informal meetings among the most prominent colonial era leaders of Pennsylvania and the region, and is the best preserved building, associated with this important event, to remain today.

• The Revolutionary War era saw the Bachmann Publick House as one of the more important public taverns in Easton. It was the site of meetings and discussions involving prominent individuals from 1776 to 1783. Gen. John Sullivan and other officers of the Continental Army would have met here. Most importantly Thomas Paine stayed in Easton to meet with at least six chiefs from the various Iroquois tribes for several days in late January 1777. Paine possibly participated in social interactions with local, state and continental leaders at the Bachmann Publick House, as well as at other, now gone, public taverns, where the participants were lodged, ate, drank and participated in important discourse regarding the activities, policies and philosophy of the American Revolutionary cause and struggle.

In a basic popular sense, what does the Bachmann Publick House mean to the general public and how could it function as a public facility? In reflection, Mr. Gary Evans of the working committee offered this following encompassing statement. Mr. Evans observed that the Bachmann Publick House should be, "A place to discuss the democratic values we cherish". There is high value in realizing what this statement could mean relative to the Bachmann Publick House's renewed actual programs and activities.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why must taxpayers continue to pay and pay for this? I understand its historic significance, but at what cost to a tax base that is getting killed lately? How about offering tax incentives to a private entity to save it? I guess we only do that when they're already - or soon to be- campaign donors.

Anonymous said...

This country unlike are European cousins has no sense of histoy. My God we cannot even work to save one of the most historical buildings in the country without carping about taxes.
I pay taxes too, so does most everyone.

Anonymous said...

The tax and spend approach has not served this project well. It's time for a newer approach than the same old one that simply wastes more taxpayer dollars until the next time it needs to be saved. Opposition to a government solution does not a historical Philistine make.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Fair enough and well said. But what is the nongovernment solution? We've tried one and it failed.

Bill Carr said...

Bernie, do you remember the name of the woman, possibly from Nazareth, who made a large donation to the Bachmann Tavern restoration project sometime around 2000?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I do not. Dave at Nature's Way should know.