EAST PENNSBORO TOWNSHIP — Central Penn College traces its roots back to 1881, when Joseph M. Currey founded the Pennsylvania Business College at 307 Market St., Harrisburg.
In 1970, the college moved to its present location in Summerdale, where Bart and Jean Milano spearheaded its transition from a business school to an accredited college awarding two-year degrees. By the year 2000, the school had evolved into a four-year-degree conferring college.
When Bart and Jean’s son, Todd, assumed the helm as president in 1989, he took more than a passing interest in the Boyer House, an old, stone residence with an attractive red barn located nearby. To the history enthusiast, this was an area gem that should be appreciated and preserved.
Although it’s unclear as to when the Boyers initially purchased the land and built the house located at 500 Valley Road, it is known that Thomas Spray of Chester bought the 209 acres from the sons of William Penn in 1737. The land changed hands many times until it was acquired by Peter and Anne Margaret Boyer in 1810 for 700 pounds. In 1903, Philip and Susan Boyer sold 50 acres to the Pennsylvania Railroad. This was the first of 743 acres purchased by the railroad for the new Enola Yards.
The remaining acreage, which the Boyers farmed, stayed in their family through seven generations until Central Penn College took ownership in 1999.
Catherine Boyer, who lived across the street from the property with her husband, George, was left in charge of the estate when George passed. When East Pennsboro resident Nancy Otstot learned that Catherine was going to sell the Boyer Farm, she informed Milano, who then approached Catherine.
“I promised her that if she would trust the college to be the first non-Boyer resident, we would preserve and dedicate the Boyer home to their family,” said Milano, mentioning the marker that now stands behind the house and is viewable from the road.
When considering the offer, Catherine raised concerns about her nephew, Rob, who was living there at the time. Milano had an idea and asked that Rob join them at settlement. When all parties were at the table, Milano made Rob an offer.
“We asked him if he would be willing to pay a dollar a month to stay in the house.”
Needless to say, Rob agreed to the arrangement. “He paid us a year up front,” Milano said with a laugh.
Within a year, Robert Boyer passed away inside the house in which he was born — the one he so dearly loved. To this day, Milano remembers Rob by keeping an original wardrobe in his upstairs’ office. He opens it to reveal dozens of shirts — all flannel.
“I’m sentimental,” said Milano, with a smile.
After Rob’s passing, Milano got to work, hiring Kevin Hollowell, from Hollowell Restorations in Gardners, to perform historic renovations. According to Jim Leonard, president of the Historical Society of East Pennsboro Township, the stone was redone, the outside was refaced and structural improvements were made.
“One of the first things we did after the renovation was hold an impromptu open house, and we invited Catherine Boyer,” she said. “She didn’t say anything, which worried me as we walked through the house. After we set foot outside, Catherine breathed a sigh of relief and said, ‘Now I know I did the right thing.’”
Historical records describe the barn located near the family home, as “a frame bank barn built in a traditional manner during the second quarter of the 20th century.” Horses were housed in the barn and used on the family farm where crops such as grain, wheat, straw and vegetables were raised.
Those driving by today are getting a glimpse of the back of the house. According to historical documents, Valley Street was relocated sometime during the 1930s, so visitors today approach the front of the property via a walking bridge adjacent to the campus. Guests will pass by an original outhouse before they step up onto the spacious front porch.
Located in the front of the house is a room once used as a parlor, which today is home to railroad artifacts owned by the Historical Society of East Pennsboro Township. A cooking fireplace, complete with original kettle, is located in the second room, which branches off to two adjacent rooms that now serve as staff offices.
A winding staircase leads upstairs to four additional rooms that served as a bathroom and three bedrooms. The bathroom has been converted into an office, and the college added a small kitchen downstairs, off of the back of the house. Otherwise, today’s Boyer house looks almost the same as when the Boyers owned it.
“That’s the beauty of the house — so little was done to alter it throughout the years,” Milano said.
Catherine passed away, but members of the Boyer family still visit the property on occasion. In 2004, the family held their 100th annual family reunion there and former Gov. George Leader addressed the crowd.
“His mother was a Boyer,” Milano said.
Central Penn’s current president, Karen M. Scolforo, said she is happy that the property is part of the Central Penn Campus.
“We value our partnership with the Historical Society of East Pennsboro Township, and the Boyer House represents part of our connection to the rich history that is Central Penn College,” she said. “I moved my office to the Boyer House because I feel like it is representative of my leadership. I am highly respectful of my predecessors and the Milano family legacy, and I believe that they have built a strong foundation that is the springboard for future growth.”
To arrange a tour of the Boyer House, call the Historical Society of East Pennsboro Township at 717-732-5801.