Schifferstadt is an exceptional surviving example of German colonial-era architecture, both in its general form and the quality of its various elements. The two-and-one-half-story, stone main block of the house was constructed c. 1758 by Elias Bruner, who had immigrated to America from the Palatinate region of Germany with his parents and siblings in 1729. In 1746, they purchased land in the vicinity of the newly established town of Frederick on which Bruner would later construct the house. Schifferstadt has a distinctive durchgangigen, or center hall, which was one of the principal plan types used by Germans in the American colonies. Originally interpreted as an indicator of Anglo influence, center hall durchgangigen houses are now understood as part of the regularization of German domestic design in the eighteenth century, amidst a broader ethos of gentility that accompanied increases in wealth and status in the period. The symmetry of Schifferstadt departs from most other houses of this type, which often feature four bays with an off-center front door, more strongly relating it to contemporary Georgian-style house exteriors. The house’s extant central wishbone chimney, Liegender Stuhl (leaning truss system), vaulted cellar, stone kitchen window sink, decorative hardware, Stroh Lehm (mud and straw) paling insulation, and five-plate jamb stove are all fully characteristic of German architecture in America. Despite alterations and additions over more than two centuries of domestic use—including a two-story brick kitchen wing constructed in 1866–1867—Schifferstadt retains an exceptionally high degree of physical integrity and offers an unusual level of insight into one of the important immigrant groups in the early history of America. The Frederick County Landmarks Foundation currently operates the house as an architectural museum.
Bergengren, Charles. “Pennsylvania German House Forms.” In Architecture and Landscape of the Pennsylvania Germans, 1720–1920, edited by Nancy van Dolsen, 23-46. Harrisburg, PA: Vernacular Architecture Forum, 2004.
Frederick County Landmarks Foundation. “A Short History of Schifferstadt.” Accessed May 9, 2014. www.frederickcountylandmarksfoundation.org/fclf_schiffgen.html.