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Mini-casino could save Mifflin Underground Railroad site in York County

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CLOSEMini-casino could save Mifflin Underground Railroad site in York County

A rally to save an Underground Railroad site was to detail the latest on the efforts. The site is known as the Mifflin House. Teresa Boeckel, York Daily Record

Penn National Gaming Inc. is eyeing a site off the Wrightsville exit of Route 30 for a possible mini-casino, and if selected, the company would consider preserving the historic Mifflin House, which served as a stop on the Underground Railroad.

"We understand the importance to the community," said Jeff Morris, a spokesman for Penn National.

Representatives attended a Hellam Township meeting last week and explained the company has been looking at three parcels in a commercial/industrial zone just off the exit.

During the meeting, township supervisors opted back in to allow a mini-casino to be built in the municipality. The vote was 4-0, said Galen Weibley, chairman of the board of supervisors.

"Some residents and myself expressed support that if the (Mifflin House) parcel is selected, that the house structure be incorporated into the development of the casino," Weibley said in an email. "I even used the example of the Lancaster Convention Center incorporating the brick structure of the Watt & Shand department store."

Randolph Harris, a preservation advocate, said he sees an opportunity. In Lancaster, saving the classic department store and the adjacent former home of Thaddeus Stevens and Lydia Hamilton Smith has proven fruitful. He said he's doing tours there frequently.

"I'm pleased to hear citizens ... expressing an opinion they'd like to see the Mifflin House saved," he said.

Preservationists have been working to retain the Mifflin House, which sits in a growing business park, from being demolished. Last year, Kinsley Equities II, an affiliate of Kinsley Properties, applied for a demolition permit, and the township denied it. The matter now is in the York County Court of Common Pleas.

More: Odds are, York County will be home to Pa.'s first mini-casino, featuring slots, table games

More: Campaign hopes to raise $10,000 to save York County Underground Railroad house

More: Fate of Mifflin House, Underground Railroad site, still uncertain

Preservation Pennsylvania has listed the house as an "at-risk" site for destruction. The house is historically significant enough to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

Katina Snyder, an officer with the Kreutz Creek Valley Preservation Society, and Melinda Crawford, executive director of Preservation Pennsylvania, could not be reached for comment.

Tim Kinsley of Kinsley Properties also could not be reached for comment.

CLOSEMini-casino could save Mifflin Underground Railroad site in York County

A group gathered in Hellam Township to bring awareness to the impending demolition of a home built in the 1750s that was part of the underground railroad. Paul Kuehnel

Penn National is looking at numerous sites in York County to locate a mini-casino, Morris said. They include the York Galleria in Springettsbury Township, the current off-track betting site in Manchester Township and a site in Shrewsbury Township.

The Hellam Township site is of interest because it is equally distant between Lancaster and York and would offer easy to access Route 30, he said.

More: A casino at York Galleria? Springettsbury Twp. leaders open door to allow mini-casino

More: Viva Yoe Vegas! A mini-casino could have put this small York County town on the map

More: Q and A: How a mini-casino could impact your York County town

A mini-casino could operate between 300  and 750 slot machines and eventually up to 40 tables. Resort casinos, in comparison, can have up to 600 slot machines and 50 gaming tables, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

Penn National is expected to narrow the field of candidates and select one site. The deadline to submit to the state is in July.

Donnie Blessing, who lived in the house for 50 years3 of 26
The Mifflin House in Hellam Township Monday February4 of 26
Donald, left, and Shelby Blessing stand in the third-floor5 of 26
This is the dining room of the Mifflin House in Hellam6 of 26
The Blessing home in Hellam Township in an account7 of 26Ornate woodwork highlights the first-floor stairwell8 of 26A spiral staircase that leads to the first attic on9 of 26The top attic on the fourth floor of the Blessing home.10 of 26A wooden door in the basement of the Blessing home11 of 26An unexplained opening in the side of  the Blessing12 of 26This is an undated early photo of the Mifflin House13 of 26The front of the Blessing home in Hellam Township.14 of 26The back of the Blessing home in Hellam Township.15 of 26The side of the Blessing home in Hellam Township.16 of 26The structure in the basement that supports a fireplace17 of 26The front porch of the Blessing home in Hellam Township18 of 26An exposed lock box. All the interior doors and latches19 of 26The spiral staircase to the attic on the third floor20 of 26The dining room of the Blessing home in Hellam Township.21 of 26Wide windows sills, thick stone walls and a steam radiator22 of 26Donald Blessing in the kitchen of the Blessing home23 of 26The stairway of the Blessing home in Hellam Township24 of 26Protestors along Cool Springs Road with the Mifflin25 of 26The barn next to the Blessing home in Hellam Township.26 of 26

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