It took a team of lawyers working together and many months of effort, but the last wishes of William Foshag to preserve the historic Heishman Mill in Cumberland County were honored when Preservation Pennsylvania completed its first real estate preservation project April 29, 2019. Heishman Mill, located along Conodoquinet Creek, passed to Preservation Pennsylvania as heir and beneficiary under Mr. Foshag’s Will, and contemporaneously with the sale of the Mill property to private ownership, preservation covenants were imposed to assure the historic integrity of the structure, and a fund was created to assist in needed repairs and maintenance of the mill and dam. The original mill structure was built in 1805 and operated as a grist mill until the 1920’s when it was converted to a roller mill.
Preservation Pennsylvania, a non-profit with offices in Harrisburg, is a statewide organization devoted to protecting and preserving Pennsylvania’s historic places. The transaction that preserved the Heishman Mill was a clear example of Preservation Pennsylvania’s mission to “assist Pennsylvania communities, through creative partnerships, in protecting and utilizing historic resources for the future.”
William Foshag, who was described as “brilliant, eccentric and gregarious” died April 27, 2017. In his Last Will he directed his executor to find a suitable non-profit dedicated to preservation, to save the Mill for future generations. His executor determined that Preservation Pennsylvania was the right organization to carry out those wishes. Executive Director Melinda Crawford and Program Director Julia Chain developed a plan by which Preservation Pennsylvania would receive the Mill property as a distribution from the Foshag Estate, impose protective covenants and use the proceeds from the sale to a private party to assist in preservation costs.
With cooperation among the Estate’s attorneys, the buyer’s attorney, and Stock and Leader representing Preservation Pennsylvania, approval for the proposal was obtained from the Commonwealth’s Office of the Attorney General. The transaction that preserved the Heishman Mill was complex, requiring creative and informed application of both real estate and estate laws. The York law firm, Stock and Leader, counseled Preservation Pennsylvania through the transaction. Ron Hershner of Stock and Leader noted, “I worked with Mindy Crawford when she led Historic York. When she called and asked for my help I was thrilled to assist. Too many of the significant places of our past are lost or threatened. I was able to apply my legal experiences in estate matters and real estate transactions to fulfill my great avocation of preserving our history.” This is Hershner’s second mill preservation project. Thirty years ago he represented the Estate of Harry Cross who donated the Wallace-Cross Mill in East Hopewell Township to the County of York. It is now a beautifully restored mill structure and part of the York County Parks system.