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Evans City Historical Society restoring condemned spring

‘Minetta Spring’
President Rick Reifenstein, Evans City Historical Society, discusses the stonework inside Minetta Spring — a structure dating to 1896 along Route 68 — on Tuesday, Nov. 21. The historical society is seeking to preserve the structure and its history for the region. Austin Uram/Butler Eagle

JACKSON TWP — A roadside ruin has puzzled travelers along Route 68 for decades, but an Evans City Historical Society restoration project may help unravel that puzzle.

“The thing is to get it out there, so that people know what was there, when it was put there and why it was there back in the day,” historical society member and Evans City mayor Dean Zinkhann said. “It’s to let the people know it’s part of the history of Evans City.”

Located just west of Evans City in Jackson Township, a wooden red door is bricked into the hills along Breakneck Creek.

And above the door, embedded in the stonework, is a weatherworn plaque.

“Minetta Spring,” it reads. “Built by Harry Etheridge in loving memory of Minetta A. Walsh, mother of Mrs. Harry Etheridge. This drinking water was dedicated to the public Oct. 31, 1931.”

Prying open the thick red door, Rick Reifenstein — president of the historical society — revealed a massive stone basin still fed from cool, clear water beneath the hillside.

“It was a supply of water for whatever purpose,” Reifenstein said. “Also, I’m sure back then it was a good place to stop to water your horse.”

“Back then” predates the monument’s 1931 dedication, according to Zinkhann, with original stonework being done in at least 1896 by Moss Hemphill and an “A. Zinkorn.”

“A lot of our residents from the town used it to fill up their jugs and everything else before we had public water systems,” Zinkhann said.

Before that, the spring would have simply been a wooden watering trough.

“Folks used it clean up until the time when it was condemned,” Reifenstein said.

In 1958, the spring was closed by the state Department of Transportation while Route 68 was rebuilt.

“It’s been neglected for so long,” Reifenstein said. “It’s no wonder that people have passed by and not even seen it.”

Evans City Historical Society members opened the door to Minetta Spring on Tuesday, Nov. 21. The historic spring along Route 68 dates to 1869 and is the subject of an ongoing restoration project by the historical society. Austin Uram/Butler Eagle
‘Save history, local history’

While the spring’s perilous location along the busy highway makes it impossible to open to the public, Reifenstein said the goal of the restoration project would be to preserve the site and its history.

“There have been a couple of folks who have made attempts to keep it clean, but they’re getting up in their years, and they don’t do it anymore,” he said. “It just needs to be cleaned up.”

The society’s project includes repointing the mortar joints of the masonry, according to Zinkhann, as well as replacing the decorative caps on the structure.

“Some of them are missing, so it’s just to get it back to the actual look,” he said.

Reifenstein also said “it might be nice” to have a larger historical marker for the site that could be seen easily from the road.

“I think we’d like to make people more aware of what we’re doing, and what should be done to preserve historic sites,” he said. “Because that’s our purpose: to preserve the history of not only Evans City but the surrounding area.”

According to Reifenstein, local history “expands beyond” municipal lines — and he said he hoped the project would promote regional interest in preserving it.

“Maybe somebody might say, ‘Well, gee, wouldn’t it be nice if we did this, or we did that?’” he said. “Maybe we’ll get interest from other surrounding areas that might want to contribute or to help.”

While the society is still working out the details for the restoration, Zinkhann reiterated its basic goals.

“We’re just trying to keep it clean and keep it as a historical site, tell the people more about it and get our name out there as a historical society,” he said. “We’re here to save history, local history.”

A postcard of Minetta Spring from the Evans City Historical Society showcases the structure in its prime. Located just west of Evans City along Route 68, the historical society is seeking to preserve the structure and its history for the region. Submitted photo
Volunteer Keith Peffer and President Rick Reifenstein, Evans City Historical Society, pry open the heavy wooden door of Minetta Spring on Tuesday, Nov. 21. The historical society is seeking to preserve the spring — which dates to 1896 — along Route 68 for the region. Austin Uram/Butler Eagle
Evans City Historical Society member Dean Zinkhann looks at the stonework inside Minetta Spring — a structure dating to 1869 along Route 68 — on Tuesday, Nov. 21. The historical society is seeking to preserve the structure and its history for the region. Austin Uram/Butler Eagle
Volunteer Keith Peffer and president Rick Reifenstein, Evans City Historical Society, pry open the heavy wooden door of Minetta Spring on Tuesday, Nov. 21. The historical society is seeking to preserve the spring — which dates to 1896 — along Route 68 for the region. Austin Uram/Butler Eagle

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