ROSE VALLEY — Workers have been swarming around Thunderbird Lodge to continue restoring the exterior of the building.
So have more than 15,000 bees.
Using a bee box to entice the foragers, beekeeper Noah Gress recently successfully diverted the colony week from a window alcove on the Rose Valley Road side of the house. The honeymakers had taken up residence under the copper flashing.
“It appeared to be a new swarm using an old hive,” said Gress, of Raindance Apiary in Media. “The process was a pleasurable way to encourage them into the box.”
Like all facets of the restoration project, the bee situation was a well-researched endeavor. The Rose Valley Centennial Foundation (RVCF), which owns the structure built in 1904 by Arts and Crafts community founder William Price, had the option of sacrificing or saving the bees. The board conferred with noted apiarist N’aan Harp, who consulted on a similar situation at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.
“We wanted to do as little harm to the bees as possible,” said board member and grant director Nick Slagis. “They are such beautiful insects.”
Several weeks ago, Gress placed a Langstroth hive on the window roof, which prevented the bees from returning to their own hive. The workers were lured to the box and he exchanged the frames several times, recouping approximately 20 pounds of honey.
Gress subsequently removed the hive, leaving the box for a few days to attract any stragglers.
“I found the queen and the others followed,” he said. “It was important to take all of it.”
Work can now begin on the street side of the building, a converted 1790’s stone barn designed as studios for world-renowned illustrator Alice Barber Stephens and her husband, Charles, an early Native American ethnologist. A fieldstone and stucco appendage was added as their home.
Following their deaths, the building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, became the residence of well-known social activists Judge Allen and Mildred Scott Olmsted. In 2015, the Olmsted family trust gifted the building to the foundation and it now houses the Rose Valley Museum, a collection of early local art and artifacts.
RVCF has been awarded a $99,788 grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission Keystone Historical Preservation Grant program. Refurbishing the building is its signature project and the 50/50 matching grant will be used to replace portions of the roof, exterior masonry and stucco.
Gress, designated the RVCF beekeeper, will move two colonies to the rear of the property in early spring.
“They will take up residence in two new brood boxes,” he said. “The honey will be sold in the Rose Valley Museum store.”
In addition to the matching grant, RVCF is running a capital campaign to raise the $1 million needed for additional repairs and restoration work. To date, more than $500,000 has been pledged by community members who value the historic treasure.
More information about Thunderbird Lodge and the “Preserving the Art that is Life” campaign can be found at https://www.rosevalley100.org/campaign-for-thunderbird-lodge/.