What the Hex?Free Access

From left, Lane Schultz, his daughter Priscilla and the artist who created the hex sign in Londonderry Township. Photo: Nathan Merkel.

From left, Lane Schultz, his daughter Priscilla and the artist who created the hex sign in Londonderry Township. Photo: Nathan Merkel.

A comfortable blending of new and old on a historic Londonderry Township farm celebrates a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition while honoring work, family and deed in the form of a new hex sign installed on the front of a 200+ year-old barn.

The brownstone barn, owner Lane Schultz says, was built in 1809, a relative newcomer to the 200-acre farm, which was established in Colonial times by a family named Smith.

“A portion of the residence (a handsome restored stone structure where the Schultz family lives) is derived from the 1760s,” Schultz said. “The restored barn has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of Interior.

He said that when they began the restoration of the barn, it had been covered with asbestos shingles, which were removed. Inside they found the structural integrity maintained by original massive hand-hewn beams.

“We renovated the first floor, which was in not too bad condition, to a rustic livable interior,” he said.

Photo: Nathan Merkel.

Photo: Nathan Merkel.

A retired geologist, he says he has office space where, though retired, he keeps busy with various projects. It houses numerous samples he has collected over his broad geological travels and the walls display large geological maps, some of which include results of his investigative data.

Other rooms serve as work areas for daughter Priscilla, a registered nurse, whose profession is expanding into the health-coaching field, a play/study area for his granddaughter and a large family gathering room.

Amish-milled lumber added on the exterior glows undercoats of golden-yellow paint, a warm complement to the mature trees, shrubs and tawny winter grasses that flank the lane leading into the farm.

“I commissioned a creative artist from Royersford, Pa., Jolie Chylack, to develop a hex sign for my restored barn,” he said.

“Hex signs are a cultural signature of Pennsylvania representative of the rich Germanic heritage that can be found on historic barns in the eastern part of this state,” Chylack, who is also Schultz’s goddaughter, said. “While some believe our Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors painted them for good luck, others maintain that they were painted merely for decorative purposes, highlighting the beauty of the surrounding nature.”

“I think they also tell stories; they facilitate communication,” she said. “They are more than ‘just for pretty.’”

Respecting the artist’s vision and talent, Schultz said his only request was that she somehow incorporate the image of a rearing black stallion, reminiscent of his service in the “Black Horse Regiment” in Vietnam.

Chylack managed that request and went further in chronicling aspects of this close family.

“The custom black stallion design flanked in a vibrant red field pays homage to his service with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment during the Vietnam war. The gold diamonds represent his successful career as a Ph. D. Geologist, and the gold echinacea blooms pay tribute to the gardening talents of his late wife Sandy, my godmother,” she said.

Schultz was beyond pleased with the resulting modern hex piece.

“Hex signs are believed to provide good luck and protection from evil forces according to Pennsylvania German tradition,” Schultz said, with a smile. “I’m trusting the hex sign will ward off the COVID pandemic in 2021.”

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