The proposed Eichelberger Distillery at the historic Dills Tavern will be a significant addition to a site where visitors can experience the life of a small farming community in early America. Immigrant families tested their new freedoms using grit, ingenuity, and determination to chase the American Dream. As a new nation emerged, the distillery played a major role in the development of the community.
NYCHAPS is following in the footsteps of local pioneers by embarking on its most ambitious project ever – to recreate the production of distilled spirits at the dawn of American Whiskey. The new Eichelberger Distillery will demonstrate how York County led Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania led the nation, in distilled spirits production as 18th century economies paved the way for 19th century growth. As the state’s first Distillery of Historic Significance, NYCHAPS will show how whiskey and freedom intertwined.
The distillery’s construction will be based on rare, documented plans of an early Pennsylvania distillery featuring wood-fired copper stills encased in a masonry envelope. Ledgers kept by the original Eichelberger owners detail what was sold, and an obscure early 19th century manuscript describes mash bills and distilling techniques used specifically in Pennsylvania. These references have been meticulously studied for years by founders Sam McKinney and Murray Small, and will be used to accurately produce spirits that would taste familiar to someone from that period.
Existing historic structures – the Dills Tavern, wheelwright shop, and log barn – create a multifaceted opportunity to demonstrate how farmers, tradesmen, merchants, and laborers contributed to the overall economy. The Dills Tavern tap room is where the products created in the distillery were served. The wheelwright shop allows a visitor to examine the skills and tools necessary to build and repair the wagons used to transport distilled products to Baltimore. That commerce expanded the rural economy into a regional one while the delivery of new products from Baltimore contributed to the local culture.
Our story is one of early entrepreneurs who overcame obstacles, seized opportunities, and built a better future for their families and community. Much as the early settlers of Dillsburg flocked to the tavern and distillery two centuries ago, it is the hope of NYCHAPS that the Eichelberger Distillery at Dills Tavern will continue to be at the heart of this vibrant community.
All of that comes at a cost. Since the initial 2003 purchase of the property for $175,000, NYCHAPS has stewarded $1.5 million. The first project was to transform the tavern, which had suffered from decades of neglect, into a landmark for the Dillsburg community. To further the educational value of the property, the wheelwright shop and log barn were added. Additional smaller but significant interpretive elements include a free-standing squirrel tail oven and hearth, smokehouse, and woodshed. Brick walkways and ADA compliant bathrooms increase overall accessibility, and a commercially licensed modern kitchen allows NYCHAPS to offer historic foodways programs in a safe manner. Most recently, NYCHAPS purchased an additional 1.14 acres of adjoining commercial property, allowing construction of a parking lot which reduces on-street parking and provides handicapped accessibility for the Dillsburg Farmer’s Market and NYCHAPS events.
The vision of building The Eichelberger Distillery at Dills Tavern began over 15 years ago. NYCHAPS’ mission is to complete the stories of how two immigrant families met the demands of a quickly changing world. Over $550,000 has already been committed to the project. Our challenge is to raise an additional $500,000 by May of 2023. We expect to meet that challenge the same way they did – with grit, ingenuity, determination, and the active support of the community we serve. Help us tell this incredible story of freedom and the pursuit of a better life by donating today.