locally owned since 1854

Despite lawsuit loss, Germaks say they don’t regret McNair House purchase

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 6/26/19

Adam and Virginia Germak said in their lawsuit against Middletown’s Industrial and Commercial Development Authority that they never would have purchased the McNair House property if not for …

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Despite lawsuit loss, Germaks say they don’t regret McNair House purchase

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Adam and Virginia Germak said in their lawsuit against Middletown’s Industrial and Commercial Development Authority that they never would have purchased the McNair House property if not for “the unfair, deceptive and fraudulent conduct” of the agency.

Now, following dismissal of their case, the Germaks say they don’t regret the purchase. Virginia has fallen in love with the house, its charms, and its history.

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They removed the two apartments and have converted the property at the corner of Union and Emaus streets back to a single-family house. They are renovating the house, a project that will take years, and doing most of the work themselves, Adam said.

“It’s a work in progress,” Virginia said of the renovations. “We’re going to try and make it as original as it was. They were made differently back then.”

The house has 17 rooms and 37 doors spread throughout three floors, the basement and the attic. They have seven fireplaces, including three that are working. The four that aren’t includes one that long ago had been used for cooking in the pantry.

The wooden spindles in the spiral staircase inside the front entrance are all original, dating back to the 1850s, as is the hardwood flooring throughout the house, Adam said.

The house has wallpaper dating back to the late 1800s, he estimated.

The Germaks see themselves as public stewards of the house — even though McNair House was only publicly owned for the three years ICDA owned it from 2014 to 2017.

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“I didn’t realize how big of a deal this house was to the people in this town,” Virginia said. “People ask me about it, they say the nicest things to me, that they have been watching. Does it add a little pressure? A little bit. But I’m kind of a perfectionist to begin with.”

A historic residence

The McNair House wasn’t your typical real estate deal, if for no other reason than the McNair House isn’t your typical house — even in a town steeped in historical architecture like Middletown.

Public records say the house was built in 1894. Virginia says her own research leads her to believe it dates back to as far as the 1850s.

For nearly all its history — until 2000 — the house stayed in the McNair family.

Harold V. McNair was the first elected burgess of Middletown, and held the position for many years. Today, the burgess position is similar to the mayor, but the burgess of McNair’s days probably had more power in Middletown than the mayor does now.

McNair’s brother William was mayor of Pittsburgh from 1934 to 1936.

In 2000, Carol M. McNair, as executor of the will of Wilda E. McMahon — formerly Wilda E. McNair and the widow of Harold V. McNair, who died in 1949 — sold the McNair House property for $195,000 to Vincent A. Tritch Jr., of Middletown, according to the Dauphin County Recorder of Deeds office.

In October 2004, Linda M. Tritch, administrator of Vincent Tritch Jr.’s estate, sold the property for $290,000 to Danny Chen, of Wantagh, New York, according to county deed records.

Ten years later, the ICDA — an economic development authority created in 2012 by Middletown Borough Council — acquired McNair House in 2014 as part of ICDA buying a larger property on the northeast corner of North Union and East Emaus streets for $325,000.

The ICDA planned to demolish a building in front of the McNair House that had been home to several small businesses, to make room for a large pavilion that was to be part of a multimillion-dollar downtown improvement project.

ICDA razed the building, but ended up scrapping the pavilion as too expensive.

In October 2015, then-borough councilor Scott Sites proposed ICDA tear down the McNair House for parking.

Council backed his motion 6-1, but Sites wasn’t seeking re-election and a month later, Middletown voters threw out the council leadership that created the ICDA.

The new council leadership sacked the ICDA members, replacing them with newly elected councilors and with Mayor James H. Curry III, who had opposed the downtown improvement project as carried out by ICDA appointees who didn’t have to answer to the voters. The new ICDA finished the downtown project, and in 2017 put the McNair House property up for sale.

In October 2017, the ICDA approved selling the property to the Germaks for $90,000.

Questions about the sale by the Germaks led to the 2018 lawsuit the couple filed, which was dismissed by a Dauphin County Court judge in April.