Crooked House art project in Milesburg makes strides toward completion

– by Holly Riddle

For many artists, their work is a labor of love — a fact made all the more apparent when your work consists of a dilapidated historic home that can’t be saved, you’re a one-man show, and there’s no gain in sight other than simply contributing something beautiful to a community. Such is the case with Benjamin Fehl and The Crooked House.

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Fehl’s relationship with The Crooked House property stretches back to the early 2000s when he purchased an 1857 home in Milesburg.

“I started to restore it and I couldn’t,” Fehl explained. “It was in such poor condition, I decided to put it on the back burner while I finished grad school.” However, he couldn’t shake the home’s intrigue and decided to incorporate the home into his thesis art project.

From there, the project was slow going. Fehl spent about a year brainstorming, but, in the end, the design all came back to a simple sketch he’d completed years prior, of the house’s façade. Eventually, Fehl decided he would remove the home’s façade, preserve it off-site, make a mold of it and then use the mold to create a concrete façade that will stand on the original footprint.

“Ultimately, I would end up with this park that makes you think about the ancient ruins,” he explained.

When finished, the life-sized concrete sculpture will sit just steps from a Milesburg sidewalk. The sculpture is part art, part history, but it’s also just the beginning. Once visitors step past the façade, they’ll find a greater greenspace and further artistic and architectural details.

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This work in progress has been, thus far, largely supported by grants and fundraising and, for the last decade, Fehl has spent his summers using the funds to work, bit by bit, on bringing his vision of the public art space into reality.

“We made strides this past year. We built a mock-up out of concrete that’s seven feet tall and four feet wide, to study the methods we’ll use for the full piece, which is 16-and-a-half feet wide by 23 feet tall and is made out of four separate panels,” said Fehl.

This summer, a mold will be moved to the project site and placed on a temporary platform. After the mold is filled with concrete, there’s a 30-day drying period. Then, a crane and welding team will move the piece into place. This process must occur four separate times for each of the four panels.

“We’re shooting to get the front piece up first, because that’s the biggest one and has the most impact. Then, if we can afford to get the other three in at the same time, we will. If not, we’ll just stick with the big one this season and use that as a way to fundraise,” Fehl noted.

He estimated that at least $15,000 would be needed to finish all four panels this summer, and the overall cost of the project, if calculated, would likely amount to several hundred thousand dollars, including the cost of his own and volunteers’ labor.

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I had no idea it was going to turn out to be this large,” he admitted. “I knew it was a big project, but I didn’t think it was such a large undertaking. I’ve been involved with other sculptures, smaller pourings of concrete closer to the size of a human figure, but nothing of this nature.”

Still, Fehl keeps his eyes on the larger goal and what the piece will accomplish once finished, hoping the project inspires visitors to consider the meaning of home.

“I’ve stripped away everything that could be thought of as physical protection and I want you to think about what the meaning of home is otherwise,” he said. “If someone’s homeless or on the other side of the world, what does home mean to them? It’s a place of reflection … And it’s unusual enough that it makes you stop and think, ‘Why would someone spend 10 years doing this?’ So I’m hoping people will pause, look at it and have conversations about home.”

Those interested can stay up to date on The Crooked House project, as well as make donations to the project, at Information about upcoming events at the project site can also be found on Facebook, at

The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau publishes up-to-date event information at