Just a day after the house at a beloved southern Lancaster County attraction burned to the ground, community assistance already is pouring in.

Nearly $8,000 had been donated to an online fundraising effort as of 10 p.m. Wednesday to benefit Gnome Countryside, 63 Bridle Path Road, in Colerain Township.

Early Tuesday morning, a restored log-and-stone home that dates at least to the 1890s on the property was destroyed by fire, causing about $350,000 damage.

The owner, Richard Humphreys, was not home at the time.

The cause of the fire is undetermined, though not suspicious, fire officials said.

Humphreys, known locally as Gnomeman, dressed in gnome-like clothes and led tours of his wooded 14 acres for decades.

The goal of the retired Solanco art teacher was to raise awareness of the importance of environmental stewardship.

After hearing about the fire at the Humphreys home, Chris Neely, 29, of Lancaster started an online fundraising effort Tuesday evening called "Save Gnome Countryside" through the Youcaring.com website.

"Gnome Countryside is run by Richard Humphreys in Kirkwood, PA," the website states.

"Children and families have been following Richard through the woods and across the countryside on journeys in search of gnomes, all the while learning to respect nature, and learning valuable lessons through Dick's great story telling."

Neely, who grew up near Gnome Countryside and spent many days there playing with the Humphreys' children, only spread word about the fundraiser via his Facebook page.

But judging by the donations, the message has been getting around.

Seventy-two people gave amounts ranging from $10 to $300 — several donations were listed as "hidden amount" — as of 10 a.m. Wednesday.

"I used to go there as a child," donor Gina Garity wrote on the site. She gave $20.

"I'm in college now, and still remember everything from that magical place. I would love for this to be around forever so I can take my children there as well in the future.

"With all the technology, kids have to remember that there is beauty right outside their windows."

Neely set a goal of $10,000 for his online effort.

"I don't really know why I picked that number — I just did," he said.

Neely tried to contact Humphreys about his fundraiser, but he has not heard back from him.

A reporter's attempt to reach him likewise was unsuccessful.



P.J. Reilly is a Lancaster Newspapers staff writer and outdoors columnist who covers municipal government. He can be reached at preilly@lnpnews.com or (717) 481-6138. You can also follow @PeeJayReilly on Twitter.