Sunday, October 25, 2020



Early 20th century postcard view of High Street in downtown Waynesburg. I've restored the second and fourth buildings on the left. The small gray house in-between was demolished for a borough parking lot. All of the buildings on the right remain. The photographer is looking west from Wood Street, originally named Whiskey Alley.

 Dear Readers,

After seven years and 47 columns, I'm taking a COVID-19 break from researching and writing the "Waynesburg Matters" column while I continue to maintain the three historic buildings in which I've invested. In all, there are 15 rental units.  

I'd like to research and write about more local architectural treasures sometime in the future. Until then, please enjoy my past columns and continue to advocate for historic education and preservation. 

Mary Beth

Thursday, February 6, 2020


This column first appeared in the February 2020 issue of "GreeneSpeak!"

The building today.

When erected in 1870, the then-named Hook Building at 102-108 East High Street was a showpiece. By 2007, it was an eyesore, up for Sheriff’s Sale, occupied by squatters. That’s when I did a crazy thing. I bought it.

The front facade in 2008 before renovation. The only remaining original window was above the arched entranceway that was also restored. Telephone pole and utility wires were moved underground during streetscape improvements in 2010.

The Morgan Street elevation in 2008 before rehabilitation.

Rear elevation in 2008 before rehabilitation. Addition at right was removed and block fire stairs were enclosed and faced with brick.
A dozen years later I’m proud to say that the building—now known as “Morgan Building” or “Hook/Morgan Building”--is again a showpiece. My investment encouraged neighbors to rehab their buildings as well. Today, this beautiful group of historic buildings welcomes residents and visitors alike to downtown Waynesburg.  

The Hook/Morgan Building is on the left in this 1908 postcard view of Downtown Waynesburg.  All of the buildings in its block remain except for the small gray house next door that was demolished for a borough parking lot.

Long-standing commercial tenants now occupy the first floor of the Morgan Building: Peacock Keller Law Firm, Community Foundation and Flutter Lash + Brow. On the second and third floors, six apartments are usually fully leased.

The new name honors my Dad, Richard V. Morgan, who for many years worked nearby at First Federal Savings & Loan. Dad cared deeply about Waynesburg as do I. Coincidentally, the name also recognizes the location at High and Morgan Streets. 

Built like a fortress, the building has exterior and interior walls three bricks thick on a massive stone foundation. That was the good news back in 2007. The bad news was the deplorable condition--leaky roof, antiquated or non-existent mechanical systems and a rear addition pulling away from the building. But, what I hated most were the bats in the attic.

Restoration was supervised by local contractor Bill Whitlatch and his crew of talented craftsmen. Architects David Vater of Pittsburgh and Ken Kulak of Monongahela, PA, created measured drawings and solutions for code and safety requirements. 

Restored apartment entrance.  Wood door with fan- and sidelights designed by Fred Smith.

Fred Smith, historic window-and-door expert at Allegheny Millwork in Pittsburgh, designed the 67 replacement windows replicating the only original window that remained in 2007. Over 8-feet tall, the new double-glass Marvin windows make the building quiet and energy efficient.

Fred sourced historically correct replacements for long-lost doors and hardware. He even supplied missing spindles and rails for the open 3-story staircase. Years earlier, he had saved them from a demolished house of similar vintage in Pittsburgh’s North Side. 

View of second floor hallway before restoration.  Note the false wall where the stairrail and spindles were missing. also the drop ceiling..
Second floor hallway today looking in the opposite direction.  Curved rail at top of stairs was fabricated by Thomas McGill Restoration, Bridgeville.
Apartment entrance with restored staircase that's open to the third floor.
Replacing the original standing seam metal roof, soffit and fascia was another major project. Completed masterfully by Yohe Roofing of Washington County, it required scaffolding and specially ordered wood. When Yohe removed the old roof, I scooped up its original square-headed nails believing them forged by my great-great uncle Joseph Wiley whose blacksmith shop had been nearby. 

Nails removed from the original 1870 roof

The first exterior project was cleaning up the rear elevation, removing the addition and running new sewer lines under what became a level, concrete driveway poured by John Hanley of Canonsburg. Next, the Whitlatch crew laid new bricks over an ugly concrete block fire stairs while restoration specialist George Appel cleaned and repointed original walls and replaced lintels. 

New sewer lines replaced cast iron originals at the back of the building.  Here the author consults with contractor John Hanley.

Inside, the first space renovated became Our Glass, a stained glass and mosaic shop. Today it’s the Community Foundation meeting room. Ripping out false walls and two drop ceilings revealed a light, bright commercial space as originally intended. 

The Barbershop in 2008 before restoration. Antique chairs were sold to a local collector to help fund construction.  Mirrored wall remains today with attached workstations.

Equally rewarding was restoring the old Barber Shop in the basement where my Dad and brothers used to get their hair cut. Today, it’s Flutter Lash + Brow. Throughout, electrical wiring was handled by Wayne Blaker whose father had years earlier been co-leader of the East Franklin 4-H Electric Club with my Dad.

 It’s a small world and it takes a village to save an historic building.

Thursday, December 5, 2019


This column first appeared in the December 2019 issue of GreeneSPEAK!
The author recently restored this handsome Italianate design, now known as the Hook-Morgan Building

 In 1870, harness maker John T. Hook built one of the first mixed-use buildings in Waynesburg at the corner of High and Morgan Streets. It had four storerooms with separate entrances plus a vestibule leading to residences above. Earlier, shops, taverns and inns had been located in homes with customers and family members sharing a single door.

Along with the Downey House Hotel and Odd Fellows & Masonic Building (later Opera House), the Hook Building introduced a new era of development in Waynesburg. The Civil War was over and businessmen were again confident in the local economy. 

By the early 20th century when this postcard was made there were many 3-story mixed use buildings like the Hook Building in downtown Waynesburg. It's on the left, fourth building down.

Architectural fashion had moved away from classicism and now "Victorian" styles such as Italianate and Second Empire were popular. These buildings were tall with more ornate wood trim, manufactured at steam-powered sawmills, a new innovation.

They also introduced a new, 3-story height to High Street. Almost as tall as the Courthouse, they dwarfed the smaller colonial buildings around them.  

1864 photo shows the Crawford House that earlier stood on the site of the Hook Building. Behind it, across Morgan Street, is Greene County's first bank, Farmers & Drovers, built in 1859 by Jesse Hook, a cousin of John T. Hook.

The Hook Building replaced a house built in 1814 by William Crawford, reportedly Waynesburg’s first merchant. It was described in estate documents as a “mansion” or “large brick house.” 

When John T. Hook built anew in 1870, he re-used its sturdy sandstone foundation and basic floor plan, extending along Morgan Street to form an L-shaped building with an interior, 2-story porch, a common feature of the late 19th century.  

This ca. 1907 view of the Hook Building (on right) shows its original L-shape.

Today, ceilings in the basement display wood from both structures. Floor joists have straight cut marks from an early, simpler mill while floor boards have round, quarter-sawn marks, typical of the 1870s. 

Scabbled and drafted sandstone treatment at the Gordon House (1843) near Waynesburg is identical to the Hook Building. "Early Architecture of Western Pennsylvania" by Stotz, 1936.

Along Morgan Street the building features a special treatment of sandstone called “scabbled and draftedthat appears on other Greene County buildings of similar vintage. Walls were built of bricks from Jesse Hook’s East Waynesburg brickyard. Typical of Italianate style, the building has over 8-feet tall windows that are arched with eyebrow lintels of either sandstone or brick. The low gable roof has wide eaves.

John T. Hook.

Eliza (Inghram) Hook.
The Hook family lived on the second and third floors with John T., wife Eliza and some of their eight children facing Morgan Street and son John Polk Hook and family along High Street. After his father retired, John P. continued the harness/saddle business until automobiles made it obsolete, then opened an upholstery shop in a first floor storeroom. Another brother, Attorney William I. Hook, also lived and worked in the building. The family owned the building until 1921. 

During restoration, this sign was found in the attic.

John Polk Hook.

Today, storefronts are occupied by Peacock Keller Law Firm, Community Foundation and Flutter. Through the years, among the many tenants were a grocery, dentist, music store, jewelry, millinery, plumber, tailor, wallpaper, men’s and women’s clothing, restaurant, barber, paint store, credit bureau, hairdresser, cable company and stained glass artists.

Next issue, I’ll write about restoring the building. I know it well; I’ve owned it since 2007.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019


This column first appeared in the October 2019 issue of GreeneSPEAK!

When the U. S. Direct Tax list was released on October 1, 1798, Waynesburg had 19 occupied houses and eight more in construction  This column focuses on the eight “unfinished” dwellings that show a shift in development from Greene to High Streets and from log to brick.  

The first Greene County courthouse of 1797 still stands in its original location on Greene Street.

Greene Street, an former Indian trail that pre-existed the town, was surveyed in 1796. Quickly, a temporary log courthouse was constructed there, and log structures sprang up around it, the very first buildings. However, Waynesburg’s surveyors had planned Main (High) Street as the major thoroughfare with a “Public Square” in the middle where a permanent courthouse would be placed.  

Only known image of the first brick courthouse, an etching by Sherman Day, 1843.

By 1800, an Irish immigrant named Robert Milligan was building this first brick courthouse of hand-fired bricks made from local clay. Variously described as a brick molder, mason, contractor and master-builder, he introduced a preference for brick architecture that continues today. Milligan’s courthouse survived until 1850 when the current courthouse was built.

Two years earlier, in 1798, Milligan had started building a house at the SE corner of High and Spring Alley on a lot purchased in July of that year that was assessed at $40, 22x10 feet in size. It's unknown when it was replaced.

When this photo was taken in the mid-1890s, the Robert Adams House (ca. 1800) at Morris and Franklin Streets was one of the few remaining original brick buildings. Source:

Surprisingly, a woman appeared on the tax list, Phoebe Morris whose husband James had just died at age 28. Her brother Ephraim Sayers lived next door and would soon become the town’s largest property owner. Located at High and Richhill Streets, the 24x20 feet unfinished house was assessed at $60. Completed by the next owner, it was described in 1847 as “hewn log, weather-boarded”. What is today the Hook Law office replaced it in the 1890s.  
Phoebe found a second husband a block away, George Remley who was building a house at the SW corner of High and Spring Streets across the alley from Milligan. His unfinished house was assessed at $80. George was a “joiner” making furniture and house fittings such as doors, windows and stairs, surely a profession in demand in the growing town. Sadly, Phoebe died soon after giving birth to a son, James Remley, in November 1800. George moved to Ohio in 1812.

Capt. James Seals Jr. lived in a stone house he built in 1792 on his farm just west of Waynesburg. Image from "Waynesburg Prosperous & Beautiful," Fred High, 1907.

Two of the five trustees who established Greene County and its county seat of Waynesburg invested in multiple town lots but lived elsewhere. One of them, Capt. James Seals Jr., had an unfinished building that was probably across High Street from Robert Milligan's house where the Belko grocery store is today. It was assessed at $92.

 At the other end of High Street, Isaac Jenkinson’s unfinished building may still exist as the western (left) half of “Whitehill Place” at the corner with Cumberland Street, shown above. In 1798 it was 24x20 feet, valued at $80. Two years later Jenkinson lost his investment to Philadelphia merchants to whom he owed $2400, a princely sum. In 1808, local attorney Robert Whitehill purchased the property. 

Also in 1798 James Eagon was building a log house at the NW corner of High and Findley Alley, assessed at $100. In 1816, he sold to daughter Sarah Adamson and thereafter it became “the old Adamson property”.  By 1886 it was the residence of Father Herman, the priest of St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church.

Early 19th century brick buildings on High Street, looking west from Washington Street ca. 1860. Source:

Wednesday, September 18, 2019


This column first appeared in the September 2019 issue of GreeneSPEAK!
The original Greene County courthouse of 1797 is the only extant early log structure in Waynesburg. Today, it is the home of Cornerstone Genealogical Society.

Who were the first citizens of Waynesburg? What did their houses look like and what were their economic reasons for moving to the new county seat?

Many clues can be found in the U. S. Direct Tax of 1798, aka the ”Window Tax” that assessed panes of glass, a measure of wealth in the 18th century. The list for Waynesburg contained only 19 “occupied” structures with another eight under construction. In my last column, I reviewed the six simplest cabins, all occupied and assessed at under $100 including the lot.   

An additional 13 dwellings were assessed over $100, based on size, material, number of stories and panes of glass. Eleven were log and two were frame. One of the log buildings, the original courthouse, still stands on Greene Street.  

In the 1930s, photographer William Fletcher captured this image of Greene Street one block west of the log courthouse when other early dwellings of log and frame still lined the street.  Today the site is a gas station.  Credit:

Across the street from the log courthouse, innkeeper Phillip Ketchum had the highest assessment at $600. His two-story log dwelling was 30 x 26 feet with three 15-pane windows on the first floor and six 12-panes on the second, plus two log stables. After 1801, it was known as the Nicholas Johnson Tavern.

The second highest assessment at $500 was Jacob Burley’s log tavern on Franklin Street. It was 2-stories, 54 x 22 with thirteen 12-pane windows, plus a separate log kitchen measuring 20 x 18 on three lots between Richhill Street and Spring Alley. After 1812, it was the Joseph Seals Tavern. 

Justice of the Peace William Hunter lived on Lot 96 at the northwest corner of High and Morgan Streets (today Victoria Square) in a 2-story log house 25 x 22 with 12 single pane windows on the first floor and five on the second. Assessed at $300, it included a stable. 

U. S. Direct Tax of October 1, 1798 lists John Boreman and Jacob Burley's properties in the new town of. Waynesburg.  Not yet incorporated, it was included in Franklin Township.  All town lots were 10,800 sq. ft.  Boreman had three.

Early settler John Boreman’ s three lots on Greene Street between Morris Street and Fruit Alley were valued at $200, occupied by his 2-story log house, 26 x 20 with one 9-pane window, plus a smokehouse 20 x 20 with two single pane windows. During the Revolutionary War, Boreman was Assistant Paymaster at Ft. Pitt, earning the trust of colonial leaders. When Greene County was formed in 1796, Governor Mifflin appointed him clerk of all courts, recorder of deeds, recorder of wills and prothonotary. He was county government’s most influential official.

The Uriah Hupp log house in Clarksville, Greene County, was dismantled in 19__ and shipped to North Ireland where it is today the centerpiece of the Ulster American Folk Park.
Waynesburg’s first U. S. postmaster, James Wilson, built a 1-story frame house assessed at $200 on Lot 91 at the northeast corner of High and Washington Streets. It had two 12-pane windows and one 8-pane. Soon thereafter, he replaced it with a brick structure that survives today as part of the “Messenger Building,” now Mickey’s Men’s Store.

Attorney John Simonson owned a rental log house assessed at $160 on the present site of PNC Bank. It was 16 feet square with two 12-pane windows on the first floor and two 9-panes on the second. At the other end of town, High and Findley Alley, Henry Slater’s log house of 26 x 20 was also assessed at $160. It was 2-stories with eight 9-pane windows.

In 1973, Professor Henry Glassie of Indiana University, Bloomington, IN studied the earliest extant log structures in Greene County. His report, found in the library at the Ulster American Folk Park, includes the Joseph Higgins Farm south of Waynesburg. Early log dwellings in town would have been similar.

Interior floor plan of the Higgins log house from Professor Glassie's report.

In addition, there were six smaller occupied properties with fewer windows and values ranging from $102 to $130. The owners were Shadrack Mitchell (stone mason), Henry Russell (carpenter), William Caldwell (tailor), Robert Adams (shoemaker), Asa McClelland (gunsmith), and Peter Lupardus. While Caldwell’s house was frame, all the others were log.

The series concludes next month with the eight “unfinished” houses marking a change in building material from log to brick.