Friday, March 9, 2018


This column first appeared in the March 2018 issue of GreeneSPEAK!

Photographer Mike Schwarz flies a drone from the balcony of his parent's house to take this photo.

Lisa and Jeff Schwarz have meticulously preserved a grand house on North West Street near the Commons. It was built in 1905 by attorney Milton R. Travis, one of many residences erected during Waynesburg’s “Gilded Age,” an economic boom fueled by oil-and-gas revenues that made many professionals and businessmen wealthy.

Today the house is better known for its location next to Bowlby Library and its more recent owners, Hiram and Goldie Milliken and the Schwarz family. The Millikens owned the house from 1926 until 1980; the Schwarz family from 1990 to present.

A 2-story portico of Neoclassical design dominates the front façade of the yellow brick house. It hovers over a full first floor porch and second floor balcony. Supported by Corinthian columns, the portico is topped by a classically-ornamented pediment with a central window wheel.  

The Greene County Courthouse, ca. 1860.  Photo archived at Waynesburg Borough.

It’s similar to the front of the Greene County Courthouse, built 50 years earlier in the Greek Revival style. Both architectural styles were inspired by classical antiquity. Lying between them in the timeline of architectural development is the Victorian era when elaborate ornamentation and fussy design were the fashion.

This elaborately ornamented late-Victorian house stood at the corner of Sherman Avenue and Sixth Street. "Waynesburg Prosperous and Beautiful," 1906.

However, by 1900, the pendulum had swung back to classicism and a focus on simplicity, natural materials and traditional craftsmanship. Architects and builders chose design elements from a wide variety of styles, often mix-and-matching them. Some styles, like Classicism, repeated historical concepts while others like Arts and Crafts were brand new. The Milliken-Schwarz House is a fascinating blend of the two. 

The Milliken-Schwarz House in spring.  Photo courtesy of Lisa Schwarz.

Neoclassical details include the lattice porch railings, urn-topped balcony posts and arched dormer windows. The 2-story portico is significant as Waynesburg’s only residential example.

Proponents of the Arts and Crafts movement valued beauty, simplicity and function, feeling that mass production created inferior products and dehumanized workers. In Chicago, it led to development of the Prairie School of architecture by Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright and others. Later, Wright culminated his philosophy of “organic architecture” at Fallingwater in Fayette County, not far from Waynesburg. 

The Robie House, Chicago, IL, 1909, an early Prairie style house by Frank Lloyd Wright. Photo source: Library of Congress.

Arts and Crafts trademarks in the Milliken-Schwarz exterior include the boxy, 4-square shape, the 5-foot wide overhanging eaves and the hip roof of heavily rusticated tiles.  

The Milliken-Schwarz House, described as "Residence of M. R. Travis" in the book "Waynesburg Prosperous and Beautiful," 1906.

Inside, floors are quarter-sawn oak. Doors, mantels, window frames and coffered ceilings are elm, birch and golden oak. Stained and leaded glass windows are important period details. 

Since 1990, Jeff and Lisa Schwarz have authentically preserved the house, appreciating the fine quality of the original building materials. When parts were missing, they thoughtfully sought out period-appropriate replacements, traveling near and far. 

For instance, the dining room chandelier, scones and andirons came from the recently demolished Iams House (former Senior Center) on North Richhill Street, just around the corner from their home.

The recently demolished Iams House on North Richhill Street. "Waynesburg Prosperous and Beautiful," ca. 1906.

This story would not be complete without mention of the huge rhododendron in the front yard. It was one of a pair planted long ago by Goldie Milliken. While one did not survive, the other flourished. Eventually, she had to re-route the front sidewalk around it. Five years ago, it almost died, but Lisa had it cut back and once again it’s thriving.

The builder, M. R. Travis, did not stay in his first house for long.  Within two years, he had moved a block up the hill on North West Street to a pure Arts and Crafts design.  Both houses are pictured in the second edition of "Waynesburg Prosperous and Beautiful," ca. 1908.  Both are identified as his residence. 

The second residence that M. R. Travis built for himself.



Wednesday, February 7, 2018


 This column first appeared in the February 2018 issue of GreeneSPEAK!

The Democrat Messenger, now Observer-Reporter Building, January 2018. 

Although Waynesburg is best known for its rich collection of 19th century buildings, its downtown has a modern building that’s an important piece of 20th century architecture by renowned Pittsburgh architect Frederick G. Scheibler, Jr. Designed in 1939 for “The Democrat Messenger,” a local daily newspaper, today it is owned by the Observer Publishing Company. The location is Church Street beside the court house.
Early view from the Carnegie Mellon University Archives.

Architect Frederick Scheibler has been called “undoubtedly the most important ‘original’ architect that Pittsburgh produced, as well as a distinguished and unique pioneer of the modern architecture in Pennsylvania“ by architectural historian James van Trump. The Democrat Messenger Building was his last completed commission, capping a 43-year career that was largely in the eastern neighborhoods and suburbs of Pittsburgh. 

Elevation drawing from the Carnegie Mellon University Archives.

His work is fully documented in The Progressive Architecture of Frederick G. Scheibler, Jr. (1994) by Martin Aurand, librarian and archivist at Carnegie Mellon University. Scheibler designed many single-family homes, small apartment buildings and commercial structures. Among his most highly touted are three multi-family residences: Old Heidelberg (1905) on South Braddock Avenue, Point Breeze; Highland Towers (1913) on South Highland Avenue, Shadyside, and Parkstone Dwellings (1922) on Penn Avenue, Point Breeze. 

Early view of the Old Heidelberg apartment building.  Source: "The Progressive Architecture of Frederick G. Scheibler, Jr.," by Martin Aurand.

The Democrat Messenger Building is among his most severe designs, ornamented only with Moravian tiles on the front façade and doorway surround. They were hand-made at the famous Doylestown, PA tile works. Inside the entrance hall are more tiles and another fine example of 20th Century Arts-and-Crafts work, an iron staircase rail that has been attributed to Samuel Yellin of Philadelphia. 

One of the Moravian glazed tiles adorning the front entrance surround. January 2018.

The building design is "functionalist" with its simple box of buff-colored bricks, flat roof and groups of metal casement windows. The interior plan is unusual, designed to accommodate shipping facilities in the basement, a printing plant in the rear of the first floor and offices, all branching from a central hallway.
Front entrance stairway with glazed tile inserts and important Arts-and-Crafts style handrail.  January 2018.

The mystery of how this central lot came to be available 140 years after the town was established is answered in the Downey House Fire of December 1925. One of the buildings destroyed in this tragic conflagration was the Presbyterian Church that previously stood on the lot, giving its name to “Church Street”. Afterward, the congregation moved to its current location at Richhill and College Streets. Today, there is no church on Church Street. 

One of two Moravian tile medallions ornamenting the front facade.  January 2018.

Next, Waynesburg Borough acquired the lot for a new municipal building, but bids were twice rejected as being too high.  They abandoned plans in 1929, selling the lot to Robert H. Robinson, a Monongahela businessman who owned "The Democrat Messenger" and other local papers.  During the Depression when there was little work for architects, Robinson almost single-handedly kept Scheibler employed, first in 1935 with a printing plant for the Canonsburg “Daily Notes,” then four years later with the Democrat Messenger Building. In the same year, he hired Scheibler to design a “Model Dwelling” to address a shortage of affordable modern housing in the Mon Valley. Robinson publicized the project often in his Monongahela “Daily Republican,” and when complete, opened it to the public. Later it became the home of his son, John Robinson.

Model home in Monongahela, PA, designed by Scheibler in 1939. Source: Carnegie Mellon University Archives.
“The Democrat Messenger” ceased publication in March 1986. Since then, the building has been the home of the Greene County Office of the “Observer-Reporter”. The office of Habitat for Humanity is another current occupant.

Thanks to Martin Aurand and Lucy Northrup Corwin for assistance in preparing this article.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017


The Horner farm in western Greene County is protected in perpetuity thanks to an easement donated to Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation in 2006.

More than 40 owners and caretakers of historic buildings in Greene, Washington and Fayette Counties gathered in Waynesburg November 4 for the first ever “Greene County Heritage Workshop: How to Care for Your Historic Building(s),” sponsored by the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation (PHLF) and 16 local co-sponsors. A full day’s program of preservation topics, resources and inspiration was presented by state, regional and local officials along with PHLF staff and local experts.

At the end of the day, one participant wrote: “Names of sources, details and examples were excellent. I feel overwhelmed but I now have a road to follow.” Another wrote, “It was a very enlightening day.”

The program began with Bill Callahan, Western PA Community Preservation Coordinator of the State Historic Preservation Office (Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission), stating that “It is an economic imperative for communities like Waynesburg to use historic preservation as a 21st-century development strategy. Heritage tourism is a major industry. By saving historic places, a community provides meaningful, authentic experiences for citizens and for visitors––and maintains a sustainable, healthy built environment.”  

Four Greek Revival style houses in a row on West High Street, Waynesburg.  All built in the 1850s.

Johnna Pro, Regional Director of Community Affairs for the PA Department of Community & Economic Development, explained that DCED has matching fund programs for community revitalization. They are very competitive, but if you have a good solid project, she wants to hear about it. DCED encourages communities to find corporate sponsors to partner with them since corporations receive tax credits through the Neighborhood Partnership Program. She also recommended the community development program of the Federal Department of Agriculture.

Rev. John Corbly House, ca. 1796, Garards Fort, PA.

Architectural historian Lu Donnelly shared images and information on the many architectural treasures in Greene County. She showed examples of the buildings that contribute to Greene County’s significant architectural heritage including farms and outbuildings, covered bridges, historic religious properties, residential buildings, a rare, surviving coal patch town, main streets, civic and commercial buildings, rural churches and academic buildings ranging from one-room school houses to universities.  

Clare and Duncan Horner spoke about their ca. 1880 farm of 70 acres in Greene County. Since their goal is to keep the land together and maintain the historic buildings, they donated a conservation easement to PHLF, thus protecting the farm and buildings in perpetuity. The Horners talked about the process of donating an easement and the benefits that have come from their on-going relationship with PHLF.


While enjoying a complementary box lunch, participants watched “Through the Place,” a feature-length documentary highlighting the history, achievements and impact of PHLF since its founding in 1964. The regional preservation story was set within the context of the preservation movement nationwide and includes comments from nationally recognized architects, preservationists, authors, and historians. 

Practical tips were the focus of the afternoon sessions. Architect Ken Kulak and Bryan Cumberledge, Waynesburg Borough Code Enforcement Officer, emphasized that building codes are about life-safety issues. They discussed how architects and local officials can work together with property owners from the outset of a project to effectively navigate building rehabilitation projects. Historic construction expert Fred Smith showed samples and evaluated options for the repair or replacement of historic windows and doors.

Monday, September 11, 2017


This column first appeared in the September 2017 issue of GreeneSPEAK!

The Dr. J. T. Ullom House today.

At the height of Waynesburg’s “Golden Age” of oil and gas prosperity, in 1898, Dr. J. T. Ullom built a grand residence at the corner of High and Richhill Streets. Today it’s the headquarters of Hook and Hook law firm.

Constructed of locally quarried sandstone, the house is a well preserved example of “Queen Anne” architecture with elements of other late Victorian influences: Shingle, Richardsonian Romanesque and Classical Revival. 

This vintage view shows the Cumberland Presbyterian Church that stood next door until 1942.  It was replaced by a supermarket. www.greeneconnections. com

Typical of the Queen Anne style, the Ullom House has an opulent profusion of design elements. Among them, most dominant is a round tower that rises three stories from the SW corner of the house, topped by a conically-shaped roof covered with fish-scaled slate. The tower is balanced on either side by massive gables, steeply pitched. 

The side gable is cantilevered beyond the plane of the wall below and covered with wood shingles. It contains a triple window of diamond-cut glass, topped by a broad Richardsonian arch. A rounded, two-story bay and an arched staircase window are below the gable.  

An early gas station on Richhill Street replaced gardens on the west elevation. www.greeneconnections. com
On the front façade, there’s another Richardsonian arch, this one constructed of heavily rusticated stone. It shelters a recessed porch and small, stained glass window. The front façade is united by a broad porch extending the full width of the house. The porch is classically detailed with a denticulate cornice, Doric columns and carved gable medallion.

Ca. 1908 view of the intersection of North Richhill Street (on the left) and West High Street.

There are two entrances facing High Street. The main door has a window of cut lead glass with transom above. The second door opens directly into the front parlor, facilitating use as a doctor’s office. 

Main entrance door.

Curved interior shutters..
Inside, the curved glass windows of the tower are lined with original wooden shutters of the same shape, a masterpiece of carpentry skill. Many of Dr. Ullom’s cousins were carpenters and staircase builders who likely created the beautiful woodwork that’s preserved throughout the house. 

Stone mason S. A. Rinehart built the exterior at the same time he was working on Soldiers and Sailors Monument in the Commons.

Staircase in "living hall" with beaded screen, elaborate paneling, newel post and spindles.

The Queen Anne style was the first to eschew the narrow, central hallway of earlier architectural fashion. Instead, guests were welcomed into a large “Living Hall” with fireplace, paneled staircase and cozy tower nook with beaded spindle-work screens. Pocket doors leading into the parlor and dining room could be opened to accommodate large groups.

Dr. J. T. Ullom in."Waynesburg Prosperous & Beautiful," 1907.

Five years before he built his house, Dr. Ullom served as chair of the building committee of Washington Street Methodist Church, increasing the probability that the same craftsmen created both buildings. 

Second owner George E. Rice in "Waynesburg Prosperous & Beautiful," 1907. 

In 1910, Dr. Ullom sold the house to another prominent local businessman, George E. Rice. Both were investors in oil, coal and gas. However, Rice was also a land developer and owner of the first Ford dealership in town. Occupancy continued with his son, James P. Rice, professor of business administration at Waynesburg College.  The family sold to Hook & Hook in 1993.


Monday, July 17, 2017


 This column first appeared in the July 2017 issue of GreeneSPEAK!

The Sheriff's House at the corner of South Washington Street and Cherry Alley.

The Sheriff’s House in downtown Waynesburg is an important piece of historic architecture that’s often overlooked because it’s attached to the Courthouse. Built in 1880 as a “stand alone” structure, it’s now connected to a 3-story office building at the rear of the Courthouse. Inside and out, the original and new buildings blend seamlessly, designed in 1997 by preservation architect Ellis Schmidlapp of Pittsburgh. 

The new office building is entered from Church Street.

Facing South Washington Street, the original façade of the Sheriff’s House is one of the few remaining examples of Second Empire architecture in Waynesburg, a style popular after the Civil War. Second Empire designs are easily recognized for their distinctive mansard roofs with two slopes on all four sides. Often with dormer windows, the lower slope is steeper than the upper, creating a full story instead of a smaller attic. 

View from NW corner of High and Washington Streets, taken some time after 1915, shows the Sheriff's House at the rear of the Courthouse.  All are painted white.  The steeple in the background is the Methodist Episcopal Church, now gone.
Prominent Pittsburgh architect John U. Barr designed the Sheriff’s House and its companion Jail on Church Street, both of pressed brick. In between, he placed a lobby connecting them to a 2-story courthouse addition that he also designed. The Jail was demolished in 1997, replaced by the office building. 

The Jail designed in 1880 by John U. Barr.
Barr was at the height of his career in 1880, having designed important buildings throughout southwestern Pennsylvania with his partner Henry Moser. They created at least four “Old Mains” for institutions of higher learning at California (PA), Washington & Jefferson, West Virginia University and Monongahela College in Jefferson, PA (now defunct). All were Second Empire in style. 

Double entrance doors face South Washington Street.

Central to the design of the Sheriff’s House is a slightly projecting bay with a tower on top. There, the date “1880” is carved in stone. Below, on the first floor, are double entrance doors of ornately carved wood, topped by a divided fanlight and a stone arch with keystone. 

The date of 1880 is carved in stone.
The windows are tall and narrow, arranged in pairs and topped with eyebrow lintels. Sill bands of matching stone connect the lintels, uniting the composition. A tiny, central balcony on the third floor has a railing of ornamental ironwork, a motif echoed on the top of the new office building. Wide overhanging cornices on either side of the balcony are supported by brick brackets.
Carved sandstone lintels.

A distinctive style called scabbled-and-drafted was used to finish the foundation sandstones. They are visible along Cherry Alley, and on other nearby historic buildings including the Gordon House south of Waynesburg, the Ross House at Ruff Creek, and the Hook/Morgan Building at the corner of High and South Morgan Streets.   

Scabbled and drafted sandstone blocks can be seen along Cherry Alley.
When carpenter John Call built the Sheriff’s House and Jail, he used steam-fired engines to run the machinery at his shop on West Greene Street. There he made the doors, frames and sashes from wood transported from the West over the newly opened Washington and Waynesburg Railroad. The Industrial Revolution had arrived in Waynesburg.  Quite a contrast from the hand tools used to build the Courthouse 30 years earlier.