Wednesday, May 2, 2018


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

The Wiley Armory today

How well I remember Waynesburg’s Memorial Day Parades of the 1950s, full of marching troops, bands and floats. My grandmother, Mrs. Asa G. Wiley, was one of the Gold Star mothers who wore a corsage and rode in a convertible. People cried when they passed by. Too young to understand, I later realized that they were honoring her loss of a son in World War II, my uncle, Capt. Robert C. Wiley, for whom the Armory is named.

 His widow, Rona (Tuttle) Wiley, was the borough tax collector at that time. My family and I watched the parade from her second floor office windows near the police station.  

American Legion James Farrell Post No. 330 Drum and Bugle Corps ca. 1928. Photo courtesy of Waynesburg Borough.

Uncle Bob had first enlisted in Waynesburg’s storied Company K of the Pennsylvania National Guard while attending Waynesburg College in the 1920s. The Armory on North Washington Street was their training site.
Captain Robert C. Wiley.  Photo courtesy of his sister, Margaret Wiley Morgan.

When Company K mobilized in February 1941, Uncle Bob was 34 years old, married and the father of a son, considerably older than the other volunteers whom he supervised. But, he was unwilling to abandon “his boys,” many of whom he had taught and coached at local high schools. He left Waynesburg as the First Sergeant of Company K, and within two years was company commander. Company K was part of the Pennsylvania 28th Division. After extensive training stateside, they deployed to Europe in September 1943 and joined the Normandy invasion in July 1944. 

On August 9, 1944, in a fierce battle with the Germans near St. Lo, most of his officers were killed or wounded. Despite being severely wounded, he continued to lead until he was killed by a sniper four days later. Posthumously, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest award for valor.

Early postcard view.

When constructed in 1914, the Waynesburg Armory was the finest public structure in Greene County, one of 20 built across the state. The legislature had appropriated $30,000 for its construction by W. L. Blair & Sons of Waynesburg. Earlier, Company K had been headquartered on the third floor of the Ross Building on South Morris Street, today Hot Rod’s restaurant.

1950's view, courtesy of Waynesburg Borough.

The all-brick armory had a two-story administrative wing in front and large drill hall in the rear.  The  low-pitched, steel truss roof had wide overhanging eaves, typical of the Prairie style of architecture developed in the Mid-West at that time by architects Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. 

Plaque above entrance door.

Commissioned officer rooms, lockers and dressing facilities were on the main floor with a community lending library and amusement room above, and in the basement, kitchen, showers and steam heating plant. The large drill hall was 60 x 75 feet with an 18-foot arched ceiling and wood floor. It was used for many community events including early Waynesburg College basketball games. It was named the Robert C. Wiley Armory in 1999. 

For almost a century, Wiley Armory housed an Army or National Guard unit until the last occupant, Company B of the 110th Infantry, moved to a new “Readiness Center” in Evergreene Technology Park outside of town in 2010. Waynesburg University purchased the old armory and renovated it, retaining the Wiley name. It is now used for administrative offices and university athletics.
Wiley Armory is now owned by Waynesburg University.


Thursday, April 5, 2018


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

Photo by Pete Zapadka, March 2015.

One of the oldest iron truss bridges in the United States is hidden along Route 21 in West Waynesburg. Thousands pass it daily without notice.

Called White’s Ridge Road Bridge, it was constructed over Ten Mile Creek in 1877 by Massillon (OH) Bridge Company. This county-owned road and bridge served travelers between Waynesburg and Oak Forest for 100 years until development of Emerald Mine No. 1 in 1975 cut off access to the creek’s south bank. 

Another view of White's Ridge Road Bridge. Photo by Pete Zapadka.

The Waynesburg bridge has a younger sibling, Pollocks Mill Bridge, near Jefferson, built by the same company one year later. In 2014, it was severely damaged by an overweight water-hauling truck, but has since been restored to active use.

Pollocks Mill Bridge near Jefferson. Credit: Swpa Rural Exploration

The closing  of Emerald Mine presents new opportunities to save the Waynesburg bridge. One suggestion is for a bike, equestrian or all-purpose trail.  A similar Massillon bridge of 1881 has been restored for pedestrian use in Cuyahoga National Park, Breckville, OH.

Though long abandoned, the White’s Ridge Road Bridge is well known to experts across the country.  All have urged its preservation. To quote Any work done on this bridge should be of the highest restoration quality such that the maximum amount of original material is not removed or altered, and anything that is replaced be replaced with an exact replica.”

White's Ridge Road Bridge. Photo by Pete Zapadka. See his post "We Have To Save This Bridge!!!" in the Greene County Pa Time Capsule on facebook. 

Historic bridge expert Todd Wilson, author of “Pittsburgh’s Bridges” (2015), describes the White’s Ridge Road Bridge as a one-of-a-kind design, reflecting “unusual experimentation at a time when bridge companies competed with each other in proprietary design.” Before 1900, bridges were specialty products individually designed and often patented, whereas today all are built to the same government standards.

"Waynesburg Prosperous and Beautiful" (1907) published this circa 1902 view of West Waynesburg before the tin mill was erected. The caption is"Ten Mile Valley, Looking West from Sunset Park."
Photo enlargement shows location of the bridge at the curve in the creek.

According to, the Waynesburg bridge is “a rare survivor of the iron bridge era, historically and technologically significant in several areas.” Nationally, there are only two others with the same hybrid truss configuration, both by the competing  Wrought Iron Bridge Company of  Canton, OH. White’s Ridge Road Bridge is the only known example by Massillon.

Truss bridges are composed of connected, load-bearing elements formed into triangular units. They come in many variations, often named for the inventor. The Waynesburg bridge design has been described as “bizarre and unique.” While its diagonals follow the Pratt configuration, the  counterweights are Whipple. In Pratt trusses, vertical members and diagonals slope down toward the center whereas in Whipple diagonals cross the neighboring vertical rather than connect to it. 

Truss bridge configuration. Wikipedia.
Whipple truss configuration. Wikipedia.

The verticals and diagonals of the Waynesburg bridge are made of wrought iron while the portal is cast iron. Massillon bridges are known for the beauty of their decorative ironwork. 

White's Ridge Road Bridge. Photo by Pete Zapadka
 In bridge development, iron was a brief link between traditional wood or stone and modern steel. The first iron bridge in America was constructed in 1836 over Dunlap’s Creek in nearby Brownsville. However, its arch design was not often repeated because it was more difficult and expensive to build than the soon-to-be-developed truss system. By the 1870s, iron truss bridges were erected on a large scale across the country, though few remain today.

Dunlap's Creek Bridge, ca. 1894, before sidewalks were added to its flanks. Still in use today. Credit: "The Old Pike" (1894), courtesy of Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.