Saturday, February 14, 2015


This column was first published in the February 2015 issue of GreeneSPEAK!

The Bowlby House (right) as photographed soon after completion.   On the left is the Timothy Wisecarver House, since demolished.   Postcard published by W. T. Hays.  Source: Walter "Blackie" Markiewich Collection owned by Brice & Linda Rush, shared with 

The Bowlby House (now Library) tells the story of Waynesburg’s “Prosperous and Beautiful” era.  A book of the same title, published in 1907, featured a photo similar to the one above, taken a few years after the house was completed.  The house looks much the same today, aside from a modern addition in the rear.  Commanding a terrace above North West Street, it continues to be treasured and enjoyed by all because of the generosity of its owner, Eva K. Bowlby, who bequeathed it in memory of her husband and grandson.

Visiting recently on a dark January afternoon, I entered through two elegant pairs of doors and a tiled vestibule into a large, bright space.  Packed with after-school activities, the house was as warm and alive as I’d remembered.   Growing up in Waynesburg, it was always my favorite-- the building that spurred a lifelong love of historic architecture.     

The “living hall” and grand staircase of Bowlby Library today.

The plan is typical of the early 20th century when the large, open “living hall” was in fashion.  Richly trimmed in quarter-sawn oak, it was the perfect space for receiving guests.  The room has a tiled fireplace, pairs of Ionic columns and a staircase with a large stained glass window.  There are decidedly modern Arts & Crafts details in much of the woodwork.   A parlor and dining room are tucked into opposite corners.  They extend the living hall, but have pocket doors for privacy, as needed.   One imagines the house in the early 20th century, full of rosy-cheeked children returning from winter games in the park or elegant ladies at tea, dressed in Edwardian finery.   

The rough-cut sandstone exterior is the work of Waynesburg’s master stonemason, A. I. Rinehart.  The stone came from a quarry south of town on the Smith Creek Road.  Handsome keystone lintels top the windows and smooth faced quoins trim the corners.   Below the roofline, the wide cornice is trimmed with brackets and dentils.  On the second floor, what appears to be an art glass Palladian window is actually a door leading to a small porch.  Balustrades surround it and the wrap-around porch below that is supported by Doric columns.   Three handsome dormers highlight the design of the third floor front elevation.   The central dormer is rounded while the others are gabled.  This is a typical design element of the Colonial Revival style, as is the bow window on the south elevation and the overall boxy shape of the structure.  

Carhart, Dorothy and Eva K. Bowlby.  Source:

Carhart Bowlby was a successful cattle dealer and business man who traveled frequently to Chicago where he would have been introduced to the work of America’s leading architects, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright.  In addition to his home, Bowlby created at least three more monumental buildings in Waynesburg.  From 1905-08, he chaired the building committee for the Methodist Episcopal Church (today First Methodist), designed by architect J. C. Fulton of Uniontown.  Nearly two decades later, as president of Citizens National Bank, he supervised construction of what is now First National Bank whose architects, Dennison & Hirons, were leaders of the Beaux Arts movement in New York City.  A year later, immediately after the Downey House fire, he organized the Fort Jackson Hotel Company to rebuild the town’s central hotel corner, hiring prominent Pittsburgh architects, Paul Bartholomew and Brandon Smith.  

Today, Waynesburg’s citizens continue to enjoy these beautiful buildings, and feel grateful for the gift of the library.



This column first appeared in the December 2014 issue of GreeneSPEAK!

The “Roaring '20s” was a time of economic confidence in Waynesburg and the nation.  During this era, local investors created two monumental Beaux-Arts bank buildings that continue to add grandeur to Waynesburg’s downtown almost 100 years later.   

This article is about First National Bank, originally Citizens National Bank, a building with excellent architectectural credentials.  It was designed in 1922 by the prominent New York City firm of Dennison and Hirons who created many elegant commercial buildings throughout the northeastern United States.  Their other major commission in western Pennsylvania is the 14-story Erie Trust Building, the city’s tallest structure, now known as Renaissance Center.

In a photo dated December 31, 1923, Citizens National Bank nears completion.   Source: Greene County Historical Society & Museum, via

Ethan Allen Dennison and Frederic Charles Hirons met in Paris at Les Ecoles des Beaux Arts, the prestigious international architecture school where America’s best architects gained credentials.  Both had previously studied in the United States, Hirons having graduated from MIT.  Returning to New York City, they began their practice in 1910 with Hirons as primary designer and Dennison as business manager.  Both were leaders of the Society of Beaux-Arts Architects of New York.  Hirons taught architecture at Yale and Columbia and founded the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design.  His portrait hangs in the National Academy of Design.

The Waynesburg men behind Citizens National, Waynesburg’s second oldest bank, founded in 1890, were George Wisecarver, Ezra M. Sayers and Dennis Smith, a Greene Township farmer and stock raiser who moved to Waynesburg in 1903 to become co-owner of Waynesburg Hardware.  Smith was elected bank president in 1908 and served until his death in April, 1921.  It was Smith who negotiated the contract with Dennison and Hirons, and his successor, Carhart Bowlby, who saw the construction through to completion.  When the contract was published in July 1922, for “bank and office building at High & Washington Streets,” the cost was estimated at $275,000.00, almost $4 million today.

About 25 years ago, Andrew Corfont, a bank employee, discovered a photo album documenting the entire construction process from demolition of the early 19th century buildings through steel frame construction.  He placed the photos in the archives of Greene County Historical Society where Candice Buchanan digitized and posted them on her Greene Connections flickr site in the “Waynesburg Series” album.  Two views of this fascinating pictorial record are shown here.

Photographed one month later, this view shows both the office and bank buildings.   In the distance, the Downey House Hotel will be destroyed by fire less than two years later.  Photo source: Greene County Historical Society via

The office building was constructed first, beginning in September 1922.  It has since been demolished but the bank building continues in a good state of preservation.  An excellent example of Hirons’ work, it combines Beaux-Arts principles of symmetry, solidity and monumentality with a modern classicism associated with Art Deco design.  Both the interior and exterior are finished with elegant materials—largely Indiana limestone—detailed in sleek, modern form.  The entrance is framed in brown granite, surrounded by four massive Ionic columns.  Far above the columns, carved griffins add a touch of whimsy to the corners of the frieze.  Appropriately, griffins were believed to guard treasure.  

According to the back of this postcard, the Silveus Dining Room was: “The Elite Dining Parlor of Waynesburg, Pa. where the Elite Meet and Eat and Enjoy the Treat where you always find ‘Good Eats’ and a home-like atmosphere.”   It was located in the bank's office building.  Source: Postcard collection, Teaching with Primary Sources program, Waynesburg University.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


This article was originally published in the November 2014 issue of GreeneSPEAK!

WHITEHILL HOUSE: High and Cumberland Streets.  Early Italianate curved staircase of unknown date (1850-60?) with fluted newel, turned spindles and moulded handrail.  Photo by Kenneth Kulak.     

"Every town had a carpenter who was the staircase expert," advised Fred Smith of Allegheny Millwork, Pittsburgh's resident expert on historic woodwork.   "Why don't you find out who it was in Waynesburg?"

HOOK/MORGAN BUILDING: High and Morgan Streets. 1870 Italianate.  Newel post and spindles are turned in an hexagonal shape popular at the time.  A ball and cap top the newel.
Photo taken mid-restoration.   Paint has been stripped away but tung oil not yet applied.
This question inspired me to think beyond the staircase I’ve been restoring in the Hook/Morgan Building.   After removing false walls and replicating missing parts, it’s three handsome stories of walnut turned spindles, ogee handrail and hexagonal newel post.  Through this project I’ve learned to appreciate the woodworking and geometric skills of the Victorian stair builder.

ROBERT MORRIS HOUSE: Spiral staircases were popular in Italianate design.  This elegant example has a robustly shaped urn capping the urn.   Photo by Keith Riggle.
Photographs posted this summer by Keith Riggle of San Antonio, Texas further spurred my quest.    He visited Waynesburg to learn about his 3x-great-grandfather, Robert Morris, a carpenter who had worked on Miller Hall.   Keith was able to tour the house Morris built about 1865 for his own family on the Commons near Wayne and Morris Streets.   Today, its exterior has been extensively remodeled giving it a 20th century appearance.   But inside its true history is evident in the original spiral staircase with walnut handrail, balusters and newel post similar to the Morgan Building.  

 Historian G. Wayne Smith tells us in History of Greene County, Pennsylvania that Robert Morris was given a contract to complete three library rooms in Miller Hall for $350 in February, 1887, and by the same date the Ullom Brothers had completed two stairways.  The Waynesburg College Story by William Dusenberry confirms this information, describing the Ulloms as “master workmen along this line”.  

MILLER HALL: Monumental newel post displays Eastlake influence in its elaborate carvings and shape.  Erected by the Ullom Brothers in 1886-1887.

Voila, I’d found Waynesburg’s staircase experts.   Their family history begins with grandfather George Ullom who helped to build the original log Court House in 1796.  The brothers inherited carpentry skills from both sides of the family.   Their mother, Sally Piatt, was the youngest child of Amos Piatt who built a stone house on Franklin Street in 1823 that is now the oldest surviving structure of its kind in the borough. 

GOODWIN HOUSE: East Wayne Street.  Built in 1886.  Transitioning to the Second Empire style, newel posts are now square in shape and extravagantly ornamented.  Columns are a popular decorative motif.

There were ten Ullom brothers--all carpenters--as was their father, Jesse Bowen Ullom.   From 1870 through the early 20th century, Jesse and his sons were listed in each census as carpenters, residing near South Richhill, Elm and Lincoln Streets.   Numerous sources specifically describe twin brothers Rufus and Franklin Pierce Ullom as “stair builders”, and laud the stellar carpentry skills of all the brothers.   

SOUTH SIDE HOUSE: Moving to the Queen Anne style, entrance halls have become large open rooms with richly carved woodwork designed to impress.   This house was built by contractor Jonathan Funk in 1894.

According to an article in the Waynesburg Republican of 1870, William Ullom worked at the Sayers & Tanner Planing Mill when he suffered a serious injury to his hand.   This was one of two steam-operated planing mills that opened in Waynesburg in 1867, producing much of the fine woodwork found in town today.   The mill was located on Greene Street at the present site of Avalon Court.   Subsequent owners were Hiram McGlumphy, A. H. Harkins and the Elm Brothers.  The other mill, located on East Street, was owned for many years by Jonathan M. Funk who built a number of fine houses in Waynesburg’s South Side.


This article was originally published in the October 2014 edition of GreeneSPEAK!

The Robert Whitehill Jr. House is located at the corner of High and Cumberland Streets.

Robert Whitehill Jr. was one of Waynesburg’s earliest attorneys and largest property owners.  He came from a well-to-do family in Camp Hill, PA.  His father helped to draft the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776 and the U.S. Bill of Rights, having served for more than 30 years in the PA House, Senate and U. S. Congress.

Described as a well educated and cultured man, Robert Jr. studied law in Philadelphia under Edmund Randolph, the first Attorney General of the United States.  He graduated from Dickinson College in 1792 and came to Waynesburg a few years later.  He enjoyed the friendship of many distinguished people including Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette.

Yet today, for all of his success and family connections, Robert Whitehill Jr. is long forgotten.  His wife and only son died before him.  Even their graves are lost.  But, their 200-year-old home stands proudly at the NW corner of High and Cumberland Streets, newly preserved by the County of Greene.  It is a successful adaptive rehabilitation of an historic structure.  The interior has been converted to six apartments for individuals left temporarily homeless while the exterior has been restored to correct mid-19th century appearance.  This was required by Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act because public funds were used.

An analysis of the building yields fascinating details.  The original house, built ca. 1808-1811, is the western two-thirds of the front façade.  In early Waynesburg, it must have been an impressive sight, rivaling the first brick court house in size, probably constructed by the same craftsmen.  It was three bays wide and two-stories tall with a narrow central doorway and simple transom. The bricks were handmade, probably by a potter who worked across the street at the corner of Whiskey Alley, today Wood Street.  They are laid in Flemish bond while the addition is common bond.

The original house had a tall gable roof, typical of the Federal style, while the addition is Greek Revival with a lower roof and distinctive parapet.  It was constructed about 1843 by attorney John Phelan.  The difference in height can be seen in the earliest known panorama photograph of Waynesburg (1875).  Later the roof heights were united and a wide fascia board was placed across the full front.  At the same time, decorative brick work was added to the chimneys.

By the 1840s, carpentry tools and techniques had advanced, allowing elaborate architectural detail in the addition, such as the ornate entrance doors.  Behind them is a curved staircase with fancy turned spindles, stair rail and newel post, quite different from the narrow stairs of the original house.  The interior also features enameled mantelpieces and grain-painted woodwork.  

Like the original house, the addition has a symmetrical front of 3-bay width but the windows are closer together and the entrance is in the left bay, not the center.  On the inside of the rear kitchen ell is a double-story porch, a popular feature of the time.

The Robert Whitehill Jr. House is part of the Waynesburg District of the National Register of Historic Sites, given the highest ranking of “Significant” for both its historic architecture and association with key historical figures.  The County of Greene is to be commended for saving this important link to our past.


(Exterior): Red brick and limestone cover the modern, steel beam construction of the Fort Jackson Hotel. The façade was decorated with historically inspired details such as swags and urns. 
(Interior): The richly appointed lobby was designed in the Italian Renaissance style. Two dining rooms were located on the mezzanine behind the triple arches. (photo credit,

The Fort Jackson Hotel is a significant example of early 20th century architecture that anchors the most important intersection in downtown Waynesburg. It was designed by prominent Greensburg architect Paul “Barty” Bartholomew and his partner, the suave and talented Brandon Smith.

The modern, steel frame, “totally fire-proof” structure was begun just four months after the tragic Downey House Fire of December 23, 1925, that had destroyed the previous hotel on the site. Construction was completed a year later in April, 1927. Like the Downey House, this building accommodated local retail businesses on the first floor and a total of 70 hotel rooms above. The Fort Jackson is the third inn on the site. Since the town’s founding in 1796, this lot has always been known as the “Hotel Corner”.

Characteristic of the work of Bartholomew and Smith, the design is symmetrical and restrained, Neoclassical in style. The focal point is the hotel entrance facing South Washington Street. Above the canopy, pediments support a double-story portico with wide carved cornice. Originally, there were urns on the roof top. At street level, triple arches and a pair of enameled cartouches add grandeur. Each illustrates a vase filled with acanthus leaves, a popular classical detail. They were painted by John R. Davis & Sons of Waynesburg and remain in good condition.

Inside, the lobby was decorated in the Italian Renaissance style with a high coffered ceiling, brass rails and light fixtures, oriental rugs and baronial furniture. Two dining rooms on the mezzanine level seated 100 and 40. Two elevators whisked patrons up to their rooms or down to the basement barber and hairdresser shops.

The work of Bartholomew and Smith is regionally important. Their practice began in 1920 (some sources say earlier) and continued until 1928 when Smith left to form his own firm. Other joint commissions include Troutman’s Department Store (1923) and First Commonwealth Bank (1924), both in Greensburg, the B. F. Jones Memorial Library in Aliquippa (1927) and Citizens National Bank (1926) of Latrobe. The latter is individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Fort Jackson Hotel, built in the same year as the Latrobe bank, is part of the Waynesburg National Register Historic District. These two buildings share many similarities. Plans and detailed drawings for both are archived at Westmoreland County Historical Society.

In solo practice, Bartholomew designed the Greensburg YMCA, Beta Theta Phi fraternity house at Penn State and many fine residences in the Academy Hill neighborhood of Greensburg. He is also well known as the creator of the Depression-era “New Deal” community of Norvelt in Westmoreland County.

Brandon Smith built a highly successful practice designing stylish residences of baronial splendor for wealthy clients in the Pittsburgh suburbs of Fox Chapel and Sewickley. He is best known for Fox Chapel Golf Club (1923) and the Edgeworth Club (1929). In 1983, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette art critic Donald Miller wrote about one of the mansions he had designed in Sewickley Heights, “Whether the style was English or French, Brandon Smith, an eclectic architect, lavished time and talent on mantels, crown moldings and other architectural appointments that can make a house a home."

Such attention to detail is still evident in the Fort Jackson building today. Waynesburg is fortunate to have this beautiful Bartholomew and Smith design in its town center.

This article was originally published in the September 2014 issue of GreeneSPEAK!