Monday, April 20, 2015


This column first appeared in the April 2015 edition of GreeneSPEAK!

The Behm Row is an exceptionally fine collection of four Greek Revival houses built in the early 1850s.

Greek Revival was the prevalent American architectural style in the decades before the Civil War.  While most towns in Southwestern Pennsylvania have lost their Greek Revival structures, or never had them, Waynesburg is fortunate to retain a wealth of these early gems.   Foremost are the Greene County Court House and Hanna Hall, both built in 1850-51.  

On West High Street there’s an extraordinary collection of six surviving Greek Revival houses in a single block bound by Morris and Richhill Streets.  Today, four are owned by Behm Funeral Home.   They were erected at the same time as the Court House and Hanna Hall.  The Dr. Blachley House at the corner of High and Morris, and the center section of the Denny House are even earlier, begun in the 1830s. 

Greek Revival architecture originated with Thomas Jefferson.  Based on the Greek ideals of democracy, beauty and simplicity, it was considered appropriate for the new American democracy.  Many of the first buildings in Washington, D.C., were built in this style.  

The Lindsay-Rinehart House as it appeared in Waynesburg Prosperous & Beautiful, 1907.

Greek Revival houses have low-pitched gable roofs and heavy cornices.  Their façades are symmetrical, either 3- or 5-bays wide.  In the 5-bay version, the front door is centered with a pair of windows on either side.  The windows are elongated, double-hung, six-over-six.  In the 3-bay plan, the entrance is placed in the right or left quadrant beside two windows.   Doors are 4-paneled with sidelights and a fanlight.  Ornamentation is handsome but sparse as these buildings pre-date the development of sawmills and mass-produced wood trim. 

Classic Greek Revival entrance with 4-panel door, sidelights, tripartite transom and carved stone lintel.

The eastern most house in the Behm Row was the home of Judge James and Sarah Lindsey and their descendants named Munnell and Rinehart.   Its original red brick façade is well preserved.    Next door was J. L. McConnell, publisher of the first map of Greene County.   He built both houses which share a second story wing over an open carriageway.   The house closest to Richhill Street was the home of Rev. Phillip Axtell, pastor of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and a founder of Waynesburg College.   Its façade is also unaltered except for Victorian brackets added long ago.

The Lindsay-Rinehart House is little changed today.  The next three houses (painted white) were united by funeral director Samuel P. Weaver in 1935.

Samuel P. Weaver united three of the houses in 1935, creating the first funeral home in Greene County.  Previously, funerals had been held at home or in a church.  He painted the buildings white and remodeled the middle two in the style of Colonial Williamsburg.   He added a central arched window and broken pediment above the main entrance, and either brick arches or shutters to the remaining windows.  The result is an attractive composition accented with green paint on the doors, shutters and standing seam metal roof. 

Anchoring the SW corner of High and Morris Streets since the 1830s or earlier, this Greek Revival house later became Jimmie's Lunch, famous for its hot dogs.   Photo credit: Cover of Images of America: Waynesburg, 2015, by Glenn Toothman and Candice Buchanan, courtesy of greeneconnections. com. 
Two generations of Dr. Blachleys lived and practiced at the corner of High and Morris Streets from 1834 until 1882, followed by Doctors Ullom and Iams.  In the 20th century, the house became Jimmie's Lunch famous for its hot dogs.   There have been many additions and alternations to this building including a lintel over an early addition that's dated 1849.

The middle section of the Denny House was built in 1836 in the Greek Revival style.   It was expanded in the rear in 1878.  The High Street facade with distinctive Dutch step-gable roof was added in 1902.

The Denny House began as a Greek Revival design in 1836, expanded in the rear in 1878 and front in 1902.  The original entrance faced east and is today covered by a porch.  Inside the early woodwork is preserved.   Like most Waynesburg people, the Dennys did not destroy the past.  Rather, they added on while preserving the original.  I wish more people would do that today.