Friday, June 12, 2015


This article first appeared in the June 2015 issue of GreeneSPEAK!

The Waynesburg District of the National Register of Historic Places was created in 1983. It includes all of the downtown commercial area, the university campus and many parts of residential neighborhoods. The district covers 35% of the borough and includes hundreds of buildings.  

The original Greene County Courthouse of 1796, believed to be the only log courthouse on its original site in the state of Pennsylvania, possibly the nation. The courthouse is part of the Waynesburg Historic District. (Photo credit:Cornerstone Genealogical Society.)
The district is significant for its large number of buildings and their (quote) “highest quality of architectural integrity.” When the nomination was written in 1983, only 5% of the buildings in the district had been “remodeled,” which was defined as either: (1) removing significant architectural elements, (2) overing over important building material with inappropriate modern materials, (3) removal of significant portions of the building or (4) adding of inappropriate additions.

In 1983, 92 percent of the buildings were judged to be in either excellent or good condition. Only 8% were in poor condition.

Today, a quick look around town shows that the intervening 32 years have not been kind to many of Waynesburg’s historic assests. However, it is not too late to save the buildings. The “bones” are still there, they just need some loving care. There are numerous tools to help owners of historic commercial properties. For example, inclusion in the Waynesburg National Register District qualifies them for 20% Federal Historic Tax Credits on the cost of rehabilitation.

The Waynesburg Nomination Form (pdf) can be downloaded at: It includes general information and an inventory that describes and rates each building as either “Significant,” “Contributing” or “Non-Contributing.” The inventory lists each building by tax identification number, not address or name. Readers can email me if they have trouble locating a specific building or neighborhood.

For more information about the National Register, visit the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission (PHMC) “Cultural Resources Geographic Information System” (CGRIS) and/or the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). Both are part of the PHMC website. Each state administers its own listings but the program is part of the National Park Service, U. S. Department of Interior. Their website is:

THE THARP HOUSE, 1903, is located at the corner of High and Cumberland Streets. Waynesburg is rich in opulent residences erected during the first oil-and-gas boom, ca. 1890-1907. The Colonial Revival was one of many popular styles.  With its massive gambrel roof, this beautiful brick house by contractor Clement Brocks commands the top of Town Hill, the entrance to downtown Waynesburg. 
 (Photo by Mary Beth Pastorius). 
Four years ago, Dave Pollock and I nominated the Town of Waynesburg for the Young Preservationists of Pittsburgh (YPA) annual “Best Preservation Opportunity in the Pittsburgh Region Award.” Waynesburg won #1, besting better-known projects, towns and neighborhoods. At the awards ceremony, I told the Pittsburgh audience about the size and caliber of the Waynesburg Historic District, and they gasped with amazement. Afterward, many had the same comment: “Your town is so beautiful and it has so much potential.” Believe it. Waynesburg matters.

DEMOCRAT MESSENGER BUILDING, 1939.  One of our most modern buildings is this sparse, functional design by acclaimed Pttsburgh architect Frederick Schreibler, located on Church Street, across from the side of the Courthouse.  Today, it is owned by the Observer-Reporter Publishing Company. (Photo credit: The Progressive Architecture of Frederick G. Scheibler, Jr. by Martin Aurand).