Friday, October 30, 2015

WAYNESBURG BOROUGH BUILDING / PREVIOUSLY FARMERS & DROVERS BANK

This column first appeared in the November 2015 issue of GreeneSPEAK!


Farmers & Drovers Bank, ca. 1903, is today the Waynesburg Borough Building. (greeneconnections.com)

“If walls could talk,” the Waynesburg Borough Building would have many tales to tell from its present use as a police station, municipal office and council chambers to past occupants.  

The structure has had two distinctly different appearances. Built in 1857-58, it was elaborately ornamented in a manner appropriate for Greene County’s first bank, the legendary Farmers & Drovers. The builder was bank president Jesse Hook who owned many properties and businesses, and was believed to be the area’s largest employer. Jesse’s family had been in Greene County since its founding when his grandfather, Capt. James Hook, was the first sheriff.  

Jesse Hook. (greeneconnections.com)

He chose a new style of architecture for the exterior. Called “Italianate,” it was inspired by the relaxed country villas of Northern Italy. In the mid-19th century, architecture--like literature, music and art-- was influenced by the “Romantic Movement” which alluded to a more pastoral past. It held great appeal in the early days of the Industrial Revolution.    

Street paving, ca. 1903 (greeneconnections.com)

Widely available pattern books from Andrew Jackson Downing and other architects encouraged replication of this new picturesque style that contrasted with the formal symmetry and classical ornamentation of the earlier Greek Revival. In Waynesburg, there are many fine examples of Greek Revival architecture, notably the Court House and Hanna Hall, completed just six years before Farmers & Drovers. Sadly, no examples of the Italian Villa style remain.


Architecturally significant pediments throughout the building are identical to the earliest section of the Denny House, ca. 1836, located nearby. This is the second floor hallway.  

Actually, the Farmers & Drovers building is considered a transitional design because the interior features Greek Revival-inspired classical pediments and Ionic columns. This handsome woodwork remains today as do the bank vaults made by York (PA) Safe & Lock Company. 

Bank vault on second floor.

Identification plate on second floor vault. York Safe and Lock Company of York, PA was established in 1882. This unit was probably installed when the building was remodeled in 1890.


The exterior was altered in 1890 when a large window was added to the bank quarters. From the beginning, various retail establishments were located in the opposite (western) half of the structure, entered through the central hallway. In the early days, the bank cashier and his family lived on the second floor. Later, these spaces became club rooms and borough offices.

Streets were paved in 1903.   This view shows the start of construction. The building with cupola in the background was the Downey House Hotel, destroyed by fire in December 1925. (greeneconnections.com)

Consistent with the Italian Villa style, the original roof was low-pitched with wide overhanging eaves supported by decorative brackets. The 5-bay fa├žade had a central balcony with fancy iron railing above a double-door entrance. The windows were tall and narrow with stone crowns. In the rear was a two-story porch, a common feature in early Waynesburg.  

 
Waynesburg Borough Building, October 2015

In 1906, the bank closed in a much-publicized financial scandal that bankrupted many citizens and businesses and depressed the local economy for decades. The building was purchased in 1929 by Waynesburg Borough which placed the police station in the former bank headquarters where it remains today. Two years later, a fire destroyed the rear porches.  At that time, the borough removed the ornate cornice and brackets and installed a parapet wall, creating the current appearance.  


An early owner was Issac Beeson (1795-1866) of Uniontown.  (ancestry.com)

In the 200+ years since Waynesburg was founded, this lot has hosted many commercial endeavors. From 1829 to 1855, it was owned by Isaac Beeson, “the merchant prince of Uniontown,” whose local partner was his brother-in-law, Henry Lyle Pennock. Although we don’t know what the early Beeson & Pennock Store looked like, it’s possible that the present structure was erected on its stone foundation.

Another local example of the Italian Villa style was the home of Waynesburg College President A. B. Miller at the NE corner of Morris and Wayne Streets, since demolished. Like Farmers & Drovers, classical pediments adorn the window and door openings. (Waynesburg Prosperous & Beautiful, 1907, greeneconnections.com)








2 comments:

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  2. Can you tell me where you found the photo of Issac Beeson on Ancestry. Do you know who owns the photo?

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