Wednesday, December 6, 2017


The Horner farm in western Greene County is protected in perpetuity thanks to an easement donated to Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation in 2006.

More than 40 owners and caretakers of historic buildings in Greene, Washington and Fayette Counties gathered in Waynesburg November 4 for the first ever “Greene County Heritage Workshop: How to Care for Your Historic Building(s),” sponsored by the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation (PHLF) and 16 local co-sponsors. A full day’s program of preservation topics, resources and inspiration was presented by state, regional and local officials along with PHLF staff and local experts.

At the end of the day, one participant wrote: “Names of sources, details and examples were excellent. I feel overwhelmed but I now have a road to follow.” Another wrote, “It was a very enlightening day.”

The program began with Bill Callahan, Western PA Community Preservation Coordinator of the State Historic Preservation Office (Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission), stating that “It is an economic imperative for communities like Waynesburg to use historic preservation as a 21st-century development strategy. Heritage tourism is a major industry. By saving historic places, a community provides meaningful, authentic experiences for citizens and for visitors––and maintains a sustainable, healthy built environment.”  

Four Greek Revival style houses in a row on West High Street, Waynesburg.  All built in the 1850s.

Johnna Pro, Regional Director of Community Affairs for the PA Department of Community & Economic Development, explained that DCED has matching fund programs for community revitalization. They are very competitive, but if you have a good solid project, she wants to hear about it. DCED encourages communities to find corporate sponsors to partner with them since corporations receive tax credits through the Neighborhood Partnership Program. She also recommended the community development program of the Federal Department of Agriculture.

Rev. John Corbly House, ca. 1796, Garards Fort, PA.

Architectural historian Lu Donnelly shared images and information on the many architectural treasures in Greene County. She showed examples of the buildings that contribute to Greene County’s significant architectural heritage including farms and outbuildings, covered bridges, historic religious properties, residential buildings, a rare, surviving coal patch town, main streets, civic and commercial buildings, rural churches and academic buildings ranging from one-room school houses to universities.  

Clare and Duncan Horner spoke about their ca. 1880 farm of 70 acres in Greene County. Since their goal is to keep the land together and maintain the historic buildings, they donated a conservation easement to PHLF, thus protecting the farm and buildings in perpetuity. The Horners talked about the process of donating an easement and the benefits that have come from their on-going relationship with PHLF.


While enjoying a complementary box lunch, participants watched “Through the Place,” a feature-length documentary highlighting the history, achievements and impact of PHLF since its founding in 1964. The regional preservation story was set within the context of the preservation movement nationwide and includes comments from nationally recognized architects, preservationists, authors, and historians. 

Practical tips were the focus of the afternoon sessions. Architect Ken Kulak and Bryan Cumberledge, Waynesburg Borough Code Enforcement Officer, emphasized that building codes are about life-safety issues. They discussed how architects and local officials can work together with property owners from the outset of a project to effectively navigate building rehabilitation projects. Historic construction expert Fred Smith showed samples and evaluated options for the repair or replacement of historic windows and doors.

Monday, September 11, 2017


This column first appeared in the September 2017 issue of GreeneSPEAK!

The Dr. J. T. Ullom House today.

At the height of Waynesburg’s “Golden Age” of oil and gas prosperity, in 1898, Dr. J. T. Ullom built a grand residence at the corner of High and Richhill Streets. Today it’s the headquarters of Hook and Hook law firm.

Constructed of locally quarried sandstone, the house is a well preserved example of “Queen Anne” architecture with elements of other late Victorian influences: Shingle, Richardsonian Romanesque and Classical Revival. 

This vintage view shows the Cumberland Presbyterian Church that stood next door until 1942.  It was replaced by a supermarket. www.greeneconnections. com

Typical of the Queen Anne style, the Ullom House has an opulent profusion of design elements. Among them, most dominant is a round tower that rises three stories from the SW corner of the house, topped by a conically-shaped roof covered with fish-scaled slate. The tower is balanced on either side by massive gables, steeply pitched. 

The side gable is cantilevered beyond the plane of the wall below and covered with wood shingles. It contains a triple window of diamond-cut glass, topped by a broad Richardsonian arch. A rounded, two-story bay and an arched staircase window are below the gable.  

An early gas station on Richhill Street replaced gardens on the west elevation. www.greeneconnections. com
On the front façade, there’s another Richardsonian arch, this one constructed of heavily rusticated stone. It shelters a recessed porch and small, stained glass window. The front façade is united by a broad porch extending the full width of the house. The porch is classically detailed with a denticulate cornice, Doric columns and carved gable medallion.

Ca. 1908 view of the intersection of North Richhill Street (on the left) and West High Street.

There are two entrances facing High Street. The main door has a window of cut lead glass with transom above. The second door opens directly into the front parlor, facilitating use as a doctor’s office. 

Main entrance door.

Curved interior shutters..
Inside, the curved glass windows of the tower are lined with original wooden shutters of the same shape, a masterpiece of carpentry skill. Many of Dr. Ullom’s cousins were carpenters and staircase builders who likely created the beautiful woodwork that’s preserved throughout the house. 

Stone mason S. A. Rinehart built the exterior at the same time he was working on Soldiers and Sailors Monument in the Commons.

Staircase in "living hall" with beaded screen, elaborate paneling, newel post and spindles.

The Queen Anne style was the first to eschew the narrow, central hallway of earlier architectural fashion. Instead, guests were welcomed into a large “Living Hall” with fireplace, paneled staircase and cozy tower nook with beaded spindle-work screens. Pocket doors leading into the parlor and dining room could be opened to accommodate large groups.

Dr. J. T. Ullom in."Waynesburg Prosperous & Beautiful," 1907.

Five years before he built his house, Dr. Ullom served as chair of the building committee of Washington Street Methodist Church, increasing the probability that the same craftsmen created both buildings. 

Second owner George E. Rice in "Waynesburg Prosperous & Beautiful," 1907. 

In 1910, Dr. Ullom sold the house to another prominent local businessman, George E. Rice. Both were investors in oil, coal and gas. However, Rice was also a land developer and owner of the first Ford dealership in town. Occupancy continued with his son, James P. Rice, professor of business administration at Waynesburg College.  The family sold to Hook & Hook in 1993.


Monday, July 17, 2017


 This column first appeared in the July 2017 issue of GreeneSPEAK!

The Sheriff's House at the corner of South Washington Street and Cherry Alley.

The Sheriff’s House in downtown Waynesburg is an important piece of historic architecture that’s often overlooked because it’s attached to the Courthouse. Built in 1880 as a “stand alone” structure, it’s now connected to a 3-story office building at the rear of the Courthouse. Inside and out, the original and new buildings blend seamlessly, designed in 1997 by preservation architect Ellis Schmidlapp of Pittsburgh. 

The new office building is entered from Church Street.

Facing South Washington Street, the original façade of the Sheriff’s House is one of the few remaining examples of Second Empire architecture in Waynesburg, a style popular after the Civil War. Second Empire designs are easily recognized for their distinctive mansard roofs with two slopes on all four sides. Often with dormer windows, the lower slope is steeper than the upper, creating a full story instead of a smaller attic. 

View from NW corner of High and Washington Streets, taken some time after 1915, shows the Sheriff's House at the rear of the Courthouse.  All are painted white.  The steeple in the background is the Methodist Episcopal Church, now gone.
Prominent Pittsburgh architect John U. Barr designed the Sheriff’s House and its companion Jail on Church Street, both of pressed brick. In between, he placed a lobby connecting them to a 2-story courthouse addition that he also designed. The Jail was demolished in 1997, replaced by the office building. 

The Jail designed in 1880 by John U. Barr.
Barr was at the height of his career in 1880, having designed important buildings throughout southwestern Pennsylvania with his partner Henry Moser. They created at least four “Old Mains” for institutions of higher learning at California (PA), Washington & Jefferson, West Virginia University and Monongahela College in Jefferson, PA (now defunct). All were Second Empire in style. 

Double entrance doors face South Washington Street.

Central to the design of the Sheriff’s House is a slightly projecting bay with a tower on top. There, the date “1880” is carved in stone. Below, on the first floor, are double entrance doors of ornately carved wood, topped by a divided fanlight and a stone arch with keystone. 

The date of 1880 is carved in stone.
The windows are tall and narrow, arranged in pairs and topped with eyebrow lintels. Sill bands of matching stone connect the lintels, uniting the composition. A tiny, central balcony on the third floor has a railing of ornamental ironwork, a motif echoed on the top of the new office building. Wide overhanging cornices on either side of the balcony are supported by brick brackets.
Carved sandstone lintels.

A distinctive style called scabbled-and-drafted was used to finish the foundation sandstones. They are visible along Cherry Alley, and on other nearby historic buildings including the Gordon House south of Waynesburg, the Ross House at Ruff Creek, and the Hook/Morgan Building at the corner of High and South Morgan Streets.   

Scabbled and drafted sandstone blocks can be seen along Cherry Alley.
When carpenter John Call built the Sheriff’s House and Jail, he used steam-fired engines to run the machinery at his shop on West Greene Street. There he made the doors, frames and sashes from wood transported from the West over the newly opened Washington and Waynesburg Railroad. The Industrial Revolution had arrived in Waynesburg.  Quite a contrast from the hand tools used to build the Courthouse 30 years earlier.

Monday, May 8, 2017


The Greene County Courthouse(1850-51) and Jail (1880-81) shortly after the Downey House Fire of 1925.  (Markiewich postcard collection,

The Greene County Courthouse is the Architectural Gem of Waynesburg. According to “Buildings of Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania,”2010, it is “most beautiful representative of its era in western Pennsylvania.” Since 1850, it has occupied the Public Square in the center of town, a rare remnant of the pre-Civil War period of Greek Revival design. 

Published in 1936, the landmark book “Early Architecture of Western Pennsylvania” included a major section on the courthouse. Author Charles Morse Stotz wrote: “It is one of the finest examples of the Greek Revival type….perfectly preserved except for the cupola, which was burned and replaced in 1926.”  

Early view, ca. 1860. (greene, courtesy of  Waynesburg Borough)
He continued: “The community is justly proud of this handsome building, which serves its purpose adequately even today,” a fact that is still true in 2017. The book included architect-measured drawings of the courthouse and images by famous photographer Luke Swank.  

Above and below, elevation and detail drawings by Stewart L. Brown, published in "The Early Architecture of Western Pennsylvania," 1936.

The courthouse was almost torn down during the building boom of the early 20th century when it was considered too small and old-fashioned. In 1907, Fred High wrote in “Waynesburg Prosperous and Beautiful:” “The present Court House was erected in 1852 (sic) and was one of the finest in its day, but it will soon give way to a modern building that will be in keeping with our growth and financial standing.”  

What saved the courthouse was the failure of the county’s largest bank, Farmers & Drovers, halting development. Today, Greene is the only county among its neighbors to retain its Greek Revival courthouse. The others were demolished in the 1890-1900s for massive, stone edifices.

This photo was taken after 1915 when the Sayers Building on left was erected. Sheriff's House was attached to rear of courthouse in 1880-81. (, courtesy of Greene County Historical Society.)
The Greene County Courthouse is a copy of one built for Fayette County three years earlier. After seeing it, local officials ordered the same plan, design and materials from the same architect-builders, Samuel and John Bryan, except they requested six Corinthian columns instead of four Ionic. The contract totaled $16,500. Fayette’s courthouse was demolished in 1890.

The Fayette County Courthouse at Uniontown, inspiration for the Greene County Courthouse, built 1847, demolished 1890.  (Ellis, History of Fayette County, 1882)
The design of the Greene County Courthouse is dominated by a monumental portico with 2-story fluted columns supporting a dentil-lined pediment. A smaller version of the same pediment sits atop the double entrance doors and multi-paned transom. Brick pilasters create faux columns on the side elevations, a feature also found on Waynesburg University’s Hanna Hall, designed and built in the same year by the same craftsmen.    

Civil War veterans in front of the Courthouse entrance, Memorial Day 1895.  (greeneconnections, collection of Greene County Historical Society)
The importance of the courthouse is further enhanced by the tall, domed and colonnaded cupola and the statue of General Greene. The original statue, destroyed in the Downey House fire, was designed by Dominicas Haas, a local clockmaker, and carved of poplar by Bradley Mahanna. Today, a third reproduction made of fiberglass sits atop the cupola.

This photo, a gift of the Sayers family, is a  mystery. Does it show the courthouse under construction in 1850-51 or is this a major repair project of  the 1870s? The Sayers & Hoskinson store at left is in a building still known today as "Sayers Corner."  (, courtesy of Greene County Historical Society)

In 1850, the first person offered the commission to carve General Greene was an itinerant artist named David Gilmore Blythe. He had just completed a statue of Lafayette for the Fayette Courthouse, charging $125. Seeing its popularity, he upped the price to $300 and lost the Greene commission. Today, Blythe’s work is highly valued and displayed in major museums. His statue of Lafayette stands in the rotunda of the present Fayette Courthouse.