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.

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