Friday, March 9, 2018


This column first appeared in the March 2018 issue of GreeneSPEAK!

Photographer Mike Schwarz flies a drone from the balcony of his parent's house to take this photo.

Lisa and Jeff Schwarz have meticulously preserved a grand house on North West Street near the Commons. It was built in 1905 by attorney Milton R. Travis, one of many residences erected during Waynesburg’s “Gilded Age,” an economic boom fueled by oil-and-gas revenues that made many professionals and businessmen wealthy.

Today the house is better known for its location next to Bowlby Library and its more recent owners, Hiram and Goldie Milliken and the Schwarz family. The Millikens owned the house from 1926 until 1980; the Schwarz family from 1990 to present.

A 2-story portico of Neoclassical design dominates the front façade of the yellow brick house. It hovers over a full first floor porch and second floor balcony. Supported by Corinthian columns, the portico is topped by a classically-ornamented pediment with a central window wheel.  

The Greene County Courthouse, ca. 1860.  Photo archived at Waynesburg Borough.

It’s similar to the front of the Greene County Courthouse, built 50 years earlier in the Greek Revival style. Both architectural styles were inspired by classical antiquity. Lying between them in the timeline of architectural development is the Victorian era when elaborate ornamentation and fussy design were the fashion.

This elaborately ornamented late-Victorian house stood at the corner of Sherman Avenue and Sixth Street. "Waynesburg Prosperous and Beautiful," 1906.

However, by 1900, the pendulum had swung back to classicism and a focus on simplicity, natural materials and traditional craftsmanship. Architects and builders chose design elements from a wide variety of styles, often mix-and-matching them. Some styles, like Classicism, repeated historical concepts while others like Arts and Crafts were brand new. The Milliken-Schwarz House is a fascinating blend of the two. 

The Milliken-Schwarz House in spring.  Photo courtesy of Lisa Schwarz.

Neoclassical details include the lattice porch railings, urn-topped balcony posts and arched dormer windows. The 2-story portico is significant as Waynesburg’s only residential example.

Proponents of the Arts and Crafts movement valued beauty, simplicity and function, feeling that mass production created inferior products and dehumanized workers. In Chicago, it led to development of the Prairie School of architecture by Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright and others. Later, Wright culminated his philosophy of “organic architecture” at Fallingwater in Fayette County, not far from Waynesburg. 

The Robie House, Chicago, IL, 1909, an early Prairie style house by Frank Lloyd Wright. Photo source: Library of Congress.

Arts and Crafts trademarks in the Milliken-Schwarz exterior include the boxy, 4-square shape, the 5-foot wide overhanging eaves and the hip roof of heavily rusticated tiles.  

The Milliken-Schwarz House, described as "Residence of M. R. Travis" in the book "Waynesburg Prosperous and Beautiful," 1906.

Inside, floors are quarter-sawn oak. Doors, mantels, window frames and coffered ceilings are elm, birch and golden oak. Stained and leaded glass windows are important period details. 

Since 1990, Jeff and Lisa Schwarz have authentically preserved the house, appreciating the fine quality of the original building materials. When parts were missing, they thoughtfully sought out period-appropriate replacements, traveling near and far. 

For instance, the dining room chandelier, scones and andirons came from the recently demolished Iams House (former Senior Center) on North Richhill Street, just around the corner from their home.

The recently demolished Iams House on North Richhill Street. "Waynesburg Prosperous and Beautiful," ca. 1906.

This story would not be complete without mention of the huge rhododendron in the front yard. It was one of a pair planted long ago by Goldie Milliken. While one did not survive, the other flourished. Eventually, she had to re-route the front sidewalk around it. Five years ago, it almost died, but Lisa had it cut back and once again it’s thriving.

The builder, M. R. Travis, did not stay in his first house for long.  Within two years, he had moved a block up the hill on North West Street to a pure Arts and Crafts design.  Both houses are pictured in the second edition of "Waynesburg Prosperous and Beautiful," ca. 1908.  Both are identified as his residence. 

The second residence that M. R. Travis built for himself.