Thursday, December 5, 2019


This column first appeared in the December 2019 issue of GreeneSPEAK!
The author recently restored this handsome Italianate design, now known as the Hook-Morgan Building

 In 1870, harness maker John T. Hook built one of the first mixed-use buildings in Waynesburg at the corner of High and Morgan Streets. It had four storerooms with separate entrances plus a vestibule leading to residences above. Earlier, shops, taverns and inns had been located in homes with customers and family members sharing a single door.

Along with the Downey House Hotel and Odd Fellows & Masonic Building (later Opera House), the Hook Building introduced a new era of development in Waynesburg. The Civil War was over and businessmen were again confident in the local economy. 

By the early 20th century when this postcard was made there were many 3-story mixed use buildings like the Hook Building in downtown Waynesburg. It's on the left, fourth building down.

Architectural fashion had moved away from classicism and now "Victorian" styles such as Italianate and Second Empire were popular. These buildings were tall with more ornate wood trim, manufactured at steam-powered sawmills, a new innovation.

They also introduced a new, 3-story height to High Street. Almost as tall as the Courthouse, they dwarfed the smaller colonial buildings around them.  

1864 photo shows the Crawford House that earlier stood on the site of the Hook Building. Behind it, across Morgan Street, is Greene County's first bank, Farmers & Drovers, built in 1859 by Jesse Hook, a cousin of John T. Hook.

The Hook Building replaced a house built in 1814 by William Crawford, reportedly Waynesburg’s first merchant. It was described in estate documents as a “mansion” or “large brick house.” 

When John T. Hook built anew in 1870, he re-used its sturdy sandstone foundation and basic floor plan, extending along Morgan Street to form an L-shaped building with an interior, 2-story porch, a common feature of the late 19th century.  

This ca. 1907 view of the Hook Building (on right) shows its original L-shape.

Today, ceilings in the basement display wood from both structures. Floor joists have straight cut marks from an early, simpler mill while floor boards have round, quarter-sawn marks, typical of the 1870s. 

Scabbled and drafted sandstone treatment at the Gordon House (1843) near Waynesburg is identical to the Hook Building. "Early Architecture of Western Pennsylvania" by Stotz, 1936.

Along Morgan Street the building features a special treatment of sandstone called “scabbled and draftedthat appears on other Greene County buildings of similar vintage. Walls were built of bricks from Jesse Hook’s East Waynesburg brickyard. Typical of Italianate style, the building has over 8-feet tall windows that are arched with eyebrow lintels of either sandstone or brick. The low gable roof has wide eaves.

John T. Hook.

Eliza (Inghram) Hook.
The Hook family lived on the second and third floors with John T., wife Eliza and some of their eight children facing Morgan Street and son John Polk Hook and family along High Street. After his father retired, John P. continued the harness/saddle business until automobiles made it obsolete, then opened an upholstery shop in a first floor storeroom. Another brother, Attorney William I. Hook, also lived and worked in the building. The family owned the building until 1921. 

During restoration, this sign was found in the attic.

John Polk Hook.

Today, storefronts are occupied by Peacock Keller Law Firm, Community Foundation and Flutter. Through the years, among the many tenants were a grocery, dentist, music store, jewelry, millinery, plumber, tailor, wallpaper, men’s and women’s clothing, restaurant, barber, paint store, credit bureau, hairdresser, cable company and stained glass artists.

Next issue, I’ll write about restoring the building. I know it well; I’ve owned it since 2007.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019


This column first appeared in the October 2019 issue of GreeneSPEAK!

When the U. S. Direct Tax list was released on October 1, 1798, Waynesburg had 19 occupied houses and eight more in construction  This column focuses on the eight “unfinished” dwellings that show a shift in development from Greene to High Streets and from log to brick.  

The first Greene County courthouse of 1797 still stands in its original location on Greene Street.

Greene Street, an former Indian trail that pre-existed the town, was surveyed in 1796. Quickly, a temporary log courthouse was constructed there, and log structures sprang up around it, the very first buildings. However, Waynesburg’s surveyors had planned Main (High) Street as the major thoroughfare with a “Public Square” in the middle where a permanent courthouse would be placed.  

Only known image of the first brick courthouse, an etching by Sherman Day, 1843.

By 1800, an Irish immigrant named Robert Milligan was building this first brick courthouse of hand-fired bricks made from local clay. Variously described as a brick molder, mason, contractor and master-builder, he introduced a preference for brick architecture that continues today. Milligan’s courthouse survived until 1850 when the current courthouse was built.

Two years earlier, in 1798, Milligan had started building a house at the SE corner of High and Spring Alley on a lot purchased in July of that year that was assessed at $40, 22x10 feet in size. It's unknown when it was replaced.

When this photo was taken in the mid-1890s, the Robert Adams House (ca. 1800) at Morris and Franklin Streets was one of the few remaining original brick buildings. Source:

Surprisingly, a woman appeared on the tax list, Phoebe Morris whose husband James had just died at age 28. Her brother Ephraim Sayers lived next door and would soon become the town’s largest property owner. Located at High and Richhill Streets, the 24x20 feet unfinished house was assessed at $60. Completed by the next owner, it was described in 1847 as “hewn log, weather-boarded”. What is today the Hook Law office replaced it in the 1890s.  
Phoebe found a second husband a block away, George Remley who was building a house at the SW corner of High and Spring Streets across the alley from Milligan. His unfinished house was assessed at $80. George was a “joiner” making furniture and house fittings such as doors, windows and stairs, surely a profession in demand in the growing town. Sadly, Phoebe died soon after giving birth to a son, James Remley, in November 1800. George moved to Ohio in 1812.

Capt. James Seals Jr. lived in a stone house he built in 1792 on his farm just west of Waynesburg. Image from "Waynesburg Prosperous & Beautiful," Fred High, 1907.

Two of the five trustees who established Greene County and its county seat of Waynesburg invested in multiple town lots but lived elsewhere. One of them, Capt. James Seals Jr., had an unfinished building that was probably across High Street from Robert Milligan's house where the Belko grocery store is today. It was assessed at $92.

 At the other end of High Street, Isaac Jenkinson’s unfinished building may still exist as the western (left) half of “Whitehill Place” at the corner with Cumberland Street, shown above. In 1798 it was 24x20 feet, valued at $80. Two years later Jenkinson lost his investment to Philadelphia merchants to whom he owed $2400, a princely sum. In 1808, local attorney Robert Whitehill purchased the property. 

Also in 1798 James Eagon was building a log house at the NW corner of High and Findley Alley, assessed at $100. In 1816, he sold to daughter Sarah Adamson and thereafter it became “the old Adamson property”.  By 1886 it was the residence of Father Herman, the priest of St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church.

Early 19th century brick buildings on High Street, looking west from Washington Street ca. 1860. Source:

Wednesday, September 18, 2019


This column first appeared in the September 2019 issue of GreeneSPEAK!
The original Greene County courthouse of 1797 is the only extant early log structure in Waynesburg. Today, it is the home of Cornerstone Genealogical Society.

Who were the first citizens of Waynesburg? What did their houses look like and what were their economic reasons for moving to the new county seat?

Many clues can be found in the U. S. Direct Tax of 1798, aka the ”Window Tax” that assessed panes of glass, a measure of wealth in the 18th century. The list for Waynesburg contained only 19 “occupied” structures with another eight under construction. In my last column, I reviewed the six simplest cabins, all occupied and assessed at under $100 including the lot.   

An additional 13 dwellings were assessed over $100, based on size, material, number of stories and panes of glass. Eleven were log and two were frame. One of the log buildings, the original courthouse, still stands on Greene Street.  

In the 1930s, photographer William Fletcher captured this image of Greene Street one block west of the log courthouse when other early dwellings of log and frame still lined the street.  Today the site is a gas station.  Credit:

Across the street from the log courthouse, innkeeper Phillip Ketchum had the highest assessment at $600. His two-story log dwelling was 30 x 26 feet with three 15-pane windows on the first floor and six 12-panes on the second, plus two log stables. After 1801, it was known as the Nicholas Johnson Tavern.

The second highest assessment at $500 was Jacob Burley’s log tavern on Franklin Street. It was 2-stories, 54 x 22 with thirteen 12-pane windows, plus a separate log kitchen measuring 20 x 18 on three lots between Richhill Street and Spring Alley. After 1812, it was the Joseph Seals Tavern. 

Justice of the Peace William Hunter lived on Lot 96 at the northwest corner of High and Morgan Streets (today Victoria Square) in a 2-story log house 25 x 22 with 12 single pane windows on the first floor and five on the second. Assessed at $300, it included a stable. 

U. S. Direct Tax of October 1, 1798 lists John Boreman and Jacob Burley's properties in the new town of. Waynesburg.  Not yet incorporated, it was included in Franklin Township.  All town lots were 10,800 sq. ft.  Boreman had three.

Early settler John Boreman’ s three lots on Greene Street between Morris Street and Fruit Alley were valued at $200, occupied by his 2-story log house, 26 x 20 with one 9-pane window, plus a smokehouse 20 x 20 with two single pane windows. During the Revolutionary War, Boreman was Assistant Paymaster at Ft. Pitt, earning the trust of colonial leaders. When Greene County was formed in 1796, Governor Mifflin appointed him clerk of all courts, recorder of deeds, recorder of wills and prothonotary. He was county government’s most influential official.

The Uriah Hupp log house in Clarksville, Greene County, was dismantled in 19__ and shipped to North Ireland where it is today the centerpiece of the Ulster American Folk Park.
Waynesburg’s first U. S. postmaster, James Wilson, built a 1-story frame house assessed at $200 on Lot 91 at the northeast corner of High and Washington Streets. It had two 12-pane windows and one 8-pane. Soon thereafter, he replaced it with a brick structure that survives today as part of the “Messenger Building,” now Mickey’s Men’s Store.

Attorney John Simonson owned a rental log house assessed at $160 on the present site of PNC Bank. It was 16 feet square with two 12-pane windows on the first floor and two 9-panes on the second. At the other end of town, High and Findley Alley, Henry Slater’s log house of 26 x 20 was also assessed at $160. It was 2-stories with eight 9-pane windows.

In 1973, Professor Henry Glassie of Indiana University, Bloomington, IN studied the earliest extant log structures in Greene County. His report, found in the library at the Ulster American Folk Park, includes the Joseph Higgins Farm south of Waynesburg. Early log dwellings in town would have been similar.

Interior floor plan of the Higgins log house from Professor Glassie's report.

In addition, there were six smaller occupied properties with fewer windows and values ranging from $102 to $130. The owners were Shadrack Mitchell (stone mason), Henry Russell (carpenter), William Caldwell (tailor), Robert Adams (shoemaker), Asa McClelland (gunsmith), and Peter Lupardus. While Caldwell’s house was frame, all the others were log.

The series concludes next month with the eight “unfinished” houses marking a change in building material from log to brick.

Monday, May 6, 2019


This column first appeared in the May 2019 issue of GreeneSPEAK!

The first Greene County Courthouse, built of logs in 1796.  Centennial souvenir medal of 1896 illustrated in "Westward of ye Laurall Hills," Helen Vagt, 1976.

The U. S. Direct Tax of 1798 provides interesting clues to the early inhabitants of Waynesburg and their dwellings. Popularly known as “the Window Tax”, it assessed size, building material and panes of glass. This was the first federal tax on citizens, but according to the newly adopted Constitution it had to be apportioned, not per capita, but by state.

Pursuant to this, each Pennsylvania township created an alphabetical census of its inhabitants and the real property they owned on October 1, 1798. Newly surveyed, Waynesburg was a part of Franklin Township with two lists: (1) dwellings valued over $100 and (2) all real property including dwellings valued at $100 or less.  These were simply “Land,” with no information about windows or building material.

When what later officially became Waynesburg Borough in 1816 was laid out in a grid of uniform streets and alleys in 1796, 201 town lots were created, each 10,800 square feet. Although quickly sold, many were purchased by land speculators who did not construct houses.

According to the Direct Tax Survey of 1798, there were 19 occupied dwellings in “Waynesburgh”, as it was described, with another eight under construction. The dwellings ranged from a tiny cabin of 160 square feet to a large tavern of 2,400 square feet, and values ranged from $24 to $600.

One-Room House near Higbee, Aleppo Township, Greene County, photographed in 1973, similar to Waynesburg's earliest  log cabins and houses. Courtesy Prof. Henry Glassie of Indiana University.

The data in these surveys remind us that houses were much smaller in 1798 with the fireplace and hearth taking a disproportionate amount of space. Dark and cramped, these dwellings afforded little or no privacy.

Plan of One-Room House near Higbee, drawn for study of early log structures in Greene County, PA. 1973.

The first series of columns on the Direct Tax ($100 and under), lists three “cabins” and three “houses” with both occupant and owner named. The smallest “cabin” was owned and lived in by tanner Andrew Dodd. Located at the NW corner of Franklin and Findley Alley, it was valued at $30 including a tan yard and stable. The other five dwellings were rented.

Two cabins of 240 square feet were listed as “occupied”. One, a rustic cabin owned by David Owens, sheltered Richard Phelan, the town’s mason, who constructed some of the massive sandstone foundations that support Waynesburg’s historic buildings today. 

Christian Tarr of Fayette County, an early pottery entrepreneur, built a cabin on the SE corner of High and Whiskey Alley where potter Nicholas Hager lived and worked, selling to Hager in 1803. Meanwhile, Jacob Hager, brother of Nicholas, opened a second pottery shop across the alley. Early potters made bricks as well as housewares so it is likely that the Hagers contributed to some of Waynesburg’s first brick buildings.

Survey shows Nathaniel Jennings renting from Patrick Martin.

Among the three occupied “houses” valued at $100 or less, one was owned by Patrick Martin, a Revolutionary War hero who had served under Col. Anthony Wayne. It was occupied by Nathaniel Jennings, a carpenter, who with his brother Benjamin, also a carpenter, is credited with building many of the first buildings in Waynesburg including the Eclipse Theatre that I wrote about last month.

Ananias Conkling (Conklin) occupied a house owned by Jacob Airhart while David Crawford was the tenant of William Inghram, Esq. The survey does not specify building material nor number of stories for these houses but they were similar in size to the cabins.

Next month I’ll write about the larger log and frame houses valued over $100.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019


This column first appeared in the April 2019 GreeneSPEAK!

The Wilson Building today.

Viewed from West High Street, the former Eclipse Theatre, now Wilson Building, looks like an average office building of the 1930s. But, there’s a lot of history behind its façade of patterned bricks and stepped parapet. From 1912-1954, it was one of two movie theatres in downtown Waynesburg, located side-by-side across Fruit Alley.

This 1929 construction for Charles Silveus was supervised by local architect Thomas S. Knox.
The photo above shows the current façade in construction, ca. 1929. The addition created a wide theatre lobby and ticket office. Later, the openings were enclosed when the building was converted to offices and apartments after the theatre closed in 1954. Inside, nothing of the theatre remains today.

The Eclipse Theatre between 1925-1929 before the facade renovation. The sawtooth brick cornice is a stylistic detail that  appears on other early 19th century buildings in Waynesburg.

Cinematic history began here in 1912 when Charles Silveus opened the “Eclipse Moving Picture Theatre” showing silent movies exclusively. It was a “Nickelodeon,” so called because the price of admission was one nickel. At that time, the Opera House on the other side of Fruit Alley featured mostly live acts, both traveling and local. 

Early view of the Eclipse Theatre entrance. The building next door was replaced in 1925. Site of the C. A. Black house, far left, is now the PNC Bank parking lot.
The Eclipse Theatre, December 22, 1914.  On left, William Gray, assistant picture operator.  In the middle, Ocie Long and on the right, Ellie Tharp, ticket sellers.  Reprinted in "Cornerstone Clues," November 2012.

In 1915, the Eclipse Theatre was extended to include all of the first floor. Six years later, a large brick addition was attached to the rear. It extended to Strawberry Alley, increasing seating to 600. Both projects were supervised by local architect Thomas S. Knox who, interestingly, had a second career as the printer of “The Waynesburg Republican” newspaper, owned by his brother.

Theatre card for the Eclipse, December 1917.

Back of same theatre card for the week of Dec. 3, 1917.  Admission-Adults, 15¢; Children, 5¢.

Charlie Silveus continued to run the Eclipse, and later also the Opera House, throughout the silent film era. When “talkies” arrived in 1929, he retired from the industry, selling to Larry Puglia and Rose Pishionery, a brother-sister team. They updated equipment in both theatres, changed the Eclipse façade, renamed it “The Wayne,” and continued to show movies there until 1954. 

Advertisement reprinted in "Cornerstone Clues" November 2012.

Today, Charlie Silveus is considered a pioneer of cinema history. Unusual for his time, he was both theatre operator and filmmaker. With a hand-cranked, 35-mm camera, he captured both important events and every-day life in Waynesburg from 1914 until 1929, showing his films alongside commercial releases at The Eclipse. Miraculously, about an hour and a half of his footage survives, now owned by the Waynesburg Fire Department. With new technology, it’s hoped they can be enhanced and enjoyed by the community.

The R. H. Goldberg Building next door was constructed in 1925.

Returning to the photos, they tell a story far older than the theatre. The building behind the 1929 addition dates to before 1808 when a house on the lot was described in a deed. Its colonial style and gable roof are consistent with the date, as are the handmade bricks. The Jennings brothers were early owners until 1834. One of them, Benjamin, was a carpenter credited with building many of the first houses in Waynesburg. 

Behind the 1929 facade is a remnant of the early 19th century.

Today, you can still see a section of the historic house along Fruit Alley. Like many buildings in Waynesburg, the old Eclipse is full of surprises and tells multiple stories.