Thursday, February 6, 2020


This column first appeared in the February 2020 issue of "GreeneSpeak!"

The building today.

When erected in 1870, the then-named Hook Building at 102-108 East High Street was a showpiece. By 2007, it was an eyesore, up for Sheriff’s Sale, occupied by squatters. That’s when I did a crazy thing. I bought it.

The front facade in 2008 before renovation. The only remaining original window was above the arched entranceway that was also restored. Telephone pole and utility wires were moved underground during streetscape improvements in 2010.

The Morgan Street elevation in 2008 before rehabilitation.

Rear elevation in 2008 before rehabilitation. Addition at right was removed and block fire stairs were enclosed and faced with brick.
A dozen years later I’m proud to say that the building—now known as “Morgan Building” or “Hook/Morgan Building”--is again a showpiece. My investment encouraged neighbors to rehab their buildings as well. Today, this beautiful group of historic buildings welcomes residents and visitors alike to downtown Waynesburg.  

The Hook/Morgan Building is on the left in this 1908 postcard view of Downtown Waynesburg.  All of the buildings in its block remain except for the small gray house next door that was demolished for a borough parking lot.

Long-standing commercial tenants now occupy the first floor of the Morgan Building: Peacock Keller Law Firm, Community Foundation and Flutter Lash + Brow. On the second and third floors, six apartments are usually fully leased.

The new name honors my Dad, Richard V. Morgan, who for many years worked nearby at First Federal Savings & Loan. Dad cared deeply about Waynesburg as do I. Coincidentally, the name also recognizes the location at High and Morgan Streets. 

Built like a fortress, the building has exterior and interior walls three bricks thick on a massive stone foundation. That was the good news back in 2007. The bad news was the deplorable condition--leaky roof, antiquated or non-existent mechanical systems and a rear addition pulling away from the building. But, what I hated most were the bats in the attic.

Restoration was supervised by local contractor Bill Whitlatch and his crew of talented craftsmen. Architects David Vater of Pittsburgh and Ken Kulak of Monongahela, PA, created measured drawings and solutions for code and safety requirements. 

Restored apartment entrance.  Wood door with fan- and sidelights designed by Fred Smith.

Fred Smith, historic window-and-door expert at Allegheny Millwork in Pittsburgh, designed the 67 replacement windows replicating the only original window that remained in 2007. Over 8-feet tall, the new double-glass Marvin windows make the building quiet and energy efficient.

Fred sourced historically correct replacements for long-lost doors and hardware. He even supplied missing spindles and rails for the open 3-story staircase. Years earlier, he had saved them from a demolished house of similar vintage in Pittsburgh’s North Side. 

View of second floor hallway before restoration.  Note the false wall where the stairrail and spindles were missing. also the drop ceiling..
Second floor hallway today looking in the opposite direction.  Curved rail at top of stairs was fabricated by Thomas McGill Restoration, Bridgeville.
Apartment entrance with restored staircase that's open to the third floor.
Replacing the original standing seam metal roof, soffit and fascia was another major project. Completed masterfully by Yohe Roofing of Washington County, it required scaffolding and specially ordered wood. When Yohe removed the old roof, I scooped up its original square-headed nails believing them forged by my great-great uncle Joseph Wiley whose blacksmith shop had been nearby. 

Nails removed from the original 1870 roof

The first exterior project was cleaning up the rear elevation, removing the addition and running new sewer lines under what became a level, concrete driveway poured by John Hanley of Canonsburg. Next, the Whitlatch crew laid new bricks over an ugly concrete block fire stairs while restoration specialist George Appel cleaned and repointed original walls and replaced lintels. 

New sewer lines replaced cast iron originals at the back of the building.  Here the author consults with contractor John Hanley.

Inside, the first space renovated became Our Glass, a stained glass and mosaic shop. Today it’s the Community Foundation meeting room. Ripping out false walls and two drop ceilings revealed a light, bright commercial space as originally intended. 

The Barbershop in 2008 before restoration. Antique chairs were sold to a local collector to help fund construction.  Mirrored wall remains today with attached workstations.

Equally rewarding was restoring the old Barber Shop in the basement where my Dad and brothers used to get their hair cut. Today, it’s Flutter Lash + Brow. Throughout, electrical wiring was handled by Wayne Blaker whose father had years earlier been co-leader of the East Franklin 4-H Electric Club with my Dad.

 It’s a small world and it takes a village to save an historic building.