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Orr-Sharpe Residence

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c. 1887, W. Bleddyn Powell. 945 Philadelphia Ave.
  • (Jay Shockley)
  • (Jay Shockley)
  • (Jay Shockley)

Referred to in contemporary accounts as the “handsomest” residence in Chambersburg, the Orr-Sharpe Residence is located on Philadelphia Avenue, a broad thoroughfare with deep lawns and houses of the town’s nineteenth-century elite, that connects downtown with Wilson College. It was built for D.A. (David Alonzo) Orr, who, with a brother, purchased the Chambersburg Valley Spirit newspaper in 1879.

The architect of the house was W. Bleddyn Powell, most notable as the architect of many stations for the Pennsylvania Railroad, starting in the late 1870s. He was elected architect of Philadelphia’s Public Building Commission in 1890, and served in that position until 1901. For the Orr Residence, Powell combined aspects of the Queen Anne and Richardsonian Romanesque styles, and utilized many design elements seen on his train stations. These include rusticated stone cladding, patterned shingles, gables, a broad porch, roof brackets, multi-pane windows, and a porte-cochere.

Orr moved to Harrisburg when he took control of a newspaper there. His residence was acquired in 1891 by Joshua Wilson Sharpe, a leading lawyer in Chambersburg who later served as chief magistrate. After the death of Sharpe’s widow, the house was purchased by adjacent Wilson College in 1942. It was used for a wide variety of campus services for six decades. The building was restored in 2001, and has since served as the residence of the college president.

Writing Credits

Jay Shockley



  • 1887

  • 1942

    Acquired by Wilson College
  • 2001


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Jay Shockley, "Orr-Sharpe Residence", [Chambersburg, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

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