Western Pennsylvania

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This book is an orderly framework placed over the jumble of reality—and what a luxuriant jumble surrounds us in western Pennsylvania. The rolling hills change colors with the seasons, from delicate greens in the spring to brilliant golds and auburns in the fall. The swirling fog, sudden spurts of snow, and intense sunshine—sometimes in the same day—characterize our lives. Driving through the thirty-one counties of western Pennsylvania, the human struggle to settle the landscape and provide spaces to live and work is revealed in the towns and buildings in this book, each of which speaks to the aspirations of those who built them. 1

The buildings included in this volume range from the mid-eighteenth century to those recently completed. Some were designed by famous architects, others by architects whose work is locally known, and some by unknown architects or carpenters. Some buildings perform their functions with grace and beauty or clever utility, while others respond so well to their setting and evoke such vivid images of the lives of their builders that they demanded inclusion.

Western Pennsylvania is physically and culturally different from eastern Pennsylvania. It has more in common with its close neighbors—northwestern West Virginia, eastern Ohio, and southwestern New York State—than with the Piedmont region surrounding Philadelphia. Twenty-seven of the thirty-one counties included in this volume are considered rural. Allegheny, Beaver, Erie, and Westmoreland counties are the only four defined as urban. 2While western Pennsylvania has an ever-growing suburban presence, farms and rural buildings survive in great numbers and several are represented in this volume. Industrial buildings are also an integral part of western Pennsylvania's landscape, and where possible, typical industrial sites, which are accessible and have some architectural integrity, have been included.

Although there are significant differences between western and eastern Pennsylvania, there is no universally accepted division between the two. Geographical barriers and settlement patterns have determined the division between this and the forthcoming companion volume, Buildings of Pennsylvania: Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania. The ridge and valley system running through Centre, Huntingdon, and Fulton counties created a transportation barrier that delayed the settlement of these counties until the late 1760s. Blue Mountain in Franklin County was a similar obstacle to westward migration. Also, while the north-central counties of Potter and Tioga share a comparable geography and culture, the inclusion of Potter County in this volume and Tioga in the other is based on the former's settlement generally twenty years later than Tioga County's. 3

Topographic regions of Pennsylvania. Landforms played a major role in the period of settlement and the city plans for each region. The first, second, and fourth regions (The Western Capital, Rolling Hills and Rolling Mills, and Great Forest) are part of the Appalachian Plateau; the third region (Ridge and Valley) is part of the Ridge and Valley system; and the fifth region (Oil and Water) includes the Lake Erie Coastal Plain and extends into the Appalachian Plateau.

Navigating the region by river is complicated by the presence of five different watersheds; two of these riverine systems were the first major highways for European settlers. The Susquehanna River on the eastern boundary and its tributaries—the West Branch and the Juniata River—penetrate to the central core of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania 4and empty into Chesapeake Bay, in Maryland, and, ultimately, into the Atlantic Ocean. The Monongahela and Allegheny rivers join to create the Ohio River, which flows to the Mississippi River, and, in due course, to the Gulf of Mexico. This river basin ties western Pennsylvania to the rest of the upper Midwest and the South. A third watershed empties several short streams into Lake Erie, and is named for the lake. The fourth flows into the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay from southern Somerset, Bedford, and Fulton counties. A fifth minor watershed is located in north-central Potter County and surrounds the Genesee River, which flows north through south-central New York State and empties into Lake Ontario near Rochester, New York. 5

Native American Habitation

Archaeologists divide early human habitation of western Pennsylvania into three eras: Paleo-Indian from approximately 10,000 to 8000 BCE; Archaic from approximately 8000 to 1000 BCE; and Woodland from approximately 1000 BCE to European contact c. 1610. Remains from a rock shelter at Meadowcroft ( WS16), in Washington County, thirty miles southwest of Pittsburgh, establish a human presence in the area as early as the end of the last Ice Age, C. 14,000 to 12,000 BCE.

The Adena people of the Early Woodland period were among the first to make pottery and experiment with the cultivation of plants. Although they have been assigned a name by archaeologists, they are not a tribe like the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Native Americans, but a people who performed a number of similar activities such as hunting, gathering, and mound building. 6The Hopewell from the Middle Woodland era succeeded the Adena, appearing in the area around 100 CE. The Hopewell participated in a national trading system, importing from the west such resources as copper and mica. Their earthen burial mounds with enclosed stone structures have been excavated near the Meadowcroft site as well as at more northern locations along the Allegheny River. 7

Around 1000 BCE, an agricultural revolution introduced maize into a diet that previously had consisted primarily of squash and beans. This increased the nutritional content of the crops available to Native Americans in the area, and they gradually formed an economy based on farming rather than foraging. The Monongahela people built hundreds of villages during their seven-hundred-year occupancy of western Pennsylvania. After 900 CE, their culture spread as far east as Somerset County and as far north as Butler and Armstrong counties. Each village was made up of round huts built of bent saplings tied with vegetable fibers, covered with bark, and open at the top to vent the smoke. These house types, nearly ubiquitous in the Northeast and upper Midwest, were typically arranged one or two deep in a circle around a central plaza and surrounded by a wooden palisade. Villages varied in population from 50 to 300 people and were occupied as long as the environment could sustain them. The Monongahela suffered through two crippling droughts in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries that devastated their maize crops and left them vulnerable to attack by the Iroquois. One theory suggests that they moved east and south out of what is now Pennsylvania or were absorbed by other tribes. They essentially vacated the area by approximately 1635. 8

The Erie tribe settled around present-day Erie between 900 CE and 1300 CE. They coexisted with the Susquehannocks, who, during the same period, settled in north-central Pennsylvania along the North and West branches of the Susquehanna River. Both spoke a version of the Iroquoian language and built large villages of up to 2,000 people who lived in longhouses. The buildings of these proto-Iroquois groups in northern Pennsylvania and southern New York ranged from 40 to 200 feet long and were generally 17 feet wide, with rounded ends and arched roofs. They were constructed of bent saplings tied in place with fibrous thongs to create the frame, which was covered with elm bark. The interior provided shelter for a group of extended families related through the female line. Archaeological remains indicate that the earlier central hearths later evolved into a series of hearths shared by families across the central aisle from one another. 9

Model of Monongahela hut, built by Fred Crissman and donated to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

Model of Proto-Iroquois longhouse, built by Fred Crissman and donated to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

By the 1500s, tribes, growing in population, fought over expanding territorial needs. Trade and intertribal adoptions kept Native American cultural traits fluid, but there were tribal differences, which were exacerbated and manipulated by Europeans in the 1600s, whose encounters with the Native Americans increased steadily through a complex series of broken treaties. These encounters also brought epidemics, which decimated tribes and caused further migrations.

Major land transfers from Native Americans to the colonial and federal authorities, 1682–1792. In nearly every case European settlement preceded the transfer dates.

The Lenni Lenape or Delaware tribe was ravaged by decades of battling not only white settlers and their European allies but other tribes as well. Each time the Delaware moved west they incurred the wrath of another tribe and were forced to vie for food in areas that were rapidly being depleted. They sold their lands along the Delaware River to the Dutch and, later, to William Penn, and moved to central Pennsylvania and the Susquehanna River area. In 1720, the Delaware were conquered by the Iroquois and resettled in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. Here they allied themselves with the losing side in a series of mid- to late-eighteenth-century battles—with the French in the French and Indian War, with Pontiac in the eponymous 1763 rebellion, and with the British during the American Revolution. Finally, in the late 1790s, they began a series of migrations to the continent's interior, where they ultimately were so completely absorbed by the Cherokee tribe that their separate tribal designation had to be reissued by the federal government in 1996.

Several town names in western Pennsylvania memorialize the struggle between the native population and the settlers. Burnt Cabins in Fulton County, for example, recalls the attempts by William Penn's men to keep settlers from squatting on lands still technically held by the tribes. Kittanning in Armstrong County was a Delaware village before Colonel John Armstrong destroyed it in 1756. In Huntingdon County, Kishacoquillas Valley, named for a Seneca chief, now hosts Amish farms.

The German, Scots-Irish, 10Welsh, and Dutch settlers who came into Pennsylvania set up owner-occupied farms and small towns for their mills and supply centers. Native tribes, who needed hunting lands and room to move their villages when the surrounding countryside could no longer support them, found individual ownership alien to them. The two cultures never coexisted easily. Consequently, remnants of once large tribes such as the Delaware, Mingo, and Shawnee migrated across the lands of western Pennsylvania, constantly moving away from stronger tribes and European settlers.

Property Rights and European Settlement

Land ownership throughout the commonwealth has had a long and contentious history. William Penn's dream was a state tolerant of all religions and prosperous through the work of many farmers. Problems began even before the land could be held officially. Penn stipulated that all land transferred to European ownership must be purchased from the native tribes. He began the process in 1682 with the purchase of land along the Delaware River from the Delaware tribe. Over a century later, in 1784, his sons completed the purchases by buying the northwestern section of the commonwealth from the Six Nations. Throughout this long process, settlers continually began to farm lands that had not yet been officially purchased.

Unfortunately, loose bookkeeping by the colonial government led to the practice of squatting. In most western Pennsylvania cases, while official ownership may have rested in the hands of wealthy Philadelphians or large speculative land companies, those actually farming and living on the land declared ownership. Claiming “tomahawk rights,” they marked their territory by notches on bordering trees; they believed that building a cabin and planting fields determined ownership. In general, the custom was to grant those who built a barn and a house and tilled the fields the first right of refusal when land was to be sold. But with poor records and an understaffed land office, the courts spent years trying to sort out who owned what.

The difficulty of determining land ownership in the region was exacerbated by the confusion over which state held jurisdiction over a given area. Pennsylvanians fought to protect their boundaries from a host of territorial neighbors' counterclaims. Maryland claimed land in eastern Pennsylvania as far north as Philadelphia until, after prolonged litigation, the Mason-Dixon Line was surveyed in 1763 and established the southern boundary to within twenty-four miles of the present western boundary. Virginians, traveling up the Monongahela River valley, claimed all of the present counties of Allegheny, Beaver, Fayette, Greene, Washington, and Westmoreland until 1786. These settlers brought their slaves and sought to extend the plantation system. Virginia encouraged settlement by offering larger land patents for lower prices than Pennsylvania. Virginia also arranged for local militia to fend off attacks by Native Americans, and advance its interests. Many settlers in the southwestern counties were only familiar with Virginia colonial representatives. During the American Revolution, Pennsylvanians and Virginians were encouraged to resolve their border dispute, and by 1786, the Mason-Dixon Line and its extension across the final twenty-four miles of Greene County was accepted by both states as the southern boundary of Pennsylvania; the western boundary was established in 1785–1786. The Virginia deeds were grandfathered into Pennsylvania's land warrants after the borders were defined. When the area was officially declared a part of Pennsylvania, where a 1780 law limited slavery, many families from Virginia and Maryland moved to Kentucky, a state that did not prohibit slave owning.

Evolution of Pennsylvania's boundaries, 1682–1892.

Connecticut's claim of nearly the entire northern tier of counties statewide was the most contentious. For nearly fifty years, between 1753 and 1800, settlers from both colonies were killed in a lethal struggle for land ownership and for access to the western territories that in turn enraged the Iroquois, land-starved Connecticut Yankees, the British, and citizens of the commonwealth.

Early Pennsylvanians were a mix of ethnicities that were consciously recruited from Europe by William Penn. Skilled craftsmen and farmers came from three major areas: England, Germany, and northern Ireland. Generally, the English settled around Philadelphia and in those areas of southwestern Pennsylvania to which Virginia lay claim. German farmers sought out the limestone valleys in central Pennsylvania that reminded them of their homeland. Over 200,000 Scots-Irish Presbyterians immigrated to the American colonies between 1717 and 1788. Those who chose to live in Pennsylvania initially settled in the river valley of the Susquehanna in clusters separate from but adjacent to the earlier German settlements. Many of these first Scots-Irish settlers moved rather quickly into the southwestern border territories. Here they found the “Gateway to the West,” a name initially ascribed to Cumberland, Maryland, and moved continually westward throughout the first half of the nineteenth century. From the 1780s to the early 1800s, the designation aptly applied to the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania, where the Ohio River originated and carried thousands of immigrants to their western destinations.

Town Building

Between 1783 and 1795, the commonwealth surveyed seven sites on the western border to stimulate frontier settlement and secure its boundaries. It laid out the towns of Pittsburgh, Beaver, Allegheny (now a part of Pittsburgh), Erie, Franklin, Waterford, and Warren, and sold lots to those who were willing to come and settle within two years. 11Slowly these towns, roughly modeled after Philadelphia with a grid plan and central green square surrounded by a courthouse and commercial buildings, became the models for many towns in western Pennsylvania, such as Meadville and Waynesburg.

The dispute over interstate boundaries influenced building types in particular ways. Bolstered by the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, the Connecticut Yankees of New England settled along an east–west swath stretching one hundred miles south of the New York border. Only these northern counties formerly claimed by Connecticut have frame Greek Revival houses similar to those found in New England. The type is rarely seen farther south than northern Lawrence County.

In the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania, Virginian Isaac Meason hired English architect-builder Adam Wilson to design his house, Mount Braddock ( FA27). It is the only dressed-stone, seven-part Palladian plan house in the nation and among the most sophisticated houses in western Pennsylvania. It shares design elements with substantial houses in Maryland and Virginia. With interior fittings commensurate with the refinement of the design, there is no comparable house from this early period in the state. Mount Braddock is “a unique expression of the English Palladian villa in America” 12and could only have been built in the area once thought part of Virginia.

In the central counties of the Ridge and Valley region, farmers of German descent built their two-story houses with distinctive inset porches under a single pitched roof for extra stability under frequent heavy snows. When they migrated westward, their building techniques and customs adapted to changing circumstances, making western Pennsylvania a stylistic crossroads. While German settlers who remained in the central counties were more likely to retain particular porches or siding techniques associated with German builders, as they progressed farther west they encountered the Scots-Irish and English settlers from Virginia and Maryland, who brought with them their own building traditions. 13Free from the stylistic conformity of the eastern seacoast, and in the relative isolation of the frontier, these building patterns blended and shifted so that the predominant style of architecture in this region is most accurately labeled “eclectic.”

Early buildings in western Pennsylvania also reflect the difficulty of obtaining skilled workers. The vision of the owner might dictate how a building should look, but the craftsman's training and skill dictated how the building didlook, and not always with felicitous results. Albert Gallatin, Thomas Jefferson's treasury secretary, complained that his Scots-Irish contractor Hugh Graham made his Fayette County house look like an “Irish Barracks” on the outside and a “Dutch Tavern” inside ( FA9). 14

Facade of the Isaac Meason House, “Mount Braddock” ( FA27), and its dependencies.

The relatively small settlements and sprawling farmsteads of western Pennsylvania required that settlers master the use of the axe for road and field clearing and use the most available material to build defensive forts and domestic shelters. The tradition of logging and building with logs permeated the region. As settlements grew, the raising of oversized buildings like barns and churches required communal efforts and provided opportunities for socializing.

Log Buildings

Though log structures were prevalent in western Pennsylvania before the Civil War, few have lasted intact into this century. Log buildings with a single pen (or room) that could be expanded with a loft or second room were the norm. As the area progressed from trapping and hunting to farming, the buildings evolved from temporary shelters and occasional trading posts to cabins and barns, springhouses and sheds.

The first major log structures were the French and English forts. The French claimed interior territory stretching from the Gulf of St. Lawrence through the Great Lakes into Pennsylvania at Erie, then south along the Allegheny and Ohio rivers to New Orleans. While France's forces in the New World were better trained than the British militias, English colonists, who most often established farms, vastly outnumbered them. To protect their exposed frontier in western Pennsylvania, the French built four forts between 1753 and 1755: Fort Presque Isle at Erie and Fort Le Boeuf at Waterford in Erie County; Fort Machault at Franklin in Venango County; and Fort Duquesne at Pittsburgh's Point. While highly trained military engineers designed these frontier forts, essentially they were wood squares with bastions at the corners. The forts could withstand light artillery, but generally depended on earthworks and moats for additional protection for their stores of powder and supplies. The French network of trappers, traders, professional military men, and Native American allies could not retain mastery of this vast territory. By 1759, when the English captured Fort Niagara, at the mouth of the Niagara River in northwest New York, the French had burned or abandoned their four western Pennsylvania forts, ending French claims to the territory.

Between 1750 and 1765, the British built over fifty forts in the region to defend the interests of English colonists. They ranged from simple fortified stone or log houses to elaborate defense compounds like Fort Pitt (1759–1761), built on the ruins of Fort Duquesne at Pittsburgh's Point during the French and Indian War. Little trace remains today of these forts. Reconstructions at Fort Ligonier in Westmoreland County, Fort Necessity in Fayette County, and Fort Roberdeau in Blair County ( BL25) attempt to explain what was essentially a temporary building type.

Most of the English forts were constructed by professional engineers. The settlements surrounding the forts, which consisted of gardens, housing for officers, and Native American encampments, eventually evolved into villages and towns, such as Pittsburgh in Allegheny County and Ligonier in Westmoreland County. While these sites were initially strategic military strongholds, as soon as the need for the fort diminished, logs from the structure were pilfered and used for other purposes. The logging, construction, and carpentry skills of the soldiers who built the eighteenth-century forts were later used to build farmhouses, sawmills, and barns. 15

Drawing of Fort de la Presque Isle, by Charles M. Stotz, 1976. One of five French forts in the Allegheny Valley (all of which were square with corner bastions), Fort de la Presque Isle, built in 1753 and destroyed by the French in 1759, was constructed of squared logs, laid horizontally under the direction of engineer Captain Chevalier Francois Le Mercier.

One of the most surprising survivors of the log era is the 1797 courthouse in Waynesburg, Greene County ( GR6). While most existing log structures are reconstructions or were relocated to a new site, this is an authentic public building of the late eighteenth century, which was uncovered and restored between 2000 and 2002.

Though more refined building practices were common in much of western Pennsylvania by the early nineteenth century, log structures remained an expedient option in areas without ready access to prefinished parts and skilled labor. Difficult roads and remote locations help to explain the chronological disparity between two small Roman Catholic chapels, St. Patrick's of 1806 in Armstrong County ( AR6) and St. Severin's of 1851 in Clearfield County ( CF7). Both are single-room, rectangular log structures whose building dates are separated by forty-five years. The choice of log construction for St. Severin's was dictated both by the expedience of building with materials at hand in the great forest, as well as a desire on the part of its Benedictine builders for a simple form to reflect the ideal of a life close to nature.

Stone Buildings

By the late eighteenth century, settlers of means occasionally built houses or inns of locally quarried sandstone. The Jean Bonnet Tavern of c. 1762 in Bedford County ( BD20) stylistically reflects the buildings of Maryland or eastern Pennsylvania. The Colonel Edward Cook House (1774–1776) in Fayette County ( FA17) also employs the building techniques of Cumberland Valley and Philadelphia in a less refined manner. It is built of random-laid limestone quarried on the site, instead of the usual sandstone. Cook's house typically served many purposes: as manor house to his 3,000-acre holdings; as headquarters for his saw- and gristmills run by twenty slaves; as a retail outlet for the region; and as a resting place for travelers, George Washington and Albert Gallatin among them. 16

Plan and elevation of the Dorsey house, drawn by Raymond C. Celli, 1936.

The plans of many early stone houses in western Pennsylvania fall into three general categories: a two-room-deep, five-bay central-hall plan; a cubical three-bay side-hall plan; and a one-room-deep plan with both three- and five-bay variations. 17The Cook house is of the first type, but with four bays instead of the standard five. The squarish configuration of the Dorsey house of 1787 in Washington County matched the second of the three categories—the cubical mass. Measuring nearly thirty-five feet on each side, the imposing house had exquisite Adamesque carvings around its entrance and on the mantels and cabinets. The two-over-two side-hall plan constructed with both dressed and random-laid fieldstone overlooked the Monongahela River north of Brownsville. Without proper stewardship, it burned in 1993. The John Frew House (see AL129; c. 1790, c. 1840; 105 Sterret Street), near Pittsburgh's suburb of Crafton in Allegheny County, is a fine example of the third type of stone building plan. The one-room-deep original portion of the random rubble fieldstone house has large, cut-stone quoins at the corners. When a one-and-one-half-story brick extension was added later, the two structures were incorporated under a single roof.

The ethnicity of the owners and masons of the region's many stone houses is not always identifiable by either their choice of building technique or style. 18During the mid- to late-eighteenth century, settlers coming to western Pennsylvania often belonged to a second generation that was born in the colonies. Their ties to Europe were more nostalgic than real.

Stone was typically the preferred building material for important or institutional buildings such as the Greersburg Academy of 1802 at Darlington in Beaver County ( BE33). While it is of roughly dressed stones, the small square building housed a Presbyterian theological seminary. It represents the early appearance and sustained presence of sites of higher learning in western Pennsylvania. A series of twenty academies, many initially constructed of stone, were founded in the region before 1816 to train men for the ministry and the law. Several of them later became colleges and universities.

Brick Buildings

Stone and brick buildings in eighteenth-century western Pennsylvania were built using the material close at hand. Brick was used in the construction of Fort Pitt as early as 1759, but it was not used regularly in the region until the 1790s. Although many houses in Pittsburgh and Washington were made of brick by the late eighteenth century, the material was just beginning to be used in rural areas. Bricks were too heavy a commodity to transport over rudimentary roads; only in early turnpike and canal towns with local clay deposits were most houses constructed of brick. Hookstown in Beaver County, built between 1806 and 1840, is characterized by red brick five-bay houses in a vernacular interpretation of the popular Greek Revival style. West Overton in Westmoreland County hosts a distinguished collection of brick buildings built over the course of the nineteenth century. From its founding in 1803, the Overholt farm grew into a major whiskey distillery, with a wide variety of pre–Civil War brick structures on its forty-five-acre site, now preserved as a museum.

Refractory bricks—those burned to special hardness and used to line furnaces and kilns in the iron and glass industries—were produced as early as the 1830s in Clinton County at Queen's Run. 19As steel mills proliferated in the mid-nineteenth century, the production of refractory brick boomed. By the 1920s, half-a-dozen counties in western Pennsylvania produced twothirds of all the refractory brick in the United States. 20

Engraving of Thomas Ross farm in Greene County ( GR19), from Caldwell's Illustrated Historical Centennial Atlas of Greene County, Pennsylvania (1876).

Farms and Rural Buildings

Western Pennsylvania farmers grow a wide assortment of crops including hay, oats, and mushrooms, as well as operating dairy farms. Special conditions also allow for the raising of grapes in Erie County, potatoes in Cambria County, sheep in Greene County, and Christmas trees in Indiana County. 21Farmers often turned to rural publications and journals for the latest trends. The octagonal DeElmer Kelly barn of 1900 in Crawford County ( CR22) and the Calvin Neff round barn of 1910 in Centre County ( CE12) are examples of this. Today, nineteenth-century wood, stone, and brick barns are being replaced by pole barns, the prefabricated metal-clad buildings that are suitable for large equipment and require less maintenance than wooden barns.

The vast majority of western Pennsylvania farms have been in operation for generations, which is reflected in the assortment of structures from different eras dotting the farmstead. For example, an elegant, four-bay stone house of 1787 is the centerpiece of a 500-acre farm held by the Ulery family near Zollarsville in Washington County ( WS20) for nearly two hundred years. 22Nearby are buildings dating from the early to mid-nineteenth century, including two houses, a school, a gristmill, and the Zollarsville Methodist Church. Stahl Farm, “Dairy of Distinction,” in Somerset County ( SO6), has been in that family since 1782, although the barn with Gothic-arched louvers dates from 1876, and the house, built with upright planks sheathed in siding, from 1886. Here the barn acts as a billboard to exhort Pennsylvania Turnpike travelers to “Drink Milk.” The Blough farmhouse of c. 1830 in Somerset County ( SO8), with its traditionally German inset porch and upright plank construction, is complemented by the barn decorated with barn stars and built in 1902 using funds from the sale of the farm's mineral rights to a nearby coal company.

West Elevation, Wylie-Miller barn (demolished), 1962. Robert Wylie was inspired to build this 1888 octagonal barn by Elliott W. Stewart, a lecturer on agriculture at Cornell University, wellknown western New York farmer, editor of the Buffalo Live-Stock Journal, and author of Feeding Animals, which was reprinted four times. By 1888, Stewart's design for his own sixty-foot octagonal barn south of Buffalo had already been published in several popular agricultural journals. This barn was credited to master builders John Vester and the McPeak brothers. Stewart asserted that octagonal barns were a superior design for several reasons: they required less expensive lumber because fewer large beams were used in the construction; the compact shape shortened the distances between the farmers' chores; and with a self-supporting roof there were no interior beams in the hay mow, increasing storage space and helping the structure withstand strong winds better than rectangular barns.

Farmers showed pride in their accomplishments and celebrated the 1876 centennial of the United States by paying to have their farm sketched, and specifying which prize bull, horse or sheep, carriage or orchard would be included. Only six of western Pennsylvania's thirty-one counties do nothave centennial atlases that pictured farms and whole towns from a bird'seye view. The atlases portrayed an idealized, Arcadian landscape of peace, order, and harmony, celebrating neatly cultivated fields and prize-winning livestock. They are in stark contrast to the rampant industrialization occurring at the time. 23

Today, many counties in Pennsylvania have state-funded Agricultural Land Preservation Boards overseen by the Department of Agriculture to help farmers preserve their family farms through scenic and conservation easements and other alternatives to sale and development.


Some farms were developed specifically to support local industries. For example, as imported European iron became too costly, the earliest colonists began manufacturing iron in America. Iron production required acres of trees to produce its charcoal fuel. By 1810, the center of the industry had moved away from the depleted forests of the eastern seaboard and into the Juniata River valley where the trees remained plentiful. Production centered around a large stone furnace with housing nearby for the workers and the owner. Every iron plantation in western Pennsylvania needed a supporting farm to supply food, raw materials, and animal labor. The Huntingdon Furnace complex, established in 1805, now a family farm, best illustrates this phenomenon ( HU17). By the 1830s, iron plantations dotted the central counties.

Bird's-eye-view lithograph of Cambria Iron Company's Johnstown mill ( CA16), in Cambria County, drawn by G. M. Greene, 1888, a year before the Johnstown flood.

The Cambria Iron Company of Johnstown ( CA16) learned to exploit the means, methods, and manpower of iron and steel production from their founding in 1852. As the company's promotional literature boasted, within a mile of their headquarters they could find all the coal, ore, lime, stone, and brick that they needed to become the largest rail producer in America by the 1870s. 24The lessons learned at Cambria were picked up and rapidly expanded by others, especially Andrew Carnegie at his Edgar Thomson Works (1873) in Braddock ( AL57).

Shoe and Leather Petroleum Company, Pioneer Run, Venango County, Pennsylvania, 1865. During the oil boom, hillsides were shorn of trees that were used as raw material for derricks, barrels, and shantytowns in the northwestern counties.

Extractive industries, from stone quarries to lime pits, swept through western Pennsylvania with little regard for environmental consequences. The region surrounding Pittsburgh was rapidly degraded by coal mining, coke burning, and glassmaking. In the northern counties, logging interests clearcut the primeval forests and left thousands of acres littered with tree stumps that occasionally blazed themselves into wastelands. In Venango County and, later, McKean County, oil discoveries fostered boomtowns that went bust when the oil wells proved shallower than expected.

The physical remnants of these exploitive industries are everywhere in western Pennsylvania. Not only patch towns but less isolated single-industry towns often outlive their major employers. Steel towns, such as Duquesne and Aliquippa, and glassmaking towns like Charleroi and Glassport grew almost overnight on the shores of the Monongahela and Ohio rivers. Ford City, a small town with a ghostly glass manufacturing building sprawled along its riverfront, retains a full complement of owner-occupied housing along its residential streets. The discovery of oil contributed to the growth of towns like Oil City, Titusville, Bradford, and Franklin, and they now rely on tourism and service industries since little oil business remains. While their mills and factories have shut down, the remaining worker housing, commercial districts, and industrial hulks clearly reveal the social history of the recent past.

During the massive industrialization of the nineteenth century, the population of western Pennsylvania shifted from a Protestant majority to a Roman Catholic majority as immigrants from southern Ireland, eastern Europe, and the Mediterranean countries streamed in to work the factories and forges. Roman Catholic churches proliferated, particularly in densely populated areas where different nationalities built separate churches distinguished by language and customs. The Cambria City neighborhood (see CA25, CA26, and CA27) in Johnstown, with ten different ethnic churches in thirty blocks, is the most striking example of this phenomenon.

Early Transportation: Roads and Canals

As settlements took root and farming changed from a subsistence to a commercial level, the importance of the river system increased. Settlements along navigable creeks or near the Susquehanna and Ohio river systems shipped their produce after the 1760s in canoes, then on flatboats and arks. The first flatboat went from Pittsburgh to New Orleans in 1782. 25By 1815, steamboats plied the waters and made return trips upstream possible. 26No boat-related architecture remains since boatyards consisted primarily of open sheds and scaffolding.

Overland travel, often tortuous but vital, followed the natural contours of the land. The route from the Potomac River to the Ohio River across southwestern Pennsylvania had a typical evolution. First it was a buffalo road; next it was an Indian trail, named for Chief Nemacolin of the Delaware tribe; then it was widened to a horse trail by the military under General Edward Braddock; after 1817 it became the National Road; and today, with some alterations, it is U.S. 40.

Packhorse trails peaked in the 1790s, followed by the era of turnpikes from 1800 to 1840. Conestoga wagons (first built in Lancaster, Pennsylvania) made larger shipments possible, but the hauling was arduous and unpredictable as mud made the going very slow. Towns grew at major intersections, sometimes around an inn, and often at sites where mills operated; Perryopolis in Fayette County is an excellent example.

Engraving showing loaded canal boats being transferred to an inclined plane, from History of the Pennsylvania Railroad Companyby William Bender Wilson (Philadelphia: H. T. Coates & Company, 1899).

The industrial growth of western Pennsylvania was partly fueled by the continuing technological changes in transportation. When the Erie Canal opened in southern New York State in 1825, the commercial interests in Philadelphia were threatened by competition from the merchants of New York City and Baltimore. To ensure western trade, Pennsylvania needed a competitive statewide transportation system. The commonwealth began construction of a canal system in 1825, and in 1835, the Pennsylvania Canal opened from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. But while the use of the canal decreased the cost of transporting farm produce from $120 to $30 a ton, its building and maintenance expenses nearly bankrupted the commonwealth. 27One of the unanticipated benefits of the canal was the experience that a cadre of engineers garnered from the incredible structural feats required to traverse the state's mountains. They included the nine-mile-long Staple Bend Tunnel of Cambria County ( CA11), the country's first railroad tunnel, and the Allegheny Portage Railroad (see CA8), designed to pull loaded canal boats on wheeled platforms over the mountains in a series of ten inclined planes. Engineer John A. Roebling was inspired by the heavy hemp cables of the Portage Railroad to invent twisted-wire rope, which he manufactured in Saxonburg, Butler County, in 1842. 28All this activity, often in remote parts of western Pennsylvania, led to the growth of small villages along the canal's path such as Saltsburg, in Westmoreland County.

Engraving of Logan House, Altoona, Blair County, Pennsylvania, from Philadelphia and Its Environs (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1875).

By the time the Pennsylvania Canal opened, it already had two major disadvantages: first, the Erie Canal in New York was well established, and second, cargo needed to be transferred several times during shipping across Pennsylvania (an unnecessary step along the Erie). Already Philadelphia had lost the title of commercial port capital to New York City. In just two decades the canal was overwhelmed by a competing technology—the railroads—leaving many canal towns stalled in the 1850s.


All the major industries of western Pennsylvania benefited from rail service. The success of the Pennsylvania Railroad's main line spurred the growth of a series of narrow-gauge short lines to serve out-of-the-way lumbering sites, coal mines, coke ovens, and steel furnaces after the 1870s.

The city of Altoona was created out of farmland to serve the needs of the Pennsylvania Railroad, and several substantial red brick buildings remain to recall the railroad's dominance. Altoona's Logan House, built by Pennsylvania Railroad carpenters in 1852 and closed in 1927, became a model of the luxury railroad hotel designed as a layover for through passengers. The railroads also popularized destination resorts for passengers seeking cooler climates in the summer months. Wooden hotels in the mountains, like those at Bedford Springs ( BD16) in Bedford County and Cambridge Springs ( CR21) in Crawford County, remain nearly intact. Although Andrew Carnegie's favorite hotel at Cresson, Cambria County, was demolished, many of the large Queen Anne summerhouses stand nearby.

Roundhouses, repair shops, and switching and signaling towers also remain as artifacts of the railroads. One of the most complete assemblages of buildings relating to a feeder line railroad is at Orbisonia in Huntingdon County ( HU13), where the Broad Top railway system ran tourist trains for many years. At Conway in Beaver County ( BE44) an enormous rail classification yard, begun in the 1880s, continues to sort freight cars bound for destinations from St. Louis to Montreal.

Heavy railcars and engines required nearly level surfaces to traverse the hills and valleys of western Pennsylvania. This could only be accomplished by the ingenuity of railroad engineers, who designed a network first of sturdy stone and timber and, later, metal bridges and viaducts that allowed trains to ascend and descend precipitous hills at a gradual rate. The Horseshoe Curve of 1854 in Blair County ( BL24) remains as an extraordinary symbol of the Pennsylvania Railroad, the world's largest railroad for most of its existence and known internationally for its engineering prowess. 29

Plan and Elevation of Great Crossings Bridge measured and drawn by Charles H. Stott, c. 1936. This stone bridge, which once carried the National Road (U.S. 40) across the Youghiogheny River between Fayette and Somerset counties, is now submerged beneath Youghiogheny Lake.


One of the earliest surviving bridges in western Pennsylvania is the “S” Bridge built in 1817 east of Claysville along the path of the National Road in Washington County. This stone bridge is a rarity, due to its curved approaches and early masonry. Its larger cousin, the Great Crossings Bridge, lies beneath the waters of Youghiogheny Lake to the east in Fayette County. Built between 1815 and 1818, the magnificent sandstone structure carried the National Road from the village of Somerfield to the eastern bank of the Youghiogheny River. Today, the triple-span, segmental-arched bridge is visible only during a severe drought. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers consigned it to this on-again, offagain fate in 1944 when the river was dammed to control flooding.

As a leader in the production of iron and steel, western Pennsylvania is dotted with surviving metal bridges. The Dunlap's Creek Bridge in Brownsville ( FA14; 1836–1839) is the oldest cast-iron bridge still in use. It was designed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and fed onto a 630-foot-long wooden covered bridge that spanned the Monongahela River from 1833 to 1910. 30Covered bridges were popular in Pennsylvania, which boasts more than any state in the Union, with 27 percent of them located in four western Pennsylvania counties: Bedford, Greene, Somerset, and Washington.

The Automobile and Its Impact

Road improvements were spurred on by the proliferation of the automobile. The number of registered automobiles in the United States grew rapidly from eight thousand in 1900 to over a million in 1913 and fifteen million in 1923. 31This increase necessitated dramatic changes in roads, support services, and city planning. Both Pittsburgh and Johnstown sought planning advice for autoways from Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., a leader in the newly emerging profession of city planning, after his famous father had retired. 32The population's explosive growth and auto-aided mobility melded suburbs and cities into new semi-urban typologies in the second half of the twentieth century.

Two generations of cross-state highways built specifically to accommodate automobile traffic cross the southern half of Pennsylvania. The Lincoln Highway (U.S. 30), established in 1913, was part of a paved connection between New York City and San Francisco. Two survivors of the unique buildings along the road are Dunkle's Art Deco–style Gulf Service Station of 1933 ( BD9) and the tourist cabins at the Lincoln Motor Court of 1945 ( BD19), both in Bedford County. The second generation of cross-state highways, the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76), was conceived in 1934 and opened six years later as the first modern limited-access highway in the United States. The turnpike stimulated such obvious building types as tollbooths and rest stops ( BD14) in addition to the crossroad town of Breezewood in Bedford County, a conglomeration of fast-food and hotel chains. Marketing these highways as linear historic districts and cultural conduits has highlighted the importance of their unique inns, restaurants, and service buildings.

Post–World War II

During World War II, military needs built the local steel industry and other heavy industries into a juggernaut. Following a postwar boom, these industries began to decline in the 1960s. By the late 1970s, many closed, depressing small towns along the major rivers. In the wake of this dramatic loss, the region has turned from brawn to brains. Research activities have generated high-tech companies and industrial parks such as Armstrong County's Parks Bend Farm and Industrial Park established in 1990 ( AR17), reusing both the land and imagery of a former dairy farm in a semirural area. The Pittsburgh Technology Center constructed from 1990 on the site of a former Jones and Laughlin steel mill ( AL44) consists of several new metal and glass buildings designed by Pittsburgh architects.

Colleges and universities have always been important in the region, and the forty-five campuses of western Pennsylvania experienced an unprecedented building boom in the second half of the twentieth century. Since the 1960s, dozens of contemporary buildings have been added to these campuses with their earlier Georgian-styled and Collegiate Gothic buildings. Today these colleges and universities are among the largest employers in western Pennsylvania.


Tourism is another growing industry that relies on service rather than manufacturing, and it is now a major economic engine in western Pennsylvania. Amusement parks such as the National Historic Landmark Kennywood Park in Allegheny County ( AL54), Idlewild Park in Westmoreland County ( WE28), and Lakemont Park in Blair County ( BL22) opened in the late nineteenth century as picnic groves accessed via rail or trolley lines from nearby urban areas. These three parks, adapting to changing tastes over time, have safeguarded the best of their natural plantings and traditional rides while expanding into new areas such as roller coasters, thrill rides, and children's theme parks.

Contrasting with the fantasy of the planned parks, the region also profits from the story of its industrial past. A railroad museum in Altoona ( BL7), a lumber museum in Potter County ( PO7), a maritime museum in Erie ( ER8), and a coal mining museum in Windber, Somerset County, all document the varied history of major local industries. Two of these museums have reused substantial nineteenth-century buildings to house their exhibitions, offices, and archives. Johnstown has museums dedicated to the historic flood of 1889 ( CA14) and to the immigrant experience of the various ethnic groups imported to work in its mills.

The west side of Main Street (PA 44), Coudersport, Potter County, in northern Pennsylvania, surrounded by forested hills, is one of the many late-nineteenth-century commercial districts in Pennsylvania worth preserving.

The National Park Service has refurbished the Albert Gallatin house in Fayette County ( FA9), and the commonwealth maintains the Harmonists' town of Economy, built between 1825 and 1830 in Beaver County. Living-history museums such as Old Bedford Village in Bedford County ( BD13) and Meadowcroft in Washington County ( WS16) interpret rural life with reconstructed buildings from the early nineteenth century. The region's historical societies and historic homes, particularly the Baker house in Blair County ( BL19) and Clayton, in Allegheny County ( AL107), use architecture to help an audience understand life in another era.

Western Pennsylvania's state parks are popular destinations for picnics, hiking, and camping. These forested areas are the result of conservation measures taken in the early twentieth century. In 1895, the commonwealth created a Department of Forestry in response to the devastation wrought by the lumber industry, especially in western Pennsylvania's north-central counties. The department founded tree nurseries that supplied close to one billion seedlings to replant Pennsylvania's forests between 1902 and 1993. 33In the 1930s, the federal government sped the reclamation process by creating the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to rebuild roads and dams and to provide cabins for overnight camping in the state parks. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has protected 204,000 acres since 1932. 34The group contributes significantly to natural tourism by defending wetlands, planting urban gardens, and preserving and offering public tours of Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater in Fayette County ( FA28).

Many former rail lines abandoned after the decline of heavy industry have become forested trails. Since the late 1980s, volunteers have worked to join two former rail beds to create 150 continuous miles of the Great Allegheny Passage, the longest rail-to-trail in the eastern United States, linking McKeesport in Allegheny County with Meyersdale in Somerset County and, ultimately, Cumberland, Maryland. At Cumberland, the trail joins with the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) canal towpath to Washington, D.C. 35

Historic Preservation

Residents of western Pennsylvania care deeply about their towns and cities and, over the years, have fought to save various buildings when time and funding permitted. In 1964, the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation (PHLF) organized campaigns to preserve and reuse serviceable buildings to rejuvenate neighborhoods, extend and improve the life of small business districts, save energy, and generate tax dollars. The foundation's first project was the successful rehabilitation of Victorian row houses in the Manchester neighborhood of Pittsburgh's North Side. The work of the PHLF was enhanced by the federal government's tax incentives in 1976 for the preservation of historically designated commercial buildings and the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, which prompted over $2 billion of private investment nationwide. 36In the 1980s, the PHLF was joined by Preservation Pennsylvania and smaller, local preservation organizations, which track and publicize the buildings needing attention in their communities.

Since 1980, the region's small towns have been well served by the Main Street program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the commonwealth's Department of Community and Economic Development. As Main Street managers preach, towns that showcase their individuality and understand what distinguishes them from others flourish. In western Pennsylvania several have capitalized on their individuality with quirky celebrations including Rain Day in Waynesburg, Greene County, and Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Jefferson County. Brookville, Hollidaysburg, and Franklin have excelled at retaining the best buildings along their main commercial streets and attracting appropriate new building. Franklin has taken this success further by joining with nearby Oil City in marketing both areas and telling the story of the oil boom.


The impetus for historic preservation comes from a desire to save the best buildings, which are often designed by architects. Residents of western Pennsylvania usually looked toward the closest urban area for professional architects. The citizens of Erie hired architects from Buffalo and Cleveland; those along the Ohio border turned to Youngstown and Akron; and those in the central southern regions looked to Baltimore and Philadelphia. Pittsburgh also drew architects from far away.

The town square or “diamond” of Meadville, Crawford County, with the William Strickland-designed courthouse of 1824–1828 ( left, demolished); the Greek Revival Meadville Unitarian-Universalist Church ( CR4; 1835–1836) designed by George W. Cullum ( center rear); and a c. 1830 version of Christ Episcopal Church ( CR3) designed by John Henry Hopkins, author of Essay on Gothic Architecture, published in 1836 ( right, replaced).

The earliest trained architects in the region came originally from England. Benjamin Henry Latrobe (1764–1820) came to Pittsburgh to design a steamboat in 1813, and while there designed house alterations and drew preliminary plans for the United States Arsenal in Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood (after 1830 called the Allegheny Arsenal; AL93) before he returned to Washington, D.C., in 1814. 37John Chislett (1800–1869) trained in Bath, England, before he immigrated to Pittsburgh, where he lived from 1833 until his death. Among his designs are the Burke Building ( AL25), several school buildings, and the second Allegheny County Courthouse of 1842, which burned in 1882. Chislett's final years were spent as the superintendent and landscape designer of the Allegheny Cemetery ( AL95).

New Jersey born, but known as a Philadelphian, William Strickland (1788–1854) designed the former Crawford County Courthouse in Meadville between 1824 and 1828 (demolished c. 1866). Its Greek Revival style was emulated nearby on the town square by George Washington Cullum (1809–1892) in his Meadville Unitarian Church of 1836, originally the Independent Congregational Church. 38

The prolific firm of Barr and Moser, composed of John Upton Barr (1815–c. 1900) and his partner Henry Moser (1821–1908), was active in western Pennsylvania during the 1860s and 1870s. A remarkable number of their brick buildings are extant, including the Italianate-styled Old Main buildings at California University of Pennsylvania ( WS23) and Washington and Jefferson College in Washington County ( WS4).

Besides Henry Moser, in the era between 1850 and World War I, numerous architects of German ancestry or training were at work in the region. Charles F. Bartberger (1823–1896), Frederick C. Sauer (1860–1942), and Richard Kiehnel (1870–1944) collectively designed hundreds of buildings from churches and schools to residences and small commercial buildings. Add to this partial list of professional architects the Harmonists' designer Frederick Reichert Rapp (1775–1834) and the vernacular Mennonite and Amish builders, and one begins to understand the pervasiveness of the Germanic influence.

After Henry Hobson Richardson (1838–1886) built his Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail ( AL1), many local architects grafted his characteristically lithic forms onto their courthouses, churches, residences, and commercial buildings of the 1880s and 1890s. 39The architects building on Richardson's foundation in the era between 1886 and 1920 included the firm of Longfellow, Alden and Harlow, who started offices in Pittsburgh and Boston, opening the door to several other firms from the latter city. Rutan and Russell, Peabody and Stearns, and MacClure and Spahr all had offices in Pittsburgh. 40Another Bostonian, Ralph Adams Cram (1863–1942), designed half-a-dozen churches in the region. 41

Frederick John Osterling (1865–1934) graduated from a technical school in Pittsburgh and apprenticed with a local architect. After touring Europe, he opened his own architectural office in Pittsburgh in 1888. 42Two works in particular show the range of his design talents, the Polk Center, an institution for the mentally challenged in Venango County ( VE11), and the Washington County Courthouse ( WS1). At Polk, Osterling designed an entire brick campus between 1893 and 1897 in a hybrid style with architectural elements from barns, classicism, and the Shingle Style. His Washington County Courthouse is a Classical Revival “palace” with a grand central stair and dome influenced by his admiration for the architecture of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.

Henry Hornbostel (1867–1961), a New Yorker, won the competition to design the Carnegie Technical Schools for patron Andrew Carnegie ( AL43). Hornbostel designed the majority of the buildings on that campus and founded the architectural school, as well. He moved the city beyond academic revival styles by lending them a fresh interpretation and creating exquisite details. Hornbostel, educated at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, designed the majority of his buildings for Pittsburgh. His works showed that using Beaux-Arts elements in a progressive way could raise a design above the purely antiquarian. 43

By the turn of the twentieth century, the region's architects were well publicized in the national architectural journals and held biannual and then annual exhibitions of their works. These latter were organized between 1898 and 1916 by the Pittsburgh Architectural Club and the Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. In the early twentieth century, local industrialists began hiring architects with national reputations to design highrise offices and buildings. This loosely allied group, inspired by the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago and the City Beautiful movement, advocated for progressive governments, urban park systems, and classical buildings in cities large and small. Daniel H. Burnham (1846–1912) of Chicago, the exposition's director of works, designed twelve office buildings in western Pennsylvania, including the First National Bank in Uniontown for a coal baron in Fayette County ( FA3). 44Burnham's widespread influence was felt even in Clearfield, a small town in central Pennsylvania, in the Clearfield County National Bank and Dimeling Hotel of 1904 ( CF2) designed by the firm of Beezer Brothers of Pittsburgh, twins who began their careers in Altoona. The era was also characterized by commercial buildings and manor houses ( AL20, AL88) in a variety of historic styles designed by Pittsburgh-based Benno Janssen (1874–1964), who was known for his sophisticated designs and unerring eye for detail.

Pennsylvania Railroad, Allegheny Station, Federal Street (demolished), North Side of Pittsburgh, designed by Price and McLanahan, built in 1905–1906.

Andrew Carnegie's steel wealth produced libraries worldwide. Especially handsome ones survive in Erie ( ER16) and Pittsburgh ( AL41), designed by Longfellow, Alden and Harlow (later Alden and Harlow). Small, exquisite libraries, such as the Benjamin Franklin Jones Memorial Library in Aliquippa of 1929 ( BE41) designed by Brandon Smith (1889–1962), acted as a democratizing influence for generations of new Americans.

One of the most talented architects of Roman Catholic churches based in Pittsburgh was John Theodore Comes (1873–1922), who designed hundreds of churches nationwide. He brilliantly incorporated color and texture into his designs ( BU8, WE24) and was influenced by the works of Ralph Adams Cram and English architect A. W. N. Pugin, as well as books on the churches of Germany, England, and Italy. 45

Railway stations and movie theaters offer an array of architects' talents as their designers freely sampled various historical periods and building traditions. A prime example is Washington County's Waynesburg and Washington Railroad station of 1906 ( WS8.2), designed by the Philadelphia firm of Price and McLanahan. This firm's larger commission, the enormous North Side station with Flemish echoes stood in Pittsburgh for over fifty years before it was demolished in 1955. 46The following year, Pittsburgh demolished the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad station designed by Philadelphian Frank Furness (1839–1912) that had a tower like “a huge freight locomotive advancing from the train shed, thrusting itself forward into the city.” 47Erie has preserved and reused its Warner Theater of 1931 ( ER18) designed by Rapp and Rapp, which epitomizes the exotic movie palaces of the era with its gilded lobby and giant marquee.

The region was also home to several prolific architects who purposely chose to focus their practices outside of Allegheny County. William George Eckles (1866–1932) of New Castle, in Lawrence County, and John Charles Fulton (1856–1924) and Harry W. Altman (1884–1966), both of Uniontown, Fayette County, designed hundreds of schools, houses, churches, and public buildings throughout western Pennsylvania. Although their work has generally been overlooked by architectural historians, it serves as an architectural context for the region.

Frederick Gustavus Scheibler Jr. (1872–1958) designed in a progressive mode based on European precedents, especially the turn-of-the-twentieth-century Viennese Secessionists. His commissions were uniformly modest and not well publicized, except for the Old Heidelberg Apartments of 1905 in Pittsburgh ( AL105). 48

The first modern building in western Pennsylvania to capture the national imagination was Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater of 1936 ( FA28). Much has been written about the house on the waterfall, and it has attracted generations of architecture enthusiasts to western Pennsylvania. There followed a succession of houses in the region designed by famous modernists such as Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer's Frank House in Pittsburgh in 1938 ( AL111) and their war housing in New Kensington the following decade ( WE23). Wright designed a second house in Fayette County, Kentuck Knob, in 1954–1956 ( FA29). Peter Berndtson's (1909–1972) and Cornelia Brierly's (1913–) houses spanning the 1930s and the 1950s ( WE4, CE22, and at Meadow Circles on Lutz Lane in Allegheny County) reflect their time at Wright's Taliesin studio. And the work of Raymond Viner Hall (1908–1981) brings organic principles to school buildings as well as residences ( CM5and MK16). 49

552 Neville Street, Pittsburgh, designed by Tasso Katselas.

Church designs broke out of the Gothic Revival mode in the 1960s. Roman Catholic church design responded to new liturgical requirements after Vatican II (1962–1965), and other denominations rethought the character and the interior spaces needed for worship. The St. Vitus Roman Catholic Church of 1963 ( LA15) in New Castle designed by P. Arthur D'Orazio (1909–2000), an architect from Youngstown, Ohio, took the shape of a nautilus. Its irregularly organized, brightly colored, punched-out windows are similar to those used by Le Corbusier at the Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp, France, in 1955. Harrold Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of 1964 in Westmoreland County ( WE10) was designed by the Greensburg firm Roach Walfish and Lettrich in the shape of a triumphantly curved sail. Non-Western building traditions were imported to western Pennsylvania by Pittsburgh-based Shashi D. Patel (1942–) and eleven master masons at the Hindu-Jain Temple of 1981–1990 ( AL127). Here they built seven separate towers in the Nagradi style typical of north and central India.

A vibrant residential design scene spawned several later generations of modernists including A. James Speyer (1913–1986), Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's first American graduate student at the Armour Institute in Chicago, who designed two of his five houses in Pittsburgh in the 1960s ( AL110). Tasso Katselas (1927–) designed some of the earliest Brutalist buildings in Pittsburgh and often used brick in combination with exposed reinforced concrete, as seen at 552 Neville Street (1958). He used pilotis to support the bulk of this building as Le Corbusier often did to open the space at street level. An imaginative house in Ligonier Valley ( WE31) designed in the mid-1980s by Roger Cesare Ferri (1949–1991) elaborated traditional themes with a whimsically modern interpretation. In Pittsburgh, Arthur Lubetz (1940–) and his innovative firm designed the Lynn Williams Place apartments for the elderly in 2003 at 3710 Brighton Road in Pittsburgh's Brighton Heights neighborhood. Its corner detailing looks like two puzzle pieces about to mesh.

Pittsburgh garnered national attention in the 1950s when a public/private partnership cleared the historic Point and such nationally known architects as Eggers and Higgins with Irwin Clavan designed three of the chromealloyed steel Gateway Center buildings ( AL7). Harrison and Abramovitz designed eight buildings in the city between 1951 and 1974. The Pittsburgh firm of Mitchell and Ritchey played their part by adding Mellon Square park in 1955 with landscape architects Simonds and Simonds ( AL28.1). The lead designers of the park, architect James A. Mitchell (1907–1999) and his partner Dahlen Ritchey (1910–2002), also taught generations of students at their alma mater, Carnegie Technical Institute (now Carnegie Mellon University). Michael Graves resurrected a sense of monumentality in Johnstown, Cambria County ( CA20), with his postmodern design for the Crown American Building in 1989. The firm of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (BCJ) in a joint venture with Burt Hill Kosar Rittelmann brought the region away from its industrial base and firmly into the research-led economy with their Software Engineering Institute of 1984–1987 at 4500 5th Avenue in Pittsburgh.

Western Pennsylvania, once a region of belching smokestacks and fiery blast furnaces, where Pittsburgh inspired the description “Hell with the lid off,” today has become a leading center of the green architecture movement by supporting the design of sustainable and energy efficient buildings using recycled products. Rafael Viñoly's dramatic design for Pittsburgh's David L. Lawrence Convention Center of 2003 with its sweeping roofline is the best-known example ( AL15). The building provides abundant natural light from glass curtain walls, cross ventilation, and an environmental cooling system drawing from an underground reservoir. Green buildings like this symbolize a better future for both architecture and the environment of western Pennsylvania.


Most guidebooks to western Pennsylvania include one-third of the counties from Somerset to the western border. Since the Society of Architectural Historians has assigned two volumes to the commonwealth, the state has been split into two portions, and central Pennsylvania has been divided in two.

Center for Rural Pennsylvania, “Rural/Urban PA,” www.ruralpa.org/rural_urban.html (accessed July 18, 2003). The four urban counties each have a population density greater than 274 people per square mile.

Trappers and traders penetrated these areas earlier, but towns and permanent settlements did not develop in the southern counties until after the 1760s and in the northcentral counties until 1820. See E. Willard Miller, ed., A Geography of Pennsylvania (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995), 89.

The term “commonwealth,” from the Old English referring to the common “weal” or well-being of the citizens, has no legal distinction from the word “state.” In the commonwealth's five constitutions since 1776, the two terms have been used interchangeably. Four states chose to be commonwealths: Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Kentucky. Jere Martin, Pennsylvania Almanac (Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 1997), 32.

Linda L. Steiner, “Six Ways to the Sea,” undated bulletin from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

Daniel K. Richter, “The First Pennsylvanians,” in Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth, ed. Randal M. Miller and William Pencak (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, and Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 2002), 19.

Verna L. Cowin, “Western Pennsylvania Stone Mounds: Looking for Patterns,” in Foragers and Farmers of the Early and Middle Woodland Periods in Pennsylvania, ed. Paul A. Raber and Verna L. Cowin (Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 2003), 85–100. Another Adena site, the Grave Creek Mound, has been identified at Moundsville, West Virginia.

“Drought Ended Monongahela Indian Culture,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Monday, November 11, 2002. Archaeologists at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History studied tree-ring records from West Virginia that showed droughts from 1587 to 1589 and 1607 to 1612; whether this motivated the migration is unclear.

Richter, “First Pennsylvanians,” 23.

While editorial policies dictate using the term “Scots-Irish,” western Pennsylvanians normally refer to this group as “Scotch-Irish.” Either way, the term is unknown in Ulster and admittedly problematic but accurate here for a variety of reasons. By the time the Lowland Scots who migrated to northern Ireland came to western Pennsylvania, many had been in Ireland for four generations. Their Presbyterian faith and Scottish ancestry distinguished them from the Irish around them and to the south, and in their own minds they were “Irish of the North.” The fact that the names, such as Derry, Tyrone, and Donegal, they brought to western Pennsylvania reflected their time in Ireland rather than Scotland testifies to the length of their stay there and their thorough enculturation. The term “Scots-Irish” is used here since “it expresses a historical reality: the Scots who lived in Ulster before they came to America simply were not, in background, religion, and many other aspects of culture, identical with the Irish of the southern provinces of Leinster, Munster, and Connaught; neither were they, after many decades, any longer identical with the people of Scotland.” James G. Leyburn, The Scotch-Irish: A Social History (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1962), 333.

Philip Shriver Klein and Ari Hoogenboom, A History of Pennsylvania (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1980), 186.

Dan Deibler and George E. Thomas, “National Historic Landmark Nomination” (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, December 1,1990). Statement of Significance, Section 8, 2.

“Excluding the small number of exceptional German farmers in Somerset and Westmoreland, it is impossible to predict the ethnicity of a settler based on the size, building material, or value of his home or outbuildings.” Jennifer Lee Ford, “Landscape and Material Life in Rural Southwestern Pennsylvania, 1798–1838” (Ph.D. diss., University of Pittsburgh, 2001), 104.

Letter dated September 17, 1823, from Albert Gallatin to his daughter Frances Gallatin, as quoted in The Life of Albert Gallatinby Henry Adams (Philadelphia: L. B. Lippincott, 1879), 589–90. He called the style “hiberno-teutonic.”

Charles Morse Stotz, Outposts of the War for Empire: The French and English in Western Pennsylvania: Their Armies, Their Forts, Their People, 1749–1764 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1985), 60–66. Nearly a million bricks were also used at Fort Pitt to face the western embankment. Charles Morse Stotz, The Early Architecture of Western Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1995), 254–55.

Historic American Buildings Survey, PA 412, Lamont H. Button and Charles Morse Stotz, 1936 report.

Karen Koegler, “Building in Stone in Southwestern Pennsylvania: Patterns and Process,” in Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture, V: Gender, Class, and Shelter, ed. Elizabeth Collins Cromley and Carter L. Hudgins (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1995), 202.


Kim E. Wallace, Brickyard Towns: A History of Refractories Industry Communities in South-Central Pennsylvania (Washington, D.C.: America's Industrial Heritage Project, HABS/HAER, 1993), xx.

Corinne A. Krause, Refractories, the Hidden Industry: A History of Refractories in the United States, 1860–1985 (Pittsburgh: American Ceramic Society Incorporated, 1987), 7.

Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, 2003. www.pfb.com/counties/.

It was sold out of the family in the early 1970s.

Joseph A. Caldwell, Caldwell's Illustrated Combination Centennial Atlas of Greene County, Pennsylvania (1876; Windmill Publications, Inc., 1995), 37.

Cambria Iron Company Pamphlet, 1853, as quoted in Kim E. Wallace, ed., The Character of a Steel Mill City: Four Historic Neighborhoods of Johnstown, Pennsylvania (Washington, D.C.: HABS/HAER, 1989), 10; Sharon A. Brown, Cambria Iron Company: America's Industrial Heritage Project, Pennsylvania (Washington, D.C.: United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1989), ix.

Stevenson Whitcomb Fletcher, Pennsylvania Agriculture and Country Life, 1640–1840 (Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1971), 1:242.

Ibid., 1:243. The New Orleanswas the first stern-wheeler to make the trip from Pittsburgh to New Orleans, in 1811, but the Enterprisewas the first steamboat to make the trip downriver and back, in 1815.

Ibid., 268.

Staff of the Butler Eaglenewspaper, Butler County, Pennsylvania, Celebrates Its Bicentennial (Pittsburgh: The Local History Company, 2001), 35.

Randall M. Miller and William A. Pencak, eds., Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002), xii; Timothy Jacobs, The History of the Pennsylvania Railroad (New York: Smithmark Publishers, 1995), 8.

The Monongahela Covered Bridge was built by contractors LeBaron and DuMond in the fall of 1831, and the first toll was collected on it October 14, 1833.

Karl B. Raitz, ed., The National Road (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), 426; Stephen Mark, “Save the Auto Camps!” National Park Service, www.nps.gov/crla/mark5.

John F. Bauman and Edward K. Muller, “The Olmsteds in Pittsburgh: Part I, Landscaping the Private City,” and “Part II, Shaping the Progressive City,” Pittsburgh History76, nos. 3 and 4 (1993/1994): 195, 200. The firm Olmsted, Olmsted and Eliot laid out the industrial village of Vandergrift in 1895 in Westmoreland County. Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. produced Pittsburgh, Main Thoroughfares and the Down Town District, etc., in February 1911 for Pittsburgh's Committee on City Planning.

Paul T. Fagley, comp., Genevieve T. Volgstadt, ed., “A Teacher's Guide to Greenwood Furnace” (Greenwood Furnace State Park, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, 2001), 6–1, 6–2.

Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, www.wpconline.org/aboutwpchome.htm.

Bill Metzger, The Great Allegheny Passage Companion: Guide to History and Heritage along the Trail (Pittsburgh, Pa: The Local History Company, 2003), xii. The abandoned lines served the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad's Youghiogheny Branch to Connellsville and the Western Maryland Railway's Connellsville Extension.

Richard Longstreth, The Buildings of Main Street: A Guide to American Commercial Architecture, Updated Edition (New York: AltaMira Press, 2000), 1–2.

Charles Morse Stotz, The Early Architecture of Western Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1995), 20–23, 255–56, 264–66. The dates of Latrobe's stay in Pittsburgh vary, sometimes within a single source; for instance, Stotz lists 1813–1815 on p. 20, and 1812–1814 on p. 255. Lawrenceville historian James Wudarczyk found in his research that Latrobe lived in Pittsburgh from 1813 to late 1814. See http://www.lhs15201.org/articles_b.asp?ID=24. Little remains of the arsenal buildings.

George Cullum was born in New York City, moved to Meadville as a child, and graduated third in his class from West Point. He achieved the rank of major general in the Civil War, and near the end of the war became superintendent of West Point. His sister was married to a member of one of the church's founding families, the Huidekopers.

“The Best Ten Buildings in the United States,” American Architect & Building News17 (June 12, 1885): 282; James F. O'Gorman, Three American Architects: Richardson, Sullivan, and Wright, 1865–1915 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 26, 30, 32.

Margaret Henderson Floyd, Architecture after Richardson: Regionalism before Modernism—Longfellow, Alden and Harlow in Boston and Pittsburgh (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 242.

Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Presbyterian, and United Church of Christ. Ralph Adams Cram, American Church Building of Today (New York: Architectural Book Publishing Co., 1929); Ann Miner Daniel, “The Early Architecture of Ralph Adams Cram, 1889–1902” (Ph.D. diss., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 1978).

Frederick Osterling's oeuvre cries out for full documentation. His works are known in a dozen counties of Pennsylvania, as well as West Virginia and New Jersey. His father owned a lumberyard and planing mill on Pittsburgh's North Side, then Allegheny City. Osterling apprenticed with local architect Joseph Stillberg.

Walter C. Kidney, Henry Hornbostel: An Architect's Master Touch (Lanham, Md.: Roberts Rinehart Publishers, 2002), xvii, xix. See Charles L. Rosenblum's excellent preface.

Franklin Toker, Pittsburgh: An Urban Portrait (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1986), 40.

John Theodore Comes, “Catholic Art and Architecture: A Lecture to Seminarians” (Privately printed, 1918), 5, 17.

James D. Van Trump, Life and Architecture in Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, 1983), 228. Known as the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad Station, it was ultimately purchased by the Pennsylvania Railroad. George E. Thomas, William L. Price: Arts and Crafts to Modern Design (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2000), 125. Architect Will Price's brother-in-law was put in charge of the railroad's western division.

Van Trump, Life and Architecture in Pittsburgh, 224.

Martin Aurand, The Progressive Architecture of Frederick G. Scheibler Jr. (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1994), 5, 8.

Charles Rosenblum, “Precedent and Principle: The Pennsylvania Architecture of Peter Berndtson and Cornelia Brierly,” Frank Lloyd Wright Quarterly (Spring 1999): 10.

Writing Credits

Lu Donnelly et al.