Perryopolis lies on land purchased by George Washington in 1769. Washington made seven trips to western Pennsylvania over a period of forty-one years, and purchased thousands of acres, many through his close friend and agent William Crawford, who fought in the French and Indian and Revolutionary wars. Washington's lands were never as productive as he hoped, and when Crawford was killed in 1782, Washington leased and then finally sold his holdings near Perryopolis in 1795 to Colonel Israel Shreve. Thomas and Nathan Hersey, Samuel Shreve, and Thomas Burns laid out the town of Perryopolis in 1814, with Independence, Liberty, Union, and Social streets as the spokes of the wheel. A one-story, one-bay, gable-roofed stone bank (1816; 312 Liberty Street) remains from this period. An example of the area's early building types is the reconstructed log Gue house (c. 1820; 1976 rebuilt; 311 Independence Street).
The area had abundant natural resources, including waterpower, iron ore, coal, and timber. Streams provided power for grist and fulling mills; William Searight's simple, stone fulling mill (1815; Strawn Road) remains on Washington Run. In the 1990s, George Washington's gristmill on Layton Road near the Youghiogheny River was reconstructed using prison labor for the stone foundation and Amish carpenters for the waterwheel and its housing. The farms surrounding Perryopolis gradually gave way to coal mines and patch housing. Similar frame patch houses lining the road leading to Perryopolis from PA 51 are a remnant of the Jameson Coke Company town. South of Perryopolis, Star Junction had one of the largest runs (999) of beehive coke ovens in the county. Several red brick mining buildings remain. In the small commercial center of Perryopolis, a local miner, Mike Karolcik, built a Craftsman-inspired red brick and glazed terra-cotta combined theater, bowling alley, butcher shop, and apartment building in 1921 (115–117 S. Liberty Street). A World War II–era housing development southeast of Perryopolis is one of hundreds commissioned by the federal government during that conflict.
Nearby, Layton Bridge and Tunnel (Layton Road at the Youghiogheny River), built in 1899 by the A. and P. Roberts Company and Pencoyd Iron Works, is a rare nineteenth-century survivor. The pin-connected steel bridge has an 811-foot Pratt half-through truss, with the deck raised well above the bottom chords. The bridge's two main spans rest on ashlar piers and lead directly into a one-lane tunnel exiting to Layton Road and Perryopolis.
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