Laid out in 1803 and incorporated in 1814 on two hundred acres of land donated by John Hoge of Washington County, Mercer had an important connection to its southern neighbor. Washington County farmers brought their sheep to Mercer and established wool making as an important industry. Wool making flourished until the late 1860s, when it was supplanted by the iron and coal industries. The borough of Mercer was bypassed by the canal and did not receive rail service until the 1870s, later than other parts of western Pennsylvania. When two railroads finally served the borough, its population nearly doubled in size. Today, Mercer is the hub of six major roads and the town square has succumbed to suburban-style gas station–convenience stores that detract from the grandeur of the courthouse nearby. Nonetheless, the borough has dozens of handsome houses from the mid-nineteenth century through the 1930s. Notable examples are the restored frame Greek Revival houses (c. 1850) at 211 and 235 Shenango Street and the board-and-batten Gothic Revival cottage (c. 1860) at 147 W. Market Street, with the animated verticality and ornamental bargeboards typical of the style.
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