Preservation Pennsylvania has released their “Pennsylvania At-Risk: Twenty-Year Retrospective of Pennsylvania’s Endangered Historic Properties, Where Are They Now” edition. It’s a fascinating look at preservation in action and we’ll be posting a look at each property in a series of posts over the next several months.

Preservation Pennsylvania established the annual Pennsylvania At Risk list in 1992, making us the first statewide preservation organization in the United States to have an annual roster of endangered historic properties. Since 1992, we have listed and worked to
preserve more than 200 endangered historic resources, including individual buildings, historic districts and thematic resources statewide. For 2012, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of our organization, we are presenting a 20-year retrospective edition of Pennsylvania At Risk. In this issue, we revisit some of the amazing historic places across the Commonwealth, some of which have been rescued from extinction through preservation and rehabilitation efforts, and others that still need our help.

Approximately 18% of Pennsylvania’s At Risk properties have been lost, having been demolished or substantially altered. Another 32% have been saved or are in a condition or situation where the identified threat no longer poses a problem for the historic property. Approximately 50% of the 201 At Risk resources remain in danger, or we have not been able to confirm their current status as either saved or lost.

By monitoring these properties over the past 20 years and working with individuals and organizations trying to preserve them, we have learned many valuable lessons. Those lessons are called out throughout this publication.


1998 – Hazleton High School, Luzerne County

Hazleton High School, Luzerne County



Hazleton High School, affectionately known as “The Castle on the Hill” to local residents, is one of the city’s most distinctive landmarks.  Built in 1926 in the collegiate Gothic style with elaborate medieval-=style towers and concrete parapets, the building was later converted for use as a junior high school.  Despite its continued use, the school suffered from years of deferred maintenance.  Serious structural problems resulted from water penetration; outdated heating and cooling systems resulted in broken pipes that damaged the wood floors.  When a section of the concrete parapet above the building’s main entrance fell and struct a parent, the school board voted to demolish the historic school.

With vocal opposition from the community and support by a mayor who refused to issue a demolition permit, local residents rallied and called for funding to repair and rehabilitate the building.  Following changes in the composition of the school board, claims that the building was beyond repair were questioned and its condition was reassessed.  When the building was listed in the Pennsylvania At Risk in 1998, the board was divided, and the community was polarized over the issue; many saw preservation as counter to the school’s need for improved technology and other upgrades to the educational curriculum.  After much public debate, the school board voted in May of 2004 to renovate the building for use as an elementary and middle school rather than demolish it.  Renovation of the school occurred relatively quickly, with the new Hazleton Elementary/Middle School opening in the old High School in 2007.

During this renovation, the auditorium was stabilized but not rehabilitated.  Members of the community worked to preserve the auditorium and raise funds for its rehabilitation.  Using a variety of funding sources including grants, private donations, and a large contribution from the school district, the auditorium was fitted with new seating and reproduction aisle standards, digital theater lighting, theater rigging, audio and visual systems and more, and opened as the Alice C. Wiltsie Performing Arts Center in 2011.  The facility, which is owned by the school district and leased to a nonprofit organization that operates the auditorium, received a preservation award in 2012.

To support the Wiltsie Performing Arts Center at the Hazleton School, please visit


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In 1998, Preservation Pennsylvania dedicated its entire At Risk list to endangered schools.  With help from Arthur Ziegler at the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, Preservation Pennsylvania brought attention to the fact that the Pennsylvania Depart of Education’s policies for reimbursement encouraged the construction of new schools over the continued use and preservation of existing and historic schools and began working to improve the situation.

Since 1998, Preservation Pennsylvania has continued to focus on the school issue, working with the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and other partners to keep the issue of retaining historical school buildings as schools in the forefront and to encourage the smart siting of new schools in locations where at least a portion of students can walk or bike to school.  Preservation Pennsylvania just completed a policy recommendation on Capital Maintenance Reimbursement and the Joint Use of Community-Centered Schools in Pennsylvania.  The Community-Centered Schools page on our website has the most up-to-date resources and success stories. [/sws_grey_box]



Preservation Pennsylvania has released their “Pennsylvania At-Risk: Twenty-Year Retrospective of Pennsylvania’s Endangered Historic Properties, Where Are They Now” edition. It’s a fascinating look at preservation in action and we’ll be posting a look at each property in a series of posts over the next several months.

Preservation Pennsylvania established the annual Pennsylvania At Risk list in 1992, making us the first statewide preservation organization in the United States to have an annual roster of endangered historic properties. Since 1992, we have listed and worked to
preserve more than 200 endangered historic resources, including individual buildings, historic districts and thematic resources statewide. For 2012, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of our organization, we are presenting a 20-year retrospective edition of Pennsylvania At Risk. In this issue, we revisit some of the amazing historic places across the Commonwealth, some of which have been rescued from extinction through preservation and rehabilitation efforts, and others that still need our help.

Approximately 18% of Pennsylvania’s At Risk properties have been lost, having been demolished or substantially altered. Another 32% have been saved or are in a condition or situation where the identified threat no longer poses a problem for the historic property. Approximately 50% of the 201 At Risk resources remain in danger, or we have not been able to confirm their current status as either saved or lost.

By monitoring these properties over the past 20 years and working with individuals and organizations trying to preserve them, we have learned many valuable lessons. Those lessons are called out throughout this publication.


1996 – Walnut Street Bridge, Dauphin & Cumberland Counties


Walnut Street Bridge

Photo by origamidon on flickr

• SAVED (Partially) •

Erected in 1889-1890 and comprised of 15 wrought-iron, steel pin-connected Baltimore truss spans, the 2,850-foot Walnut Street Bridge (or People’s Bridge) was one of the largest multi-span truss bridges ever fabricated by Pennsylvania’s nationally significant Phoenix Bridge Company using their patented Phoenix column.  By 1893, the toll bridge carried trolleys that transported passengers between the west shore of the Susquehanna River and the state capital, as well as foot traffic and horse-drawn vehicles.  The bridge also enabled recreational development on City Island in the early 20th century, including baseball, football and track, as well as picnicking, swimming and boating.

With evolutions in popular modes of transportation and periodic damage from storms and floods, owners of the Walnut Street Bridge have dealt with minor structural problems since about 1910.  After overcoming resistance by the private property owner, the Commonwealth finally acquired the toll bridge in 1954.  They continued to collect tolls on the bridge until 1957.  The bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.  That same year, flood waters from Hurricane Agnes caused severe damage to the bridge, and it was closed to vehicular traffic.  However, the bridge survived as an important pedestrian link between the west shore, City Island, and Harrisburg’s downtown commercial district.  The Walnut Street Bridge was one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world.

In January of 1996, the Walnut Street Bridge was again seriously damaged by ice-dammed flood waters.  Three metal trusses were destroyed, and the piers that had supported them were removed.  Overwhelming local support and extraordinary stewardship by the Commonwealth resulted in the rehabilitation of the remaining eastern spans, which provide pedestrian access between downtown Harrisburg and City Island facilities.  The bridge is used by over one million visitors, tourists, and residents each year.

There are no plans to replace the three missing spans to reconnect the Walnut Street Bridge to the Susquehanna River’s west shore.  The City of Harrisburg, which is responsible for the maintenance of the bridge, is currently unable to devote financial resources to this project.  Fortunately, a coalition of residents, area businesses, and other partners, known collectively as Lighten Up Harrisburg, is working to illuminate the historic Walnut Street Bridge and address other urgent safety needs.

To support this project, please visit Lighten Up Harrisburg.


In 2008, metal truss bridges statewide were recognized by Preservation Pennsylvania as an endangered resource; many truss bridges were at risk for replacement due to strength deficiencies, size limitations, deferred maintenance and the high cost of repairs.  In 1996, 328 truss bridges in Pennsylvania were eligible for or listed in the National Register.  Following the Commonwealth’s “Accelerated Bridge Program,” that number was expected to decline to 237 by the end of 2008 and just 184 by the end of 2012.  While not all metal truss bridges can and should be saved, some may be strengthened to continue to serve the community.  

In reaction to concerns about the shrinking population of metal truss bridges in Pennsylvania, PennDOT is currently working to develop a management plan to help maintain the bridges and prioritize select bridges for rehabilitation rather than replacement.  The plan seeks to balance sound engineering with historic preservation considerations in evaluating the level of significance and the rehabilitation potential for each bridge.  PennDOT anticipates that the plan will be an invaluable tool to be used throughout their planning and project development process.


For 30 years folk artist Nancy Rosier of Rosier Period Art has dedicated her life to the preservation of a dying and disappearing art form from the early to mid-1800’s – theorem painting.

Theorem painting is the art of making stencils and using them to make paintings on fabric (Nancy uses an egg-shelled colored velvet cotton).  Popular during the 1800’s, theorem painting was taught to women in academics and boarding schools in Colonial New England.  The appeal of the genre lay in the fact that it allowed the non-professional artist to create a work of art that was acceptable enough to display. It derived its name from the definition of the word – “an expression of relations in an equation or a formula”, according to Webster’s New World Dictionary.

Every one of Nancy’s paintings starts the same way – with a black and white line drawing that she will turn into a stencil to use during the painting phase.  These drawings are always drawn freehand, even when she is reproducing a period painting.

When she is ready to begin painting, Nancy doesn’t use the typical brushes one would expect a painter to use.  She uses a piece of the cotton velveteen over her finger, though she does go back over the painting at the end with a detail brush to add defining outlines as needed.

But Nancy does stop there, to have total artistic control over how her paintings are presented she has learned several traditional decorative art techniques she uses to paint the handmade frames for her theorems.  (Her husband even  constructs the frames for her to use.)

In true folk art style, Nancy is self-taught – she has learned her craft through studying antique theorems and reproducing them.  She became so accomplished at the historical reproductions that she was commissioned and provided Colonial Williamsburg with thirty-three large paintings, which hang in the public and private spaces of the Williamsburg Lodge.


After spending some time mastering the reproduction of 19th-Century theorems, she began to branch out to include her own original designs.

Her work clearly speaks for itself.

Nancy has been selected each year for close to twenty years as a member of the nationally acclaimed “Directory of Traditional American Crafts” which showcases America’s finest artisans who are dedicated to preserving the early American crafts.  Her work was among the few artists asked to contribute their art to decorting the Christmas White House during the Clinton administration.



150 years ago, the young America was on the tail end of decades of political strife that would result in the utter turmoil of a Civil War.  In honor of this Sesquicentennial (the term for a 150 year anniversary for those who would have to look it up like I did), we’ll post articles throughout the year pertaining to the Civil War.

This first article is something of a difficult read.  It’s the account of Lydia Catherine Ziegler, who was 13-years-old at the time of the Battle and living at the Schmucker Hall building we recently performed restoration work on – then known as the Lutheran Theological Seminary.

Lydia Catherine (Ziegler) Clare

Lutheran Theological

Lydia Catherine Ziegler (May 5, 1850 – April 11, 1915) was born in Gettysburg, PA, and died in Abbottstown, PA.  She married Rev. Richard H. Clare on July 4, 1872. She was the daughter of Emanuel Ziegler (1824-1893), the steward of the edifice of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in 1863.

(Written about the year 1900)

My children have long been urging me to give them in a short story my experience in the Battle of Gettysburg. I was then a girl of thirteen, living on the Seminary Ridge which today is known to every child who studies the history of the Civil War.

I shall never forget the June afternoon when I stood on the Seminary steps with my parents and other persons to see a Confederate host marching in the Chambersburg Pike. It seemed as if Pandemonium had broken loose. A more ragged and unkempt set of men would be hard to find. Many wore parts of Union soldiers’ suits which, I suppose, had been picked up on the field of battle, or had been discarded by our men. A squad from the main body was sent over to the Seminary to find out whether any Yankee soldiers were concealed there. After the investigators were informed that the building was a theological school edifice, a guard, was placed around it, and we felt perfectly safe. I do not think any property was destroyed at that time, excepting a few cars containing government supplies, which were burned and also the railroad bridge, a short distance from the town. Early the following morning our unwelcome guests took their departure for the purpose, they said, of capturing Baltimore and Washington. Shortly after the enemy left our place, we were made glad by seeing regiment after regiment of our own men come and encamp around us. We gave them a royal welcome.

meade's headquarters, gettysburg

Meade’s Headquarters, Gettysburg, PA

The spring and summer of ’63 were days in which the citizens of our quiet village were much disturbed, for scarcely two consecutive weeks would pass without rumors reaching us that the enemy has crossed the Potomac and were headed in our direction. Anxiety filled every breast. Farmers would flee with their horses to a place of safety and merchants would either ship their valuable goods away or securely hide them. So day followed day, each seeming to bring fresh trouble. The enemy were close at hand.

How well do I remember the happiness it gave me to hand out the cakes and pies that our kind mother made until late at night for those boys in blue who seemed almost famished for a taste of “home victuals” as they called them. And, vividly too, do I remember that night of the 30th of June when I stood in the Seminary cupola and saw, as  in panoramic view, the camp fires of the enemy all along the Blue Mountainside, only eight miles distant, while below us we beheld our little town entirely surrounded by thousands of camp fires of the Union Army. As we stood on that height and watched the soldiers on the eve of battle, our hearts were made heavy. Many of the soldiers were engaged in letter writing, perhaps writing the last loving missives their hands would ever pen to dear ones at home. In the near distance we could see a large circle of men engage in prayer, and as the breezes came our way, we could hear the petitions which ascended to the Father in heaven for his protecting care on the morrow. However, many of the boys seemed to be utterly oblivious to the dangers threatening them, and were singing with hearty good will “The Star Spangled Banner” and many of the other patriotic songs which we loved to hear.

A Common Soldier

A Common Soldier

July the 1st dawned brightly. The sun shone in all its splendor over the wheat fields which were of a golden hue and ready for the harvest. All nature seems to be offering praise to God for His manifold blessings. The members of our household were all up bright and early, for much was to be done for the comfort of the soldiers. But a spirit of unrest seemed to prevail everywhere. About eight o’clock an ominous sound was heard – a sound that struck terror to the hearts of all who heard it – it was the call to battle.  All was excitement; company after company, regiment after regiment, fell into line, and, accompanied by music, the march began towards the front.  As we stood in the doorway watching General Reynolds and his force approach, I asked father how the soldiers would cross the high fence surrounding our garden. I did not have long to wait until my curiosity was satisfied, for the General came at rapid pace, urging his men to follow, and the fence fell as if it were made of paper as the men pressed against it with crowbars and picks.

That and a call from a signal officer on the cupola sent me speeding to the house. There I found that all the family had repaired to the cellar for safety and well they did, for in a very short time two shells struck the building. After General Reynolds was killed and our army was being driven back towards the town which is a half-mile distant, father decided that we had better stay in line with our own soldiers, so we left the building and took up our march.  My mother and the older members of the family hurriedly snatched up a couple of loaves of bread as we left the house, and It was well they did, for we had ample need of it before the day ended.    I always had a desire to see something of a battle, so here was my opportunity.  I quietly slipped from the house to the edge of the woods back of the Seminary, and was enjoying the awe-inspiring scene, when a bullet flew so near my head that I could hear the whizzing sound it made.

Our march into town was heart-sickening. Soldiers had fallen on all sides, and were wounded in every imaginable way. It seems that I can almost hear at this late day the groans and cries of the suffering men as they lay at our foot. War is, indeed. a terrible thing!  We did not remain in the town very long for we felt that the woods would be safer. The first place we got to was Culp’s Hill, but our stay there was of short duration, for the shells and bullets drove us out.  Next we went to Spangler’s Spring with no better result. Then we stopped on Wolf’s Hill. A heavy rain had come on, lasting about an hour; we were drenched to the skin, and Oh! so very tired and hungry. Mother divided the bread among us, and we children gathered wild raspberries to eat with it; and. even now, although we are all men and women, I think each one will say that that was the most palatable meal we ever ate.

We, however, found that we had not yet reached our haven of rest, for even here the shells and bullets began to fall, so our wandering began again.  Our poor, faithful old dog Sport could no longer walk, so we children took turns in carrying him, and the poor old fellow would lick our hands to show his gratitude.

About four o’clock in the afternoon we found our way out to the Baltimore Pike, near Two Taverns.  There we met General Slocum’s Corps advancing towards Gettysburg on double quick. The poor soldiers looked so jaded and tired.  Many of them had been compelled to fall out of line and we came upon them lying by the roadside, sick and hungry. The poor fellows had been marching all day without anything to eat. Such, however, is soldier’s life.

The shades of night had fallen ere we reached the home of a friend who kindly gave us shelter during the time of battle, another friend took us as far as Round Top in a wagon on our homeward journey.  From that place the distance to the town is about three miles, and we decided to walk, for the ground was thickly strewn with unexploded shells which were likely to burst if struck.  As we were starting for home, this dear friend gave us a bag containing six large loaves of bread, saying that we might find use for it, when we reached home.

Confederate Dead at Gettysburg

Confederate Dead at Gettysburg

We did not have to carry this bread very far after we left the wagon, for we found lying on the field lots of wounded men who had not had a bite to eat for three days, and they would beg us “for God’s sake” to give them some of the bread and some water to drink.  I can picture to my mind even to this day my father and mother as they stood by these wounded men, father with his pocket knife cutting off pieces of the bread which my mother would have to put into the mouths of some who were too weak even to lift the bread to their lips, or take the water which we children carried from the little streams or springs nearby in cups made by fastening leaves together.  Pen cannot describe the awful sights which met our gaze on that day.

I wish to make a correction to my statement that all was lost.  We owned two beautiful white cows which still were alive when we returned to our home.  These cows had been in the thickest of the fight for three days, yet were not hurt in any way.  I suppose it is not necessary for me to tell you that they did not suffer from want of being milked during that time – the soldiers saw to it that that task was performed.  We found the feet of out four fat hogs lying in the pen.  The dying and the dead were all around us – men and beasts.  We could count as high as twenty dead horses lying side by side.  Imagine, if you can, the stench of one dead animal lying in the hot July sun for days.  Here they were by the hundreds.  All day long we ministered to the wants of the suffering, and it was night when we reached home, or what had been home, only to find the house filled with wounded soldiers.  Oh, what a home-coming!  Everything we owned was gone – not a bed to lie on, and not a change of clothing.  Many things had been destroyed, and the rest had been converted to hospital purposes.  And I am sorry to say right here that, while our government has plenty of money to dispose of, we who suffered such great loss at Gettysburg have never received one cent.  Is there justice in this treatment?  I would like to ask those in authority.

I do not wish to dwell on this subject too long, so will say that we tried to forget self and our losses in our care of the suffering who needed our help.  It was a ghastly sight to see some of the men lying in pools of blood on the bare floor where they had been placed on the first and second days of the fight, many of them having received no care what ever.  Nurses and doctors were in demand everywhere, so were hospital supplies.  Transportation had been cut by the destruction of railroads and the burning of bridges.  Many a poor fellow died within the first ten days after the battle for want of care and nourishing food.  After the trains could run again, supplies came, and everything was carried on in a systematic manner.

The Suffering After the Battle

The Suffering After the Battle

But we could not think of sleep or rest during those trying days.  Nights and days were alike spent in trying to alleviate the suffering of the wounded and dying.  How often did I receive the dying message of a father or husband to send his loved ones whom he would never meet again on earth!  I shall ever hold in sweet memory the repeatedly uttered “God bless you, my girl!” from the poor fellows after some little act of kindness had been shown them.  So many pathetic scenes took place during those days.  I remember going into the yard, late in the afternoon, about a week after the battle, and finding there an old man supporting the head of a sweet faced old lady on his shoulder.  I walked up to this couple and asked if I could be of any assistance, for I saw the old lady looked faint and weary.

After listening to the pitiful story told us of losing four sons in the war, and knowing their last son had been in the battle of Gettysburg, and walking all of the twenty-one miles over the mountains from Chambersburg, since there was no other mode of travel for them, and carrying all this distance a satchel filled with dainties such as Charlie was fond of, we attempted to help them.  And their son Charlie was found lying in one of the rooms of the third floor of the Seminary building in a dying condition.  The cries of that mother as she bent over the body of her boy were heartbreaking.  For a short time consciousness returned to Charlie, and he knew his parents, who shortly after had at least some measure of comfort in taking his dead body home for burial.   The answer came from the trembling lips of the old gentleman: “Mother’s most tuckered out, but if we can find our boy Charlie, I guess she will be all right.”

I should like to tell you more about my varied experiences during the three months our home was used as a hospital, but my story has already become too lengthy.


At the time of the great Battle of Gettysburg, Emanuel Ziegler, the father of Lydia Catherine, was steward of the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Seminary Ridge, where he and his wife and their six children had quarters on the first floor.  Lydia Catherine, the youngest of the family, had four brothers – Jacob, John, William and Hugh, and one sister Anna.

On July 4th 1872, she was married in the Seminary Chapel to the Rev. Richard H. Clare, who had in the Spring of that year graduated from that institution, and who later, with her loving and ever-faithful co-operation, served parishes in Blain, PA, Bridgeton, New Jersey, Chambersburg, Pa., Hamilton Scotia, Pa., and Abbottstown, Pa.  Pastor Clare died on February the 14th, 1908, and Lydia Catherine on April the 11th, 1915.  They were survived by five children – the Rev. Henry E. Clare, Miss Mary R. Clare, the Rev. Robert D. Clare, the Rev. Martin L. Clare and Dr. Milo R. Clare, D.D., Stonehurst Court, C-220, Upper Darby, Pa.

Historic Preservation in Progress is a series of our posts where we show you how historic preservation happens, as it’s happening.

Historic Preservation in Progress

The Wilmington Public Library

Historic Preservation in Progress

The Wilmington Library was built in 1922 and has remained a landmark on Rodney Square for ninety years.  Especially in recent years, due to heavy use by the public and the changing role of libraries in an urban environment, there has been an increasingly evident need for expensive repairs.

After extensive study, the Board of Managers determined that the best course of action was to undertake a substantial renovation to restore the Library to its original classic beauty.  As importantly, the “redesign” of the facility would also be the catalyst for the Library to modify, expand and effectively market its collections and exciting new services and programs to better accommodate the Library’s diverse constituencies.

Historic Restorations will be restoring three pairs of doors on the project, including the massive exterior pocket doors.  Below are videos we shot while removing these HUGE 22′ tall wood entrance doors on the Wilmington Public Library.  The doors will be stored at our shop until we are ready to restore and re-install them for the Library’s restoration project.








Our friends at put together this video about their work on a Victorian house restoration for Alfred’s Victorian Restaurant in Middletown, PA.


History of the House

Middletown is Dauphin County’s oldest community. Located halfway between Lancaster and Carlisle. Quaker George Fisher, on the site of an earlier Native-American village, laid out the town in 1755. Middletown was an important 19th century manufacturing and transportation center along the Union and Pennsylvania Canals, and the Pennsylvania Railroad.

North Union Street was the most fashionable boulevard west of Philadelphia. In the 19th century, Charles Raymond, partner in the Raymond & Campbell Stove Works, built this mansion in 1888. Designed by architect Joseph Dise of SpringGlen, PA. The house is constructed of brownstone from the Hummelstown Brownstone Quarries nearby. Charles W. Raymond eventually overextended himself with the extravagance of the mansion, and in 1896 it became the property of the Middletown National Bank for the benefit of his creditors. In 1898, Redsecker Young purchased the mansion for $6,600.00. Four years later in 1902, Simon Cameron Young bought it. He eventually bequeathed it unto his family, Emma and Eliza whose ghosts, some say, still dwell within. In 1949, Herman and Sara Baum began their twenty-year residence in the mansion.

Victorian House Restoration and Adaptive Reuse

Alfred Pellegrini of Hershey purchased the Raymond-Young Mansion at 38 North Union Street. The property’s craftsmanship, strength, and beauty gave the Pellegrini family a vision for renovation to create a unique setting for memorable dining. Orginal fixtures were repaired, walnut, cherry and chestnut woods were polished, and stained glass was cleaned to reveal striking beauty. The Burgundy Room’s original wallpaper was restored while the other rooms were covered in reproduction prints

In July of 1970, the restaurant opened its doors for business. It has grown into a Central Pennsylvania landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Through the years, the back yard has been turned into the chef’s herb garden and dining has been added, al fresco, under the magnolia tree.  Alfred’s Victorian has grown into a Central PA landmark, winning awards of local and national acclaim.  The Pellegrini’s second generation continues the tradition of dining excellence in the Harrisburg area.

Alfred’s Victorian Restaurant is still a cornerstone of the town and current owner Robin Pellegrini was determined to restore it in an appropriate manner while also being conscious of the environmental impact. The Technical Install Team went to work using Natural Hydraulic Lime mortars and Lithomex to repair in-kind any damaged or missing brick, stone and mortar.

100 years after its original construction, Alfred’s Victorian couldn’t look better!

This article is a part of a series from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s excellent field guide on the architectural styles found in Pennsylvania.  In it, they’ve assigned key periods of development – from the Colonial period in the 18th Century to the Modern Movements of the 29th Century.  This article focuses on an overview of the Traditional/Vernacular style in Pennsylvania from 1638 through 1950.


Traditional/Vernacular Mode 1638 – 1950

Buildings constructed in the Traditional/Vernacular mode fall into this broad category due to the cultural origins of their design, rather than their period of construction.  While buildings within this tradition were built in great abundance in the early European settlement days of our state, the forms continued to be used and replicated with some frequency until roughly the turn of the twentieth century.  Some traditional forms such as meetinghouses and one room school houses continue to built today, especially within certain religious sects.

Traditional/Vernacular buildings derive their form and design from a commonly shared tradition of construction. Buildings that fit into this category are not architect or pattern book designs where appearance is dictated by contemporary stylistic trends. Rather, buildings of this type reflect the ethnic or regional heritage and cultural traditions of their builders.

Traditional/Vernacular buildings are often direct links to the building practices of the European medieval past, employing the basic construction techniques of that era. They were often strictly utilitarian structures, built from affordable and readily available materials to satisfy basic and immediate needs.  A Traditional/Vernacular form may also be chosen for cultural reasons, not because it is the only available design option, but out of respect for past tradition. Certainly, buildings of this type were intended for both short term and long term use. For many reasons, economic, cultural, and environmental, these basic vernacular buildings continued to be built far beyond the settlement period for Pennsylvania.

The Traditional/Vernacular category is a rather broad umbrella, covering a wide variety of building forms based on common cultural past designs. Floor plans and site orientation can be important elements in identifying vernacular design, since simple vernacular forms were often later enhanced by high style architectural details. The distinctive building types commonly seen in Pennsylvania include: log buildings, post-medieval English inspired buildings, Pennsylvania German traditional buildings, meetinghouses, schools  and agricultural outbuildings.

The architectural description “vernacular style” is often used to describe all non-architect designed buildings, or hybrids displaying bits and pieces of various styles. This term is used to describe workaday urban housing forms like row houses and duplexes and also utilitarian single family dwellings lacking any particular stylistic elements. It is also used to refer to barns, summer kitchens, springhouses, smokehouses, and other agricultural outbuildings. In truth, vernacular buildings include a wide array of structures across a long span of time. They are an important part of our state’s architecture heritage; they tell the story of most Pennsylvanians – the “common folk” of our state. For that reason these types of buildings are sometimes referred to as “folk architecture” as well.


Lancaster’s rich history and diverse architectural styles are a virtual feast for the eyes.  Have you experienced them lately?  Now that the weather is turning, we are all looking forward to spending more time outside.  These walking tours from the City of Lancaster’s website are the perfect way to do so.


A Walk Around Downtown Lancaster
(covering three centuries in four blocks)

Lancaster City is an architectural gem. Stroll down any street, in any direction, and you will encounter remarkable, and remarkably intact, historic buildings. Throughout the City, history comes alive through an intermingling of different architectural styles and periods. Each building has its own distinctive characteristics, which together form a varied and colorful mosaic.

The following walk takes in four blocks near Lancaster’s Penn Square, which will transport tour participants through three centuries of Lancaster’s civic, commercial, religious, social and architectural history. Despite that dizzying time travel, this leisurely walk can be accomplished in less than an hour. (You may want to spend much longer than an hour, however. Every street contains many delightful and charming details, so it’s a good idea to stop often to look up at rooflines, look down at cellar windows, and peek through alleyways in order to fully appreciate the quirks and beauty of the architecture.)

[Sites on this tour that are open to the public have been noted. Otherwise, the buildings are private residences or offices and should be respected as such, but the exteriors can be viewed and admired.]

To guide your walk, download a Tour Map and a Listing of Historic Buildingsfeatured on this tour.

Penn Square
Penn Square is Lancaster’s geographic, commercial and civic hub. From the 1730s until 1853, two different courthouses stood in the center of the square. The Soldiers and Sailors Monument is erected there now, built of granite in 1874 to honor those who fought in the Civil War.

This walking tour begins at the northwest corner of Penn Square, where there are three centuries of history present: an old city hall dating from the eighteenth-century, a nineteenth-century markethouse, and an early twentieth-century skyscraper.

South Queen Street
One block south of Penn Square, along South Queen Street, tour goers will come across buildings with connections to the American Revolution and the abolition of slavery as they view a Georgian townhouse, a Federal mansion, and a complex of buildings linked to the Underground Railroad.

Old Town
The tour continues east along East Vine Street, within an area known as Old Town, one of the City’s earliest areas of development during Colonial times. This neighborhood contains houses dating from the 1700s through the 1900s. In the 1970s, much of this area was slated for “urban renewal,” which would have meant the demolition and loss of these irreplaceable historic resources. Instead, the houses were rehabilitated in one of Lancaster’s earliest historic preservation efforts. Tour highlights in this neighborhood include a converted stone stable, the former home of Lancaster’s premier portrait painter, and a dignified Classical Revival mansion.

East Orange Street
This section of East Orange Street is part of the City’s original Historic District, established in 1967. Along this tree-lined street, tour goers will pass an Italianate villa and a church cemetery established in 1744.

North Queen Street
Downtown Lancaster has been a commercial center for 275 years, and North Queen Street has long been an important retail area. The colonial city owed its early prosperity to its strategic position at a transportation crossroads. Lancaster’s role as a retail center grew rapidly with the Industrial Revolution, which produced more plentiful and cheaper goods and a growing urban population to consume them. Turn-of-the-century technology introduced new building materials and construction methods, and Lancaster’s storefronts exhibited the latest architectural styles.

The tour concludes at the original starting point at Penn Square. There are numerous shops, museums, art galleries, and restaurants along West King, West Grant, North Queen and North Prince Streets. Central Market is open each Tuesday and Friday from 6:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m, and on Saturday from 6:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.

For information about downtown attractions and businesses, visit: “Lancaster City’s On-Line Guide” at

“Discover Downtown Lancaster” at


Do you know the architectural styles of Pennsylvania?

Jim Thorpe Pennsylvania 12    Jim Thorpe Pennsylvania 16   Brandwine Building      Early Architecture - 1 1-2 Story House   braddock 9215   Bottling house

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission has an excellent field guide on the architectural styles found in Pennsylvania.  In it, they’ve assigned key periods of development (listed below) – from the Colonial period in the 18th Century to the Modern Movements of the 29th Century.

To further explore Pennsylvania’s architecture and learn more about the periods, styles, and features of our built history, we’ll be posting a series of articles that delve into the field guide produced by the PHMC – so be sure to stay tuned.  (And you may want to subscribe to our blog by email to be notified via email when we post an article.  You can do so in the sidebar on the right.)

We’re starting our series with a timeline of the major architectural periods, and the styles found within them, Pennsylvania.  Click on an architectural period to see a dropdown list of the styles found in it.

[sws_pullquote_right]IMPORTANT NOTE:
It might be hard to believe, but historians sometimes disagree about things. The PHMC’s field guide states:

“It is important to remember that while some styles are universally recognized, scholars and architectural historians sometimes disagree on the categorization and naming of styles and different books consulted on the topic may offer varying names and periods of popularity. Growing research in the field also has provided better understanding of traditional and vernacular building traditions and greater discussion of some previously overlooked areas. So, while there is a basic language and perception of established architectural styles, it is an evolving understanding and sometimes there is no clearly correct answer.”



[sws_toggle1 title=” 1638-1950 Traditional “]1638-1880 Log Buildings

1682-1730 Postmedieval English

1700-1870 Pennsylvania German Traditional

1700-1930 Barns and Outbuildings

1695-1950 Meetinghouses [/sws_toggle1]

[sws_toggle1 title=”1640-1800 Colonial Period”]1700-1800 Georgian Style [/sws_toggle1]

[sws_toggle1 title=”1780-1830 Early Republic Period”]1780-1820 Federal Style

Early Classic Revival Style:
1790-1830 Roman Classical Revival Style
1820-1860 Greek Revival Style[/sws_toggle1]

[sws_toggle1 title=”1830-1860 Mid 19th Century Period”] 1830-1860 Gothic Revival Style

1830-1850 Exotic Revival/Egyptian Revival Style

1840-1885 Italianate Village/Italianate Style

1850-1870 Octagonal Style[/sws_toggle1]

[sws_toggle1 title=”1850-1910 Late Victorian Period”]1840-1900 Romanesque Revival Style

1860-1900 Second Empire/Mansard Style

1860-1890 High Victorian Gothic Style

1860-1910 Chateauesque Style

1860-1890 Stick Style

1880-1900 Queen Anne Style[/sws_toggle1]

[sws_toggle1 title=”1880-1940 Late 19th & Early 20th Century Revival”]1880-1960 Colonial Revival Style

1890-1940 Tudor Revival Style

1890-1940 Collegiate Gothic Style

1890-1935 Italianate Renaissance Revival Style

1895-1950 Classical Revival Style

1885-1930 Beaux Arts Classicism Style

1915-1940 Spanish Colonial Revival Style[/sws_toggle1]

[sws_toggle1 title=”1925-1950 Modern Movement Period”]1920-1930 Exotic Revival/Egyptian Revival Style

1925-1940 Art Deco Style

1930-1950 Moderne Style

1930-1950 International Style[/sws_toggle1]


Sometimes preservation takes you on new, surprising paths…

Yes, we have kitchens on the brain thanks to a recent custom kitchen project (that turned out to be good fodder for some really cool pictures of our millwork process, so you get to ogle them).

The traditional approach to creating a custom kitchen is one we are all familiar with – create new cabinet frames from scratch in a millwork shop, face them with the customer’s choice in doors and styling, and remove and throw away the existing cabinets (doors, drawers, frames, and all) to install the new cabinetry.

But traditional is not the approach Richard and Dasa Redmond wanted to take.

They proposed a custom refacing and remodeling project for the kitchen in their home in Colonial Era Old Town, Lancaster, PA that would replace only the doors on their cabinetry and rework some of the existing cabinet frames without replacing it – a first for us.

So how did it happen?

Our project began the way they always do – with measurements and an evaluation of whether or not what the customer wanted was possible.  As it turns out it was, and we headed into the design phase.  Using a picture the Redmonds provided, Chuck designed a formal, raised-panel inset cabinet design to replace the informal overlay design in their existing cabinetry.

After designing the cabinetry, we held “Show & Tell” for the Redmonds where mockups provided them the opportunity to explore color options, joinery methods, hardware choices, and other decisions.  After final decisions, the cabinet faces, doors, and drawers were constructed in our custom millwork shop.  When they were ready, we removed the existing doors, drawers, and faces and installed the Redmonds’ new kitchen.

But this project wasn’t just about looks…

Small kitchens in historic homes are often awkwardly laid out and less than ideally situated, a definite problem in a culture who’s kitchens are meant to house much more in the way of cooking implements than your typical Colonial household.  Working extensively with Richard and Dasa, we were able to thoroughly evaluate exactly how each area, cabinet, and drawer in the kitchen was used in order to redesign the cabinetry for an optimal layout.  The result was the addition of a surprising amount of space.

Custom kitchen in less than two months…

…complimentary design for their Colonial home optimized for modern function

Constructed by artisan craftsmen from a locally owned and operated business…

…minimal eco-impact eliminated unnecessary waste and protected existing energy investment

Minimal invasion and disruption, with a fully functioning kitchen throughout the project…


Richard and Dasa may have started a trend worth setting.