Every May, the National Trust for Historic Preservation picks a new theme for their National Preservation Month.  This year, they’ve built it around: “See! Save! Celebrate!” to encourage us to see our historic places, save the threatened ones, and celebrate the vital role they play in our communities.

To support that goal, we’re going to do a three-part blog series with each post focusing on one aspect of the theme.  First we’re going to focus on “See!” since Pennsylvania’s historical architecture is certainly worth seeing.


Traditional/Vernacular Architecture 1638 – 1950

Traditional/Vernacular Architecture 1638 – 1950

Photo by PA Historical & Museum Commission

–  Form and design derived from commonly shared construction tradition
–  Not architect or pattern book design
–  Reflect the ethnic or regional heritage and cultural traditions of the builders
–  Usually strictly utilitarian built from affordable, readily available materials



Georgian Architecture 1640 – 1800

–  Symmetrical form and fenestration
–  Multi-pane windows (6-20 panes in each sash)
–  Side-gabled or hipped roof
–  Stone or brick walls
–  Transom window over paneled front door
–  Pediment or crown and pilasters at front entry
–  Cornice with dentils
–  Water table or belt course
–  Corner quoins

More information about the Georgian Style is available in this section of the Pennsylvania Architectural Field Guide.


Federal Style 1780 – 1820

–  Symmetrical form and fenestration
–  Elliptical fan light over paneled front door
–  Classical details, delicate in size and scale
–  Flat lintels, often with bull’s eye corners
–  Cornice with decorative moldings, often dentils
–  Low pitched side-gable or hipped roof
–  Double hung 6-over-6 windows with thin muntins
–  Decorative front door crown or entry porch
–  Tripart or Palladian window
–  Curving or polygonal projections

More information about the Federal Style is available in this section of the Pennsylvania Architectural Field Guide.

Greek Revival 1820 – 1860

Front gabled roof
Front porch  with columns
Front facade corner pilasters
Broad cornice
–  Attic or frieze level windows



More information about the Greek Revival Style is available in this section of the Pennsylvania Architectural Field Guide.


Gothic Revival Style 1830 – 1860

historic building preservation

Photo by PA Historical & Museum Commission

–  Pointed arches as decorative element and as window shape
–  Front facing gables with decorative incised trim
–  Porches with turned posts or columns
–  Steeply pitched roof
–  Gables often topped with finials or crossbracing
–  Decorative crowns over windows and doors
–  Castle-like towers with parapets on some buildings
–  Carpenter Gothic buildings have distinctive board and batten vertical siding


More information about the Gothic Revival Style is available in this section of the Pennsylvania Architectural Field Guide.


Exotic Revival Style 1830 – 1850

victorian architecture

Synagogue in Philadelphia


Egyptian Revival Style
Massive columns resembling bundles of sticks
Vulture & sun disk symbol
Rolled (cavetto) cornice
–  Window enframements that narrow upward

Moorish or Oriental Revival Style
Ogee (pointed) arch
Complex and intricate details with a Middle Eastern or Oriental theme
Recessed porches
Onion dome or minaret
–  Mosaic tile trim

Swiss Chalet Revival Style
Front facing projecting gable with wooden cut out trim
Second floor porch with cut out balustrade and trim
Patterned stickwork on exterior walls
–  Low pitched roof with wide overhanging eaves

More information about these styles is available in this section of the Pennsylvania Architectural Field Guide.

Italianate Villa/Italianate Style 1840 – 1885

architectural preservation

Photo by PA Historical & Museum Commission

 –  Cornice with decorative brackets
–  Widely overhanging eaves
Two or three stories in height
Tall, narrow windows
Curved (segmental) arches over windows or doors
Elaborate window crowns
Single story porches, full width or entry porticos
Low pitched roof
Cupola or square tower with bracketed cornice
–  Quoins

More information about the Italianate Style is available in this section of the Pennsylvania Architectural Field Guide.


Romanesque Revival Style 1840 – 1900

historic wood windows

Photo by PA Historical & Museum Commission


–  Masonry construction
–  Round arches at entrance windows
–  Heavy and massive appearance
–  Polychromatic stonework on details
–  Round tower
–  Squat columns
–  Decorative plaques


More information about the Romanesque Revival Style is available in this section of the Pennsylvania Architectural Field Guide.


Queen Anne Style 1880 – 1910

–  Abundance of decorative elements
–  Steeply pitched roof with irregular shape
–  Cross gables
–  Asymmetrical facade
–  Large partial or full width porch
–  Round or polygonal corner tower
–  Decorative spindlework on porches and gable trim
–  Projecting bay windows
–  Patterned masonry or textured wall surfaces
–  Columns or turned post porch supports
–  Patterned shingles
–  Single pane windows, some with small decorative panes or stained glass

More information about the Queen Anne Style is available in this section of the Pennsylvania Architectural Field Guide.


Tudor Revival Style 1890 – 1920

Tudor Revival Style 1890 – 1920

Photo by PA Historical & Museum Commission

–  Steeply pitched roof
–  Cross gables
–  Decorative half-timbering
–  Prominent chimneys
–  Narrow multi-pane windows
–  Entry porches or gabled entry
–  Patterned stonework or brickwork
–  Overhanging gables or second stories
–  Parapeted or Flemish gable


More information about the Tudor Revival Style is available in this section of the Pennsylvania Architectural Field Guide.


Bungalow/Craftsman Style 1900 – 1930

–  One or two stories high
–  Overhanging eaves with exposed rafters or braces
–  Front-facing gables
–  Multi-pane windows
–  Low-pitched gable or hipped roof
–  Full or partial front porch with columns
–  Prominent gabled or shed roofed dormers



More information about the Bungalow/Craftsman Style is available in this section of the Pennsylvania Architectural Field Guide.




We’ve posted before about the preservation projects that the good folks at reserections.com do – preservation projects unlike what most of us think of when we hear “preservation project”.  They specialize in documenting, marketing, selling, and disassembling architecturally unique and historical homes and then moving them to new sites – often several states away from their original location.  This time they have graciously agreed to let us re-post the project they are currently working on, along with their progress posts that show how this massive undertaking happens – we’ll post these in a series of posts over the next few weeks.


First Baptist Church

100 yearr old Baptist Church

historic restoration of Old Church

This 8,500 sqft church suffered from fire damage and was slated for demolition.  An Austin, Texas Architect firm found a buyer and we will disassemble and ship the church to a new site in Bee Cave, Texas.  The city of Middletown, Ohio saved at least $ 100,000 needed to demolish the church, which had become a public nuisance due to fire and abandonment.  It would have taken a few more years before tax payer money would have been available to demolish and landfill it.

It was originally built in 1808, and rebuilt after a fire in 1904.

historic restorationpreservation

Designed by architect Frank Mills Andrews, First Baptist Church was constructed in 1906. Andrews worked on a number of notable projects including the Kentucky State Capitol, Montana State Capital, Hotel Sinclair in Cincinnati, Ohio. Hotel Taft, New Haven, United Shoe Machinery Manufacturing Plant, Beverly, Massachusetts. National Cash Register Co. plant Dayton, Ohio. Hotel McAlpin (tallest hotel in the world in 1909) New York, New York. George Washington Hotel, New York, New York. Columbia Club House & Clayton Hotel, Indianapolis, Indiana. Dayton Arcade, Dayton, Ohio.

Paul Sorg provided a $10,000 donation to jumpstart the church’s building program. The church, made of Bedford Stone, was vibrant until 1972. The church is part of Middletown’s South Main Street Historic District.  In late 2005, fire swept through the rear of the building. Although the Sanctuary was saved, years of water leaks have damaged the vacant structure extensively and the future of the building is fragile.

historic building contractor

The interior of the church is largely intact.  Note the ornate trusses holding up the ceiling. 

historic building

It is constructed of Bedford, Indiana Limestone, which is one of the finest stone building materials.  The stones themselves are of very unique shape, not square,

  and laid in no apparent pattern.  Reconstruction will take great care.

Trusses supporting the inside ceiling are connected to buttresses on the outside walls. Note that the fire damage did not affect the Sanctuary or bell tower

building restorations

church restoration

The stones are randomly shaped and must be relaid in the same position.  The limestone can be cleaned and the building will be glistening white.

victorian architecture     restoration of victorian architecture

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.