The Indiana Borough Municipal Building is located at 80 North 8th Street, Indiana PA 15701; phone: 724-465-6691.
The Downtown Indiana Historic District is significant in the areas of architecture, commerce and government/politics. The district is composed of a variety of architectural high styles including Federal, Italianate, Second Empire, and Colonial Revival. In 1805 Indiana Borough was named County Seat of Indiana County which lends to its significance as a government/political center. The district is also locally significant since it was the first and largest commercial area in Indiana County. During the early 19th century, merchants realized the county seat's potential for growth and established hotels, taverns, and shops.
The period of significance, 1800-1942, begins with the construction of the William Houston House at the corner of North Sixth and Philadelphia Streets. The Houston House is the first building that was built on property donated by George Clymer, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Coal mining grew into a multi-million dollar industry throughout the county between 1900 and 1930 and added to the prosperity of the historic district. The period of significance ends with the 50 year cutoff date as established by the criteria set in the National Register guidelines. Many of the buildings built during the period of significance retain their original architectural features and exhibit excellent integrity.
Indiana Borough has enjoyed steady commercial growth since its formation as a settlement in 1805. The Borough's initial development stimulus was its designation as a centrally suitable location for the governmental seat of Indiana County which had been formed in 1803. The historic district encompasses the land upon which the town was originally laid. There were two main forces which increased migration to Indiana Borough in the late 1800's and early 1900's. The first was the opening of the Indiana Normal School in 1875. Although the school is not located within the historic district it did attract more people to Indiana Borough, triggering an increase in construction. The second growth factor was the advent of the "Coal Boom Era" in Indiana County at the turn of the century. This era led to a 114% increase in population in Indiana Borough.
The Indiana Borough Historic District contains a number of buildings that are architecturally significant as well as an assortment of significant architectural styles. The majority of the buildings that were built in the early 1800's, with the exception of the William Houston House (c. 1800) and the James Mitchell House (c. 1824), were destroyed by the numerous fires that occurred in the mid- to late 1800's or have been tom down in favor of new construction. Buildings such as the historic Clawson Hotel (c. 1850-74) and Mabon's Hardware (c. 1875), both on North Sixth Street are excellent examples of Italianate and Second Empire style respectively, reflecting the continuing prosperity of the county seat. Many other styles are also featured in the district such as Colonial Revival as evidenced by the Rend Apartment Building on School Street as well as many other buildings in the district. These later styles express the prosperity experienced during the coal boom at the turn of the century. Other contributing styles in the district include Federal (William Houston House), Greek Revival (James Mitchell House and Thompson House), Victorian Gothic (Zion Lutheran Church). Queen Anne (numerous residential structures), Richardsonian Romanesque (Calvary Presbyterian Church, the Harry White Building, and 145 South Sixth Street), Dutch Colonial Revival (559 Church Street), Georgian Revival (First Methodist Episcopal Church), and Neo-Classical (Midtown Savings & Trust Bank). The Old Borough Hall which is of Edwardian design was constructed in 1912. This is the only Edwardian structure in the district. Later contributing styles include the Art Moderne Roger's Jewelry Store Building and the Art Deco Frick and Rend Buildings.
The most significant architect of the Indiana Borough Historic District was James W. Drum of Punxsutawney. Drum designed the 1870 courthouse, the Wilson, Sutton & Company Store on Philadelphia Street, and the First Methodist Episcopal Church at the corner of South Seventh Street and Church Street. Although there were many other architects for the buildings of the district, such as Herbert Conklin who designed the unique Edwardian Style Old Borough Hall, Drum is considered the most significant because of the number and variety of buildings that he designed.
The Downtown Indiana Historic District also has the largest concentration of historic commercial structures in Indiana County. Commerce has traditionally been located on Philadelphia Street between Fifth and Seventh Streets. The overflow of commercial development has typically been housed on the streets perpendicular to Philadelphia Street, usually not exceeding more than one block in either direction.
The commercial area of Indiana Borough was the first commercial center of Indiana County. Throughout the county's history it has always been the largest commercial center and remains the largest today. Except for Johnstown, there are no large urban centers in the region. Blairsville, once prosperous due to the Pennsylvania Mainline Canal, declined as a commercial center once the canal closed, but today remains as the second largest commercial center in Indiana County.
Increased population growth in both the borough and the county resulted in the need for a larger administrative building for the county. A stone courthouse and jail which were constructed between 1805 and 1807 were among the first structures in the newly formed settlement. In 1870 the courthouse was replaced by a much larger Second Empire style courthouse on the same site. This is one of the six structures within the district which is already listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The courthouse remained the center of county activities throughout the rest of the historic period and is also the physical focal point of the original Indiana Borough and one of the main focuses of the district. The old courthouse was abandoned by the county in the early 1970's when a new courthouse was constructed in the 800 block of Philadelphia Street, outside of the historic district. The old courthouse and adjoining jail, constructed in 1887, have been restored by the National Bank of the Commonwealth and are now used as their administrative offices.
The Downtown Indiana Historic District gives visitors a sense of history through its commercial storefronts, government buildings and tree-lined residential streets. The integrity of this district is excellent and there are few non-contributing resources within the district that threaten its overall historic character.
National Register of Historic Places