Photo: Homes along Front Street, located in the Old Town Historic District, Clearfield. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Photographed by User: Pubdog (own work), 2010, [cc-1.0, pubic domain], via Wikimedia Commons, accessed July, 2022.
Clearfield's Old Town Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Portions of the text, below, were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [‡]
Old Town is the area on Front Street from Pine Street to Walnut Street and has been chosen for an historic district because it is the largest concentration of Victorian houses, the majority unaltered, built from 1860 to 1890 and all on their original sites. Several are pictured in Caldwell's Atlas of Clearfield County, 1878. Pine and Walnut Streets are the limits of the original Old Town.
1. 106 East Pine Street
A two and one-half story brick house with gable roof and gable-roof front piece. Paired brackets line the eaves. Decorative shingles are located in the gable ends. A one-story porch lines the front and east elevations decorated with fancy wrought iron work. The property was traced back to the earliest local records. Abraham Witmer deeded it to A. B. Reed August 7, 1825, which makes it as old as the Matthew Ogden property. However, at the time of the Caldwell map, on which were the names of all the owners, William Bigler is named the owner of this and the Historical Museum. The house is not on the Caldwell map and was probably constructed in the 1880's. It has been fortunate because the Bigler family were sole owners until 1944. This is the only property in the district not directly facing on Front Street. The address is 106 East Pine Street, the most southerly street of Old Town.
2. 103 East Pine Street
Built between 1872 and 1881, this two story brick, box-shaped mansion has a hipped roof, articulated chimneys and center brick cupola. A one-story porch is located on the front and east facades. At the rear of the lot is a two-story hipped roof, brick carriage house. This faces directly on Front Street, at its closest point to the West Branch of the Susquehanna. It was originally part of the property described in Number 1. Bigler sold this house (built between 1872 and 1881; not shown in Caldwell's) to James Kerr, a distinguished business and political leader whose prominence was not merely local. When William Jennings Bryan was campaigning in 1896, he made a speech from this front porch. It is Italianate Victorian in style, buff brick, box shape. Ornamental horizontal molding is located near the roof. It is crowned with a cupola (the only other cupola left in town is on the Thomas Murray House on Second Street). The present owners are the Historical Society of Clearfield. They have retained the interior with almost all the furnishings of P. T. Davis, local banker who owned it after Mr. Kerr. This includes the decorative tile, parquet floor and stained glass windows.
3. 115 North Front Street
This is a two story, gable roof, brick apartment building built circa 1960. Built on site of Van Valzah House, listed as Smith property in Caldwell's Atlas.
4. 113 North Front Street
Two and one-half story brick house with gable roof with boxed cornices and returns. It has a one-story bay window on the front facade and a one-story inset porch on the southeast corner. Felt to be built circa 1880, the property is shown on Caldwell's Atlas in the ownership of Mrs. Patterson. The name Captain Clark is also associated with the site.
5. 109 North Front Street
This two and one-half story cross-gable roofed house has decorative gable end shingles and a one-story front facade porch. The house overlooks Lower Witmer Park and is listed in Caldwell's Atlas as Dr. Schreiver's house. All interior lighting fixtures except the dining room are original. Ceilings, 13 feet, have been kept, complete with molding throughout. The 10 foot doors and windows with their beautiful wood trim are an outstanding feature of this interior.
6. 107 North Front Street
This is known as the Wrigley House, although originally it was deeded from Alfred M. Smith in 1868 to Aaron Tate. In Caldwell, 1878, it was the property listed as owned by W. W. Wallace without a building. So this house must have been built after that date by a W. C. Foley — perhaps 1889. It is brick, two and a half story, with large porch fronting on the Park and the River. There are seven bays and a garage on the north side. On the south side open to view, there are 12 windows with stained glass. There is nice carving on the porch, brackets under the eaves, trellised second story porch, brick wall on rear of property — all well kept by the sympathetic owner. The parking lot south of the Wrigley house was also a Wrigley building, part of the W. W. Wallace holdings. This was torn down in the 60's for Park and Shop.
7. 15 North Front Street
Set back from Locust Street by a curving driveway, this imposing house is white brick with white trim. It was built by Judge Krebs in 1870, a gift by William W. Wallace to his daughter, Mrs. Krebs. For years a funeral home, it is now the law offices of Belin and Naddeo. There is a small front porch (on Front Street), small entry porches on Locust Street (with lovely fan windows over the main doors on each entrance); and a large second story porch. There are richly ornamented gables, all of which have a deep overhang, complete with brackets and fretwork, and other decoration associated with a Gothic revival structure. David Krebs, the owner listed on page 202 in Caldwell's Atlas (Clearfield Borough Map, 1878), was elected the first president Judge of Clearfield County, when in 1883 the county was organized as a separate judicial district.
There are three bays on Front Street, and seven bays on Locust Street. It has three stories in the front of the house, and only two in back. There is a small building in the rear, now rented, which may have been a stable.
8. 11 North Front Street
This two and one-half story brick house has a hipped roof with gable side pieces. It is five bays by five bays with a small porch on the north elevation and was built circa 1880. In Caldwell's Atlas, this is shown as the property of the Leavy's heirs about which there are no known records.
9. 9 Front Street
A. B. Shaw was a Clearfield merchant, and this house is shown in Caldwell's Atlas it was built in 1876. Its many doors and porches lend themselves to its present use as an apartment. It is a Gothic Revival Mansion patterned after the Tudor houses of England. It has especially interesting windows, painted in white trim against the buff brick. It is three stories and has three bays along the front, and there are 9 bays along the side five of which are under the side porch.
10. North Front Street
This property was shown in Caldwell's Atlas as part of the Shaw property. It is presently a used car lot. This is not as blighted an area as most similar areas because the owners have left a large ginkgo tree on the rear of the lot and they have left the trees on the street on both corners and because the next lot has grass along the property line.
11. 6 South Front Street
This park and library were originally owned by the Shaw Estate. Ella Shaw donated the land for the Joseph and Elizabeth Shaw Public Library, and this building was built in 1939. There were buildings fronting on Market Street which were to provide maintenance from their rental; however, upon becoming old, those were torn down, and happily a well-kept park was put in. This is used for an occasional book sale, artists' exhibit, and constantly as a meeting place for young people who have no other place to congregate. The library itself is a sympathetic intrusion. It is a buff brick, one story structure.
12. South Front Street
The Borough Building presently (1978) being built. This addition, in the place of the old high school building, cannot be judged yet as being either unsympathetic or sympathetic.
13. 104 East Cherry Street
The Gothic style brick church was built in 1895 by contractors Thorn and Logan. It's interior is finished in oak, with a cedar ceiling and rafters of Norway pine. The stained glass windows were made by Tiffany. The Parish House to the rear was added in 1950.
14. 101 East Cherry Street
This graceful house on South Front Street and Cherry has a comparatively low sloping roof resting on pilasters. The eyebrow windows in the architrave, or lowermost section of the entablature, also mark this type. It is severe in style, but beautifully balanced. The style is Greek Revival, widely popular in the nineteenth century. The interior has been furnished with antiques by its present owner and the classic features have been retained and accented artistically. Christopher Kratzer, the owner designated in Caldwell in 1878, came from New England to Clearfield soon after 1824. He was an expert carpenter by trade, a lumberman, and also possibly his own architect for the present house. This is probably the oldest house in Clearfield (1840's); on the site of the first three buildings. A tannery may have earlier been here. Kratzer founded the first county newspaper in 1827.
15. South Front Street
This large house, pictured on page 90 of Caldwell's Atlas in clapboard, is now covered with insulbrick, but otherwise it is unchanged. It has a small porch on Front Street (only three bays on this side), a small porch on the side (seven bays along the side). This house was built by Fielding, a lawyer before 1878, but he did not own the house too long. It was owned in the early art of this century by the Bigler family descendants.
16. 114 South Front Street
Built in 1864, this is a good example of Greek Revival architecture. It possesses tall main window doors with sidelights covered with a transom, all framed by flat pilasters and architrave. A series of dentils was applied beneath the corniced eaves as ornaments. One can recognize these features in the picture in Caldwell's Atlas on page 42, but it is difficult to spot it instantly because a new porch has replaced the double porch which extended across both the first and second floors of the front of the house — presenting two sets of arches. The present porch is much simpler, having been added in 1900. It is two story brick, painted white. This was originally part of the Matthew Ogden Estate; thus it is one of the oldest areas of the Borough. The builder, J. B. McEnally, was appointed President Judge in the district composed of Clearfield, Centre and Clinton Counties in 1868.
17. 120 South Front Street
This two story frame house scored to look like cut stone has a hipped roof and center chimney. It has heavy brackets and a one-story porch on the east and south elevations. Italianate in style, the Wright House was built in 1871, who also owned the adjoining two lots. Wright and his son were very prosperous in the coal and timber industries. When Wright died in 1950, he willed his house to his housekeeper who has lived there since. A small gable roof barn is located at the rear of the lot.
18. 2 North Front Street
This solid looking rural Gothic villa is at the corner of Front and Market Streets; its most prominent feature is its gambrel roof, the only old one in Clearfield. This form of roof has an angle of pitch which abruptly changes between ridge and eaves. It was built in 1858. It is dark brick, and darkly painted. It has three bays on the Market Street side, with the porch adding considerably to its length; this is an ungainly looking porch, probably added later. There are 4 bays in front. It has three stories.
19. 6 North Front Street
This is shown as a property owned by Dr. Hill in Caldwell's Atlas; part of the property was sold or given to his daughter when she married Frank Harris. They built around 1892. Later, the house was given to Sarah Scott, adopted daughter of Mary Tompkins Thompson Dickey. Sarah was the wife of George, son of Harry B. Scott, Centre County Senator. In 1947 it was sold to George and Ann Shively. The architecture is not Victorian, but blends in with the surrounding Victorian buildings. It is buff brick, two stories, sunporch in front, side porch, many entrances.
20. North Front Street
This also was a Dr. Hill property, and was sold to Frank Harris with lot 31. Harris built this house, and sold it to the Gordons. Dr. John Gordon was one of those almost apocryphal country doctors who was everywhere; he seems to have delivered any Clearfield native born between 1900 and 1940 — and he died young. The house is brick, mid-Victorian with large, octagonal porch. Inside are three octagonal rooms, open staircase and the original woodwork. It has a slate roof, three porches and the original shutters.
21. North Front Street
The Shaws were the original owners of this property, then it came into the Biddle family, then the Mossop family. Blanche Biddle owned it from 1884, then lived in it until death in 1936. Emma Biddle Irwin then was willed it, and she sold it to the Gills in 1961; then the Gills sold it to the present owners, Woolridge Coal in 1977. It is a wooden building painted entirely white, with a gracious front porch, and upstairs and downstairs porches in the rear right. The front porch is decorated with Victorian carving, and its three bays are enhanced by floor to ceiling windows, and a graceful door with unusual windows. Only three bays along the side (plus back porch) make it the smallest of the houses in this district. There are ornate brackets under the large eaves. In the rear and to the right of the house itself was built an addition — one story high, about 15 feet square.
22. North Front Street
This house, pictured on page 38 of the Caldwell Atlas, was built by George Goodlander, journalist and editor of the Clearfield Republican. It is a much more delicate scale than the Mossop House next door. It is a three story red brick with white painted porch. It is representative French Second Empire style. This style is easily identified by the roof which has a slope in two planes, the lower of which is much steeper. Built in 1870, it has a marble stoop such as is seen in the row houses in Philadelphia. There are three bays in front, six along the side and has one porch along the front — recessed from the front entrance.
23. 16 North Front Street
This has always been called the Mossop House, although in 1863 the property was owned by a William Welch who listed an extensive inventory of household goods in his will. He deeded it to the Mossop family of which Emma Irwin was a descendant. When she was alive, the house had all the family treasures, and was a show place. When she died around 1961, all her goods were auctioned off, and the house sold to the Salvation Army. The house itself gives the impression of being massive, perhaps because of the large stone front porch, supported by pillars. There are three bays under the porch, and a three windowed bay to the left of the porch. The side along Locust Street has four bays, so the effect is almost square. There is a back porch on the inside. It is wood, painted white, two stories. The interior is now institutional.
Clearfield is in North Central Pennsylvania, in a heavily wooded, mountainous area. The trees supplied the industry for the area during the 19th century, until most of the forests were gone, about 1890. Then during the 1880's, coal was discovered in a rich vein in Houtzdale and in all of the county. This industry still supports most of the population, although today, more of the coal is strip-mined than deep-mined. This produces scarred land, extremely unsightly until the state demanded the strippers fill in and plant trees and grass on the land.
During the 1840's and 50's, while Clearfield was just developing and the main buildings and mansions were built by the town leaders on North Second Street. Here were the Biglers (Governor), the Wallaces (U.S. Senator), the Lees (coal and timber) and Thomas Murray (wealthy lawyer). As this area became crowded and more commercial, the residential development moved to Front Street, one block toward the river. It was limited on the West side by the public parks donated by Abraham Witmer, so this was a good place to put large houses. Front Street became the place to put a large house during the 60's and 70's and 80's, and has retained an elegant air. With the river one-half a block to one block away, and with the two parks, the area was naturally beautiful, and the presence of the Clearfield Academy and later the senior high school did not detract from the feeling of serenity and elegance. The street had only local traffic, so it was free from trucks and any noisy distractions until the 1960's.
The majority of the houses in the district were built from 1860 to 1890, during Clearfield's most thriving era. During those years the rural areas of Pennsylvania were quite powerful in state politics and Clearfield seemed to have some political homegrown talent. William Bigler, born in Perry County, but spending most of his days in Clearfield, was Governor of Pennsylvania from 1852 to 1856 and later was elected United States Senator. William Wallace also was elected U.S. Senator. Relatives of these two men resided along Front Street. Of the houses, themselves, the Kratzer house is probably the oldest large house in town, certainly one of the most beautiful and best kept. All the proper lines listed on the 1878 map are the same today. The Old Town Historic District retains the subdued and elegant ambiance of the 1870-1830 period in Clearfield.
‡ Riley, Marie Wolf, Kane, Gae, and Zacher, Susan M., Old Town Historic District, nomination document, 1979, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Front Street North • Front Street South • Pine Street East