Academy Hill Historic District

Greensburg City, Westmoreland County, PA

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The Academy Hill Historic District was entered onto the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.


The Academy Hill Historic District, located within the city of Greensburg, Westmoreland County. Its period of significance, 1880 to 1948, reflects the approximate dates of the primary resource development within the district, encompassing the Aquinas Academy Parochial School built in 1880 and an apartment building at 420 Walnut Avenue, c. 1948. The district contains a collection of late 19th and early 20th century housing reflecting architectural trends in southwestern Pennsylvania during this period. Also contributing to the architectural significance of the district are the Blessed Sacrament Cathedral and two schools. In addition, the district contains several designs by noted local architect, Paul Bartholomew, as well as one residence designed by nationally known architect, Ralph Adams Cram.

With its inception as Westmoreland County seat in 1787 and through its designation as a borough in 1799, Greensburg was well placed to become an important player economically and, therefore, architecturally in southwestern Pennsylvania. Its proximity to the coal mines of Uniontown, Connellsville and Scottdale, 20 to 30 miles to the south, radically altered Greensburg's appearance through the late 1800s; industrialists, merchants and bankers opened their corporate offices, stores and lending institutions in Greensburg and brought with them their families and their workers who, in turn, required doctors, dentists, lawyers, clergymen and others to tend to their needs. Naturally, this influx of new Greensburgers required schools to educate their children and in 1810 the Pennsylvania General Assembly provided for the establishment of a public school in the growing borough. The site selected for this school was one of the area's most commanding, at the top of a hill just north of the commercial district. The Academy Hill district takes its name from this first landmark of education in the northern part of the borough – the Academy Hill School. In 1850 the original Academy burned to the ground and the school was rebuilt on the same site in 1863. This facility was razed and replaced with the Greensburg High School in 1927 which became the Greensburg-Salem Middle School in 1979.

During the era of the original Academy, 1810 to 1850, the area consisted of the school, a Roman Catholic graveyard (established in 1789)' a small Roman Catholic church and much farmland, as these were the outskirts of Greensburg. Significant to the Academy Hill Historic District is a small farmhouse built circa 1840; this three-bay vernacular farm house still stands at 333 Walnut Avenue and, although it predates the district's period of significance by 40 years, it is a contributing resource as its architectural style and integrity are intact and the building was retained and used during the growth of the community around it. Concurrent with the construction of the second Academy School in 1863, the population of Greensburg began to climb; according to the earliest census, the borough grew from 1,388 people in 1860 to 1,642 in 1870, 2,500 in 1880,4,202 in l890, 6,508 in 1900 and doubled to 13,012 by 1910. (These figures reflect the growth of Greensburg vis-a-vis the growth of the coal and coke industry in southwestern Pennsylvania.)[1] As housing was now an important issue, the area surrounding the Academy School, given its nearness to the business district, became prime real estate for prominent industrialists and workers alike.

The Academy Hill Historic District was speculatively developed from four sub-development plans: the Culbertson Plan of 1882, the Metzger Addition of 1889, the Jambon-Fogg Addition of 1892 and the Barclay Place Plan of 1895. According to original maps held at the Westmoreland County Courthouse, a parcel of land north of the railroad tracks became the "Cubertson Plan" between 1882 and 1889. According to the Biographics Historical Cyclopedia of Westmoreland County (1890), Alexander Culbertson was a surveyor, farmer and businessman who "accumulated considerable property" (page 74). Upon his death in 1871, the property was inherited by his wife, who lived for many years at the corner of North Main Street and Grant Street (this residence is no longer in existence) and the plan was developed by the family. The Culbertson Plan was the first development north of the borough and created the center and largest part of the Historic District, the 300 and 400 blocks of North Main Street, North Maple Avenue and Walnut Avenue. The Culbertsons also established the 300 block of Center Avenue and Mitinger Avenue (then known as Washington Avenue).

In 1889, the residential extension of Greensburg crept farther north with the approval of the "Dr. L.R. Metzgars Main Street Addition", which carried development along the east side of North Main Street and the west side of North Maple Avenue to the current end of the Academy Hill District. Dr. Lebbus Ringer Metzgar, a physician and surgeon from nearby Delmont, did not live in Greensburg but was the original developer of this extension to the Culbertson Plan. [2]

With the completion in 1892 of an iron bridge over the railroad tracks ,the area immediately north of the tracks became available for development; the "Jamison -Fogg Addition to Greensburg" extended along this north side of the tracks and added Beacon Street, Park Street and the 200 blocks of North Maple Avenue, Walnut Avenue and Center Avenue ). The Jamison family established the Jamison Coal and Coke Company in 1892 and soon became industry leaders with over 20,000 acres of coal rights in southwestern Pennsylvania. In addition to the "Jamison-Fogg Addition" the family owned, developed and resided in properties along North Main Street and North Maple Avenue; William Jamison, Vice President and General Manager of the company resided at 524 North Main Street, Charles H. Fogg was a prominent civil and mining engineer who settled in Greensburg in 1882. He formed a business with William Jamison in general civil and mining engineering. He resided at 424 North Main Street. [3]

The "Barclay Place Plan of 1895" added the west side of North Main Street, from O'Hara Street to Baughman Street, to the Academy Hill Historic District; the remainder of the plan extended west of North Main Street to Seton Hill College, outside of the historic district boundaries. The Barclay Place Plan consisted of a group of the most prominent citizens of Greensburg from the mid 1890s – among them the Foggs and the Jamisons – headed by John Barclay Sr., founder of the Barclay Bank, Greensburg's first banking institution. According to Mr. John Barclay Jr. (now deceased), his uncle, Morrison Barclay, the elder John's youngest brother, upon his return from the Spanish-American War, purchased the Academy Hill portion of the plan from the investors; he then built 544 North Main Street, where he resided for many years.[4]

With the plans now in place residential development expanded. Ninety-two percent of the homes in the historic district were built between 1890 and 1930. The area grew architecturally to include 23 styles as well as numerous eclectic versions of these styles; also important to the neighborhood are the houses with little or no style, the vernacular houses of the day. This growth was divided along social and economic lines: the prime area of the district, i.e. the top of the hill near the school and church, was developed by the wealthy industrialists, the business and community leaders, and includes the high style designs of North Main Street, North Maple Avenue and the 200 block of Walnut Street; the middle managers and the workers developed the lower slopes on Center Avenue, Mitinger Avenue and the remainder of Walnut Avenue where the vernacular, smaller and less stylized homes are found.

Prominent among the architecturally high styled homes is the Huff Mansion. Located at 424 North Main Street, the Huff Mansion is a 3 story, Georgian Revival style home featuring a 2 story porch with 4 stucco columns. William A. Huff was a founder and Director of the First National Bank in Greensburg; he was of the Huff family who established the United Coal and Coke Company and the Keystone Coal Company. In the late 1890s Mr. Huff commissioned his friend, Boston architect Ralph Adams Cram, to design a mansion for his North Main Street property. Mr. Cram is best known for his ecclesiastical and collegiate designs, including St. John the Divine Church in New York City, the Cadet Chapel at the United States Military Academy at West Point and various buildings at Princeton University where he was campus architect for more than 25 years. He also designed the First Presbyterian Church of Greensburg on South Main Street, part of the Greensburg Downtown Historic District. According to his biographer, Ethan Anthony, Mr. Cram was not known for his residential work making the Huff Mansion an architectural rarity. In 1968, Mr. Huffs daughter, Catherine Horn, gave the house to the Christ Episcopal Church, located in the Greensburg Downtown Historic District, for use as a rectory. The house proved too costly for the church so in May, 1979, it was sold to the YWCA, according to A Brief History of the YWCA Building, a pamphlet distributed by the association.

Seven of the homes in the Academy Hill Historic District were designed by architect, Paul Bartholomew. Mr. Bartholomew was born in Cleveland, Ohio but was raised in nearby Ligonier, Westmoreland County; he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Architecture and worked in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh before opening his office in Greensburg in 1910. Bartholomew was an architect schooled in the Eclectic movement prominent at the turn of the century and, therefore, drew his inspiration from European and Colonial architectural traditions as well as distinctly American movements. Mr. Bartholomew is best remembered in Greensburg for designing the Westmoreland County Courthouse, the Troutman Department Store building, both on South Main Street and the YMCA building on South Maple Avenue – all of which are included in the Greensburg Downtown Historic District. Bartholomew's Academy Hill work includes: the Tudor Revival style residences at 419 North Main Street (c. 1935) and 334 Walnut Avenue (c. 1936); 431 North Main street, a Prairie School design with strong Bungalow/Craftsman style and Picturesque movement influences (c. 1920); a Mission style home at 445 North Main Street (c.1913); Colonial Revival style homes at 450 North Main Street (c. 1920) with its strong Georgian Revival style influence; 528 North Maple Avenue (c. 1913), a Bungalow/Craftsman influenced design; and 552 North Maple Avenue, a highly Eclectic Revival style stucco cottage (circa 1922).[5]

As previously noted, the Greensburg-Salem Middle School stands on the site of the original Academy School. Designed by architect, Maurice Kressely, the construction of this large, Neo-Classical Revival style building took three years, from 1924 through 1927. Built as the Greensburg High School (it became the Greensburg-Salem Middle School in 1979), the building has seen extensions and renovations, but its architectural style and integrity have remained.

The Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, 300 North Main Street, is the third Roman Catholic Church built on that site; the first was a log cabin, erected in 1789, followed by a brick church built in 1846. The church we see today was dedicated in 1928 and was then known as the Most Holy Sacrament Church (it became the Blessed Sacrament Cathedral with the inception of the Diocese of Greensburg in 1951). The Pittsburgh architectural firm. Comes, Perry and McMulch designed the building in the English Gothic Revival style, with a massive and imposing appearance typical of northern European churches. The rose window over the main doors was designed by Franz Maier of Munich, Germany.[6]

Architecturally, the Academy Hill District has remained for the most part intact since its period of significance. However, a few of the grand, old homes have been lost; among them, the Marchand mansion at 333 North Main Street (today the site of the modern style Westmoreland Museum of American Art, not included in the historic district) and the stately Victorian style parish house adjoining the Blessed Sacrament Cathedral was razed in the early 1980s and replaced with a modern rectory. Private residences were lost to expand the parking lots for the Greensburg-Salem Middle School (1980s) and the Kepple-Graft Funeral Home (c. 1993) both on North Main Street. The primary additions to the neighborhood in the past fifty years are the modern apartment buildings: 408 North Main Street (c. 1955), 440 North Main Street (1979), 433 North Maple Avenue (c. 1960), 325 Walnut Avenue (c.1955), 5 Grant Street (c. 1964) and 135 Grant Street (c. 1960). A religious housing facility located at 350 North Main Street was constructed in 1962 and single family dwellings were built at 437 North Main Street (c. 1965) and 408 Walnut Avenue (c. 1960). The conversion of private dwellings to commercial usage has been minimal, in addition to the previously noted Huff Mansion, now the YWCA, the William Jamison residence at 524 North Main Street became the Kepple Funeral Home in 1952, now the Keppie-Graft Funeral Home; the Queen Anne style dwelling at 223 North Maple Avenue, originally built in 1893 for Greensburg sheriff, Lucien Clawson, has been in commercial usage since 1972 and currently houses a chiropractic office and rental units.

The Academy Hill Historic District may be most comparable to the Westmont Historic District (NR), Cambria County. Both districts are adjacent to a city   Academy Hill is within the city of Greensburg while Westmont adjoins Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Both are residential and were developed by and for the upper and middle class residents of their adjoining cities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; both districts offer a variety of architectural styles, typical of the nineteenth and early twentieth century residential architecture. The Scottdale Historic District (NR), Westmoreland County, also contains a variety of architectural styles of the period but does not have the class distinctions of the Academy Hill and Westmont Historic Districts. Scottdale, a borough, also contains a significant number of industrial buildings not found in the residential Academy Hill.

The Academy Hilt Historic District is important because it offers a representative collection of late 19th and early 20th century architecture as found in western Pennsylvania and, particularly, in Westmoreland County. Time has done little to alter its appearance from its period of significance and the integrity of the neighborhood has remained intact. The district's placement on the National Register will no doubt insure its significance for many years to come.

  1. Greensburg Sesqui-Centennial Committee, City of Greensburg: A History, page 41
  2. Milligan, E.M. (1942) Christian Metzgar: Founder of an American Family
  3. Greensburg Sesqui-Centennial Committee, City of Greensburg: A History, pages 256-257
  4. From an interview conducted with Mr. Barclay, January 1995
  5. Information about Mr. Bartholomew was gathered from interviews with various homeowners and with Mr. William W. Jamison, R.A., an architect who worked with Mr. Bartholomew.
  6. "Blessed Sacrament Cathedral: the Principal Church of the Diocese of Greensburg." (pamphlet), Privately Published, 1991.


The Academy Hill Historic District consists of 11.5 residential blocks entirely within the City of Greensburg, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, immediately north of the Greensburg business district. There are five north-south avenues contained in the district: North Main Street (Penna. Route 66), North Maple Avenue, Walnut Avenue, Center Avenue and Mitinger Avenue running from the city's central Conrail line to Baughman Street in the case of Main Street, to Curtis Road in the case of North Maple Avenue, and to Kenneth Street for the other three . The district's four principal east-west streets, Beacon Street, Park Street, Grant Street and Kenneth Street, run from the top of the hill at North Main Street and descend Academy Hill to Center Street or Culbertson Street at the bottom. Of the 252 resources contained in the Academy Hill Historic District 96% contribute to its architectural integrity; there are 12 non-contributing members, nine built outside of the District's period of significance, 1880 to 1948; only three are excluded due to loss of integrity. A-majority of the resources were built between l890 and 1930 (92%); a non-contributing apartment building at 440 North Main Street is the newest addition to the district, built in 1979. A three bay vernacular farm house on Walnut Avenue built in 1840, predates the period of significance but is a contributing resource because it is in keeping with the architectural style of the neighborhood.

The district reflects the architectural variety of styles typical to its period of significance; Colonial Revival, Queen Anne, late Gothic Revival, Tudor Revival, Shingle Style, and Prairie School are among the twenty-three styles of late nineteenth and early twentieth century architecture catalogued in the district. The architecture of Academy Hill reflects the social differences prevalent in turn-of-the century Greensburg; the high-style houses were built for the civic and industrial leaders of the time and were built new the top of the hill, on North Main Street, North Maple Avenue and the 200 block of Walnut Avenue. The remainder of the neighborhood was developed by and for the middle managers and the working class and exhibits less architectural style and detail; the houses here are predominantly American Foursquare style (16% of the district) or are of the vernacular type and exhibit No Style (29% of the district). Also, included in the district are one church and two schools. The Academy Hill Historic District retains architectural integrity.

The district presents itself as a residential, city neighborhood. North Main Street (Penna. Route 66) is a high traffic area and a major through Westmoreland County. The Roman Catholic Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, the Aquinas Academy Parochial School and the Greensburg-Salem Middle School comprise the south end of North Main of the street is residential, primarily large, high-style houses and two non-contributing modern apartment houses. The houses on the west side of North Main Street are at street level while those on the east side are set back and elevated with retaining walls at street level and stairs from street level to entry. North Maple Avenue is a quiet, tree-lined street, consisting of large, high-style residences of mixed architectural types. Walnut Avenue is a transitional street; the 200 block consists of large, high-style residences while the remaining two blocks contain smaller, less stylized houses. There are two apartment buildings on Walnut Street, one contributing, a 1948 Post War Neo- Classical Revival style and one non-contributing. The oldest contributing resource of the Academy Hill Historic District is located at 333 Walnut Avenue, an 1840 three bay vernacular farm house which predates the period of significance by forty years. Walnut Avenue is a narrow, treed one-way street where the houses are close together and many on the west side are elevated. Center Avenue and Mitinger Avenue are quiet streets of primarily single family dwellings (93%). The west side of the 200 block of Center Avenue is built on a hill, many of the houses elevated with steps from the street to entry while a few other residences are banked into the hill with a street-level garage and elevated living quarters. Mitinger Avenue is one block of street-level, closely-spaced private residences. Of the 72 resources on Center Avenue and Mitinger Avenue 46% are American Foursquare style and 35% are no Style.

Beacon Street, Park Street, Grant Street and Kenneth Street are the principal east-west streets of the Academy Hill District; with the exception of Kenneth Street which is relatively flat, they are sharply pitched slopes descending from west to east. Beacon Street runs parallel to the Conrail line and contains only one contributing resource (204 Beacon Street). A 1925 vernacular Sears house of the Bungalow/Craftsman style is located at 133 Grant street. Of the remaining 19 houses on the east-west streets 82% are Colonial Revival style.

Historically, the Academy Hill District contained 236 domestic single dwellings; today, 205 single dwellings remain as such. Two former single family homes are now in commercial use; 524 North Main Street is currently a funeral home and 223 North Maple Avenue contains a medical office. Two additional single family residences are now in social usage; the large, Georgian Revival style mansion at 424 North Main Street is currently home to the YWCA and the Bungalow/Craftsman dwelling at 442 Walnut Avenue is a private clubhouse. A remaining 27 former single dwellings have been converted to multiple dwellings. There are currently 39 multiple dwellings (12 being original multiple dwellings) in the Academy Hill Historic District.

Despite their differences in architectural style the 252 resources of the Academy Hill district are similar in their use of building materials. Asphalt shingle roofs are used on 82% of the houses; few stone/slate, terra cotta, tile and metal roofs remain in the district. Limestone foundations are found on 54% of the resources with the remainder divided among concrete, stucco and brick. Bricks are the primary material for wall construction (40%) with vinyl and aluminum siding at 36% and wood at 17%. Aside from the building materials, the resources of the district are alike in that 78% are 2 1/2 story buildings. The tallest building in the district is the Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, followed by the three story Aquinas Academy Parochial School, the Greensburg-Salem Middle School and the YWCA, all on North Main Street. There are few one and two story dwellings, primarily in the Bungalow/Craftsman and Tudor Revival styles. The predominant architectural styles are: Colonial Revival - 24%, American Foursquare -1 6%, Bungalow/Craftsman -5 %, Victorian - 5%, Tudor Revival -3%, Classical Revival - 2%, Queen Anne - 2 % and Folk Victorian - 2%. Also, represented: Italianate, Victorian Eastlake, Shingle Style, Late Gothic Revival, Georgian Revival, Neo-Colonial Revival, Dutch Colonial Revival, Eclectic Colonial Revival, Spanish Revival, Eclectic Revival, Post-War Neo-Classical Revival, Prairie School Mission, Bungaloid and Moderne.

Various types of the Colonial Revival style, as portrayed in Virginia and Lee McAlester's A Field Guide to American Houses (1989), are evident in the Academy Hill Historic District. The residence at 446 North Main Street displays a hipped roof with a full-width porch; 416 North Maple Avenue offers a hipped roof with an entry portico and 508 North Main Street is of the side gabled roof style (page 321). Many of the Colonial Revival style homes are influenced by other styles evident to the district; for example, 548 North Main Street shows Queen Anne style and Shingle Style influence while 528 North Maple Avenue is influenced by the Bungalow/Craftsrnan style.

There are a series of American Four-square style homes found on Center Avenue which are typical of American Four-square style residence found in the Academy Hill district. Located on the 200 block of Center Avenue, this row of homes evidences the 2 1/2 story, single dwellings built c. 1925 with hipped, asphalt roofs with front dormers; all are of brick construction with stone foundations and full width front porches. Twelve of the 17 houses on Mitinger Avenue are of the American Four-square style. Built between 1920 and 1932, all contribute to the architectural integrity of the neighborhood.

In addition to the previously cited Sears' house at 133 Grant Street, the residence at 529 North Main Street is another example of the Bungalow/Craftsman style home found in the district. Many architecturally high-style dwellings are found along North Main Street including: 411 North Main Street, a Shingle style residence, highly eclectic with its Colonial Revival style and Mission style influences; 419 North Main Street, a typical 1935 Tudor Revival style home; 424 North Main Street, a 3-story Georgian Revival style mansion, currently home to the YWCA; 431 North Main Street, a 1920 single family dwelling of the Prairie School style which exhibits Craftsman style and Picturesque movement influences; 445 North Main Street, a 1913 Mission style dwelling, formerly a single family home now an apartment building and 524 North Main Street, the Kepple-Graft Funeral Home, a large, 2 1/2 story Neo-Colonial Revival style built in 1903. At the south end of North Main Street, on the west side of the street and at the crest of Academy Hill, is the Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, a Late Gothic Revival style building constructed in 1928. Next to the Cathedral is the Aquinas Academy Parochial School, a three-story building with arched, elongated windows and dual cupolas; built in 1880 it is the second oldest resource in the district. Across the street from the church and school, on the east side of North Main Street, is the Greensburg-Salem Middle School; built in 1927 as the Greensburg High School, this massive Neo-Classical Revival style building comprises an entire block of the Historic District.

The Queen Anne style residence at 403 North Maple Avenue, circa 1894, offers a domed tower, unique in the district; this home is currently being rehabilitated after years of neglect. Next door to this large house, going north, is a row of smaller Folk Victorian style homes at 411, 413, 415 and 419 North Maple Avenue; all built circa 1903, these homes are of the front-gabled roof variety and display much of their Victorian detailing.

As noted, Walnut Avenue is a transitional street with large, architecturally high-style houses located on the 200 block. Found here is 204 Walnut Avenue, circa 1912, a 2 1/2 story Neo-Classical Revival style home with heavy Craftsman style influence; 203 Walnut Avenue is a typical 1 1/2 story Dutch Colonial Revival style, circa 1917. The resources of the 300 and 400 blocks of Walnut Avenue, although less stylized and less detailed, display architectural integrity and are of significance to the historic district. Examples are: the Victorian style residence at 309 Walnut Avenue; the Post-War Neo-Classical Revival style apartment building, c. 1948 at 420 Walnut Avenue; 430 Walnut Avenue, a 1 story, flat-roofed Spanish Revival style building, circa. 1909 and the Eastlake Victorian style home at 438 Walnut Avenue with its spindles and lattice work.

The 12 non-contributing resources (4%) of the Academy Hill Historic District are dispersed throughout the neighborhood and do not interfere with the architectural integrity of the district. Five of the 12 are on North Main Street, four not contributing as they were built outside of the period of significance -a church related residence built in 1962, 2 apartment buildings built in 1955 and 1979 and a private residence built c. 1965; a house at 505 North Main Street is a non-contributing resource as it has lost integrity due to replacement of the windows and the removal of the full-width front porch. Of the remaining 7 non-contributors, 2 are on North Maple Avenue (303 North Maple Avenue, due to loss of integrity because of window replacement and 433 North Maple Avenue, built outside of the period of significance); 3 are on Walnut Avenue (310 Walnut Avenue because of loss of architectural integrity, 325 Walnut Avenue, built c. 1955 and 408 Walnut Avenue, built in 1960); and 2 are on Grant Street, a circa 1964 apartment building at 5 Grant Street and a circa 1960 apartment dwelling at 135 Grant Street. All of the resources on Center Avenue, Mitinger Avenue, Beacon Street, Park Street and Kenneth Street are contributing, giving a strong sense of continuity to the district.

As an integral part of the city of Greensburg, the Academy Hill area has changed with the economic fortunes of the city and, like many industrial cities of western Pennsylvania, in the past years those fortunes have declined. Unfortunately, the large, grand old homes often became a financial burden. Many were converted into apartment houses. Replacement of tile and slate roofs became financially prohibitive and were converted to asphalt shingles. Wooden frame houses could not be maintained and were clad in vinyl or aluminum siding. Fortunately, very few of these changes have resulted in architectural alterations incompatible with the National Register criteria. Of the 243 resources built between 1880 and 1948,2 40 have retained the integrity necessary to convey the Academy Hill Boric District's architectural significance.

Street Names
Albert Way • Bair Way • Center Avenue • Fajt Way • Grant Street • Main Street North • Maple Avenue North • Park Street • Walnut Avenue

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