Beaver Historic District
The Beaver Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996 and encompasses most the present-day borough. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.
The Beaver Historic District is a ca. 317-acre area which encompasses the entire 1792 plat of the community as well as most portions of the present borough. The district lies in Beaver County, northwest of Pittsburgh, on the north bank of the Ohio River, within a community lying on a plain above the river. The district contains prominent examples of nineteenth- and twentieth-century period styles, especially Victorian through those of the early twentieth century. The district exhibits a high degree of overall integrity, particularly when compared to other communities of this size and region of Pennsylvania.
The district contains 1,456 resources, of which 1,448 are buildings, seven military monuments and two iron drinking fountains are objects, and one is a site. Among the buildings, 93% are residential in character, 6% are commercial buildings, and 1% are institutional, including schools, churches, depots, and government buildings. One resource reflecting the potential of significant historic archaeology exists at the site of Fort McIntosh. Of the total of 1,456 resources within the district, approximately 35 (2%) were built prior to 1850, approximately 1,245 (85%) date from the period 1850-1946, and approximately 176 (13%) were constructed after 1946.
Of the total of 1,456 resources in the district, 1,258 (87%) are contributing to the character of the district and 198 (13%) are noncontributing. Contributing resources are defined as those which (1) date from the district's period of significance and (2) have not undergone insensitive changes which compromise either their historicity or their ability to convey their period of construction within the district. Changes have occurred to virtually all of the buildings within the Beaver Historic District, but these changes have not diminished the ability of the district to convey its own sense of history. The changes evident in contributing resources include alterations to storefronts of commercial buildings, window replacement and the application of artificial siding (where such treatments have not irreversibly altered the character of the buildings), additions (where such additions do not seriously impair the integrity of the resources), etc. Noncontributing resources are those constructed outside the district's period of significance and/or which have been so insensitively altered as to destroy their architectural integrity. Such alterations include the removal of defining features, major alterations in appearance, etc. Noncontributing resources also include contemporary commercial, office, institutional, religious, and residential buildings, service stations, contemporary military memorials, etc. Noncontributing resources are dispersed widely throughout the district. For example, at the corner of Beaver and Third Streets are a gasoline station, a bank, a convenience store, and a one-story commercial building, all of contemporary construction; also the southern portion of Third Street contains several service stations and newer office buildings. The Beaver County Court House Annex is a large-scale non-contributing resource located directly behind the Court House. Several newer apartment buildings, low-rise in scale, have been built north of Third Street. These areas notwithstanding, no one sector of the district contains a major concentration of noncontributing resources and the noncontributing resources found within the district do not severely compromise the district's ability to convey its own sense of history.
At the core of the Beaver Historic District is Third Street, containing the town's historic commercial district. Surrounding the downtown are residential areas between Third Street and the Ohio River to the south, to the Beaver-Bridgewater line on the east, toward a hill to the north, and to the Vanport-Beaver borough line on the west. The downtown is characterized generally by two- and three-story commercial buildings dating from the mid-nineteenth century through the first half of the twentieth, built immediately adjacent to one another with no front lot setback. The residential areas consist of subdivided lots occupied principally by single-family homes, schools, institutional buildings, and churches of varying sizes. At the south edge of the district, along a bluff overlooking the Ohio River, is the site of Fort McIntosh, a 1778 military fortification of paramount importance to the development of the United States in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. The topography of the district is essentially flat until Fifth Street where it rises approximately one hundred feet in elevation near the northern terminus of the district. The entire Beaver Historic District, save the diagonal course of Sharon Road at the north end of the district, is laid out in a grid pattern; several public parks are found in the district, a fact which contributes not only to the softening of the landscape, but also to the historical importance of the district from the aspect of eighteenth-century planned city open space.
The principal east-west streets within the district are River Road (formerly Front or First Street), and Second through Fifth Streets, all with generous one hundred-foot rights-of-way. The major original north-south streets are (from east to west) Beaver Street, College Avenue (formerly Elk Street), Market Street, Dravo Avenue (formerly Raccoon Street), and Buffalo Street, also with one hundred-foot rights-of-way; laid between these are Wayne (formerly Branch Bank Alley), Insurance, Commerce, and Navigation Streets (running north- to-south), and Bank, Corporation, Turnpike, and Canal Streets (running east-to-west), with twenty-five-foot rights-of-way. Thus, each major block in the 1792 survey is defined by a one-hundred-foot thoroughfare and bisected symmetrically by twenty-five-foot thoroughfares. The area northeast of Beaver Street once contained the fairgrounds and spacious suburban lots. These lands were subdivided in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and now contain Taylor, Wilson, Lincoln, East End, and Fair Avenues running north-to- south, Otter and Leopard Lanes and Laura and Park Streets running east-to-west, and Sharon Road bisecting Laura and Park Streets in a northerly direction. In the western reaches of the district (in the "Groveland" subdivision) are Orchard, Walnut, Elm, Oak, Chestnut, and Sassafras Streets, containing residential buildings constructed during the first third of the twentieth century.
Beaver's original plat was laid out with three types of lots. "In-lots" were located in sixteen quadrants at the more interior confines of the community. Each in-lot contained four squares measuring 300' x 360'. Except for the eight public squares, each of these squares contained three rectangular lots, each measuring 120' x 300'. Between Beaver Street and the Beaver-Bridgewater municipal boundary was a series of "out-lots" which contained a far greater acreage than did the in-lots. During Beaver's first ninety years, the in-lots were used as conventional building lots and the out-lots were generally undeveloped. The fairgrounds occupied several of the out-lots at the north edge of the borough. By the 1880s, both the original in-lots and the out-lots were being subdivided into considerably smaller parcels. Typical of this pattern was the creation of building lots facilitated by the subdivision of the fairgrounds property, which began as early as 1889 and continued into the 1920s.
The architecture of the Beaver Historic District represents most of the popular styles prevalent during the period of significance of the district. These styles include Federal... Greek Revival ... Italian Villa ... French Second Empire ... Queen Anne ... Romanesque Revival ... Richardsonian Romanesque ... Italianate ... Colonial Revival ... Neo-Classical Revival ... Dutch Colonial Revival ... Spanish Colonial Revival ... Art Deco ... Tudor Revival ... Late Gothic Revival ... Bungalow ... and American Foursquare. No particular style is found exclusively in any one part of the district, although areas developed in the early twentieth century contain pockets of American Foursquares (Taylor Avenue, and Second Street, for example) and Bungalows (as found along Fifth Street). The above-cited examples are important representatives of the various styles found within the district and embody the full complement of design characteristics which define each of the individual styles.
With regard to scale, architecture within the Beaver Historic District is confined predominately to buildings of one and two stories in height. The tallest building within the district is the four-story Beaver County Court House. Residences vary in scale from modest vernacular buildings and 1 1/2-story Bungalows to stately three-story suburban homes. Most are gable or hipped roofed, built primarily in wood frame and brick; a small number are of stone, and the Tudor Revival style residences of the early twentieth century feature characteristic stucco and half-timbered finishes.
The historic commercial buildings are generally Italianate in style, with tall window proportions and typical overhanging cornices. For the most part, they are two stories in height and are of brick, wood frame, or stone construction trimmed in wood or architectural metal. The majority are flat- or shed-roofed, but some have gable roofs of shallow pitch. Representative examples of the commercial buildings include the Buchanan Block, the Quay Block, and the Bovard-Anderson Building.
Two Colonial Revival style school buildings are found within the Beaver Historic District. The 1916 Fort Mclntosh School (855 Second Street) is a two-story buff brick building which has been adaptively re-used for various purposes. Lincoln School of 1908 (363 Fourth Street) is also of buff brick and has been sensitively rehabilitated for residential use.
Several historic churches occupy prominent sites within the district, and are representative of ecclesiastical design over a forty-year span. The earliest of these is the 1890-92 First Presbyterian Church, a Richardsonian Romanesque style stone building at College and Corporation Streets with an intersecting gable roof system and a prominent corner tower which dominates the skyline. The 1904-1906 Park United Presbyterian Church at Commerce and Corporation Streets is a Late Gothic Revival style brownstone building with an asymmetrical tower and an architecturally-compatible 1930-31 addition. The Church of Christ of 1903 (now the First Christian Church;) is located at Otter Lane and Iroquois Place and was built at a time when "suburban" expansion was occurring into the northern section of the Borough. The Church of Christ is built in the Romanesque Revival style, using yellow brick trimmed with stone beltcourses and featuring double square towers. Between 1904 and 1905, the Methodist Episcopal Church was constructed in the Late Gothic Revival style at the corner of College Avenue and Turnpike Street; this church, now the United Methodist Church, is of smooth-dressed stone, with an asymmetrical facade dominated by a square tower. SS Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church on East End Avenue (ca. 1901) is a Gothic Revival brick edifice, smaller in scale that the aforementioned Protestant churches.
Transportation-related resources also contribute to the fabric of the historic district. The sensitively rehabilitated former Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Passenger Depot and the Freight Depot are both found on East End Avenue. The Passenger Depot is of brick and was designed in the Romanesque Revival style, while the Freight Depot, also brick,.. was not designed in any formal, academic architectural style. Both buildings are important physical reminders of the heyday of the railroad in this historic community.
Three governmental resources dating from the district's period of significance are found within the area. The Beaver County Court House, the third to occupy the same site, is a 1933 Art Deco monolith of stone with a stepped-back centered tower which occupies one of the squares set aside for public use in the 1792 plan. The Beaver Borough Building of 1912 is a two-story Neo-Classical Revival building of brick located in the heart of the central business district, and the 1859 Beaver County Jail is a two-story Italian Villa stone fortress located at the corner of Corporation and Market Streets.
A total of seven objects are found within the Beaver Historic District. Three of these are contributing to the character of the district and four are non-contributing due to their date of construction falling outside the period of significance of the district. The objects include two nineteenth-century cast iron drinking fountains, one near the northeast corner of Beaver and Third Streets and the other on Market Street beside the Court House. These fountains were donated to the community by Mrs. Ira Mansfield, whose home stood on the site of the present Beaver Area Memorial Library. The balance of the objects found within the district are military memorial monuments. The most impressive of these is the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, erected in 1900 under the supervision of W. F. Howland of Barre, Vermont. It is located in Mclntosh Square and honors participants of all wars up to that time. The granite monument consists of a four-sided stepped base with military figures standing atop each of the sides. Rising behind these figures and dominating the monument is a hexagonal shaft capped with a metal figure of "Liberty" holding a wreath. Other objects include a Neo-Classical Revival style arch in Clark Square, the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in Quay Park, another Irvine Park stone memorial , undated but of contemporary construction, to "all those from this community who served their country in time of war," and a commemorative World War II-era cannon located in Mclntosh Park.
The residential neighborhoods of the Beaver Historic District are distinguished by tree-lined streets, many of which have alley access to the rear yards. The majority of the residential streets have sidewalks, some of historic brick". Complementing the brick sidewalks in several sections are brick-paved streets dating from the early twentieth century. Houses are set back from the street, in some cases because they had been built originally on larger lots prior to subdivision. In other instances, the setbacks are due to early twentieth-century subdivision restrictions which guarantee the perpetual maintenance of lot setbacks and assure the stability of the low-density character of the neighborhoods which makes residential Beaver so attractive. Typical of these restrictions is the 1904 "Centennial Plan" developed by the Beaver Realty Company, which subdivided portions of the former fairgrounds in the vicinity of Fourth and Wilson Streets and included an eleven-foot setback requirement for all buildings. Another variation of such planning is the 1925 Columbus May-Ida Robinson Plan, which specified a "grass plot" between the front lot line and the brick-paved surface of Dravo Avenue.
A particularly distinctive feature of the Beaver Historic District is the series of square parks located at the core and at each corner of the original plat. These open public spaces date from the 1792 survey, authorized by an Act of the Pennsylvania Legislature, which specified that "the four center lots and four corner lots of the town plot shall be reserved for public use." One of the parks (Gibson, now Agnew, Square, at the northwest corner of Third and Market Street) is occupied by the Beaver County Court House, Another, Mclntosh Square, has at its center the 1900 Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, an important local landmark in its own right. The other six squares remain undeveloped except for contemporary playground use. Several contain stands of stately, mature trees. At various times through the years, these public lands have served as sites for the county court house, for an early burial ground, two churches, a jail, a school, and a public water fountain. Of these, only the court house, in Agnew Park, and the early burial ground, in Clark Park, are extant.
Another important cultural and natural feature of the Beaver Historic District is the Water Lot, a gently- sloping rectangular area measuring ca. 340' x ca. 750', located north of Fifth Street and bounded by Fifth, Wayne Street, Spring Lane, and an unnamed alley. This tract which contains a natural spring flowing out of the hillside, was set aside for municipal use from the very earliest days on the community. Surviving today is a spring house with stone walls and an arched stone roof. Three houses were built near the southern perimeter of the Water Lot, but the balance of the property has remained undeveloped and owned by the Borough.
The site of the eighteenth-century Fort Mclntosh lies on present-day River Road, roughly between College and Dravo Streets, along the plain overlooking the Ohio River. Its partial excavation in the 1970s uncovered some foundation remnants which remain exposed; only about twenty-five percent of the Fort site was explored, since the balance of the Fort lies beneath the surface of River Road and under the homes erected across River Road from the excavation site. The site was National Register listed in 1975.
Not uncommonly, some clearance has occurred within the confines of the Beaver Historic District, including the loss of nineteenth-century homes which have been replaced by contemporary office and low-rise apartment building development. Along Third Street, historic buildings on several corner lots have been replaced by service stations and convenience stores. Two major residential landmarks on River Road (formerly First or Front Street) were razed and a one-story residence and the Beaver Area Memorial Library were built in their place. The Judge Daniel Agnew House of ca. 1830 was razed in 1970 for the construction of the Beaver County Court House Annex. On the positive side, sensitive rehabilitation activity is also occurring throughout the district. In the downtown, the Buchanan Block (671-677 Third Street; 1897) has been handsomely rehabilitated for bank and office use, the Beaver Borough Building (469 Third Street) underwent a sensitive remodeling in 1993, the former P & L E Railroad Passenger Depot (201-205 East End Avenue; ca. 1905) has been adaptively re-used as the Beaver County Emergency Response Center, and the former P & L E Freight Depot (ca. 1905; 105-115 East End Avenue) has been leased by the Borough to the Beaver Area Heritage Foundation for rehabilitation as a museum. Along nearly every neighborhood street, evidence of sensitive residential rehabilitation activity is apparent.
Taken as a whole, the Beaver Historic District represents a pleasant, functional mix of uses throughout his two century-old western Pennsylvania community. The district's low-rise character--the Court House being he tallest building--and its physical fabric, with an unusually high degree of integrity, are unique throughout he region, as is the open space provided by the community's founders. The tree-lined streets, the traditional downtown area, the riverbank and river vistas, coupled with an impressive array of historic residential architecture, provide Beaver and the Beaver Historic District with significant natural and man-made amenities which other Beaver Valley communities cannot claim.
The Beaver Historic District ... is important in the area of community planning as a western Pennsylvania example of farsighted eighteenth-century land use planning (for its grid-and-public-lands original plat) and as the reflection of subsequent planned community development throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The district is also significant in the areas of commerce and politics/government as a local trade center of nineteenth and twentieth-century commerce and as the seat of local and county government. Under Criterion B, U. S. Senator Matthew Quay was a nineteenth-century American political leader of unparalleled influence in state and national politics; his life and contribution are evidenced in the district by his home at 205 College Avenue (designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976). Under Criterion C, the Beaver Historic District' s significant due to the presence of a variety of nineteenth-and twentieth-century styles of architecture which reflect the establishment, growth, and maturity of this community. These architectural resources include homes, commercial buildings, public and civic buildings, churches, and depots. The residences found within the district are associated with individuals whose careers were associated with broad patterns in the history of the community, including commerce, and government. The architecture of Beaver is also important as the reflection of the work of local master builders and contractors and of architects both of local and regional import. Under Criterion D, the existence of the 1770s Fort Mclntosh site suggests the presence of significant historic archaeology within the Beaver Historic District. The date that the Fort was erected, 1778, begins the period of significance of the district; the date of the closing of the period of significance, 1946, is defined by the fifty-year guideline of the National Register.
The early history of the area is intertwined with the relations of the British, French, and Native Americans. The site of Beaver was the eastern terminus of the Tuscarawas Trail, an Indian trail which from the Ohio River at Beaver to the Tuscarawas River in east-central Ohio. In the mid-eighteenth century English and French traders maintained a presence at the future site of Beaver, and during the French and Indian War a small settlement grew at the western edge of the future town. This fledgling settlement likely disappeared with the defeat of the French in 1758, since it was referred to as a "former French town" in a report prepared by Col. Henry Boquet when he visited Ohio Indian settlements following the defeat of Chief Pontiac in 1763. During the era of the American Revolution, fearing an Indian uprising in western Pennsylvania (which failed to materialize), the Continental Army erected a fort in Bolivar, Ohio and at the future site of Beaver, Pennsylvania; both forts were under the supervision of Lachlan Mclntosh. The construction of Fort Mclntosh-- as it was eventually named-marked the beginning of permanent white occupancy of the area which is now Beaver.
The Beaver Historic District is the reflection of unusually farsighted urban planning from the last decade of the eighteenth century. Following the American Revolution, veterans were to be paid based upon a system of depreciated "bills of credit" issued by the State. In 1781 a law was passed which fixed the scale by which veterans were to be remunerated for their service. In 1783, the state legislature assigned to veterans all the land north and west of the Ohio and Allegheny Rivers, with the southern half of the territory to be given in redemption for these depreciation certificates; these tracts became known as "Depreciation Land."
A 1791 Act of the Pennsylvania General Assembly authorized the establishment of the community of Beaver. The following year, Deputy Surveyor Daniel Leet completed a survey which contained a total of 1,200 acres of land; the present Borough of Rochester is located on seventy-nine of the outlots east of the Big Beaver River. On a portion of the balance of the surveyed land, a new town, Beaver, was created, on the banks of the Ohio River. Leet's 1792 plan of Beaver specified a grid of streets with eight public spaces sited symmetrically both at the core and at the periphery. It is important to note that when this sophisticated plan was platted this was a wilderness in the forest along a river, adjacent to the remnants of a Revolutionary war fort. The plan of Beaver itself is a visionary example of eighteenth-century urban planning and the district occupies a place as an important model of a 1790s mid-Atlantic grid community.
Leet created a grid pattern of streets running in a generally east-to-west pattern, bisected by other thoroughfares running north-to-south. The Leet plan encompassed the lands between present-day Beaver Street, River Road (formerly Front Street), Buffalo Street, and Fifth Street. The major streets have 100-foot rights-of- way, while the secondary streets have rights-of-way of 25 feet, creating a pattern of blocks bounded by 100- foot rights-of-way and bisected by 25-foot rights-of-way. Leet set aside public lands at each corner of the new settlement (at the corners of Front Street, River Road and Buffalo Street, at Buffalo and Fifth Streets, at Front Street/River Road and Beaver Streets, and at Beaver and Fifth Streets). In the heart of the community, Leet surveyed out four additional public grounds at the corner of Third and Market Streets and between Commerce, Insurance, Turnpike and Corporation Alleys (later all changed to "Street"). The four interior public lots have seen some changes over the years. On the northwest corner has stood a series of Beaver County Court Houses, while the southeast space contained both the Presbyterian and Methodist Episcopal Churches. The exterior corner lot at the northwest corner is an historic nineteenth-century burial ground. The other three exterior lots remain undeveloped.
The public squares remained unnamed until 1903, when local attorney and business leader John M. Buchanan proposed the following designations: the northwest interior lot--housing the Court House--was named Gibson Square, in honor of one-time Fort Mclntosh commandant Gen. John Gibson. This square has since been re-named Agnew Square, for Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Daniel Agnew, whose home (now demolished) faced the square. The northeast interior square was named Harmar Square, for Josiah Harmar, another Fort Mclntosh commandant; it was eventually renamed to honor U. S. Senator Matthew Stanley Quay, a Beaver resident. The southeast interior square honored Gen. William Irvine, commander of the Army's Revolutionary War-era Western Department which included Fort Mclntosh. The remaining interior square was named Mclntosh, after Gen. Lachlan Mclntosh who in 1778 constructed the fort on the Ohio River which also bore his name.
At the corners of the original plat are the four other squares. John Buchanan's 1903 designations resulted in the northwest corner lot being named for George Rogers Clark, whose local association was the fact that he was the United States Commissioner at the time of the 1785 Treaty of Fort Mclntosh; the northeast became Bouquet Square, honoring Col. Henry Bouquet, who led a 1754 British expedition against the Ohio Indians and traversed the area later settled as Beaver; the southeast was named in honor of General "Mad" Anthony Wayne, whose army was quartered at nearby Legionville during the winter of 1792-93; the remaining square became Brodhead Square, after Col. Daniel Brodhead, one-time commander of the Western Department of the Army; in the 1980s, Brodhead Square was renamed Linn Square, honoring Robert P. Linn, Beaver's longest-sitting mayor with a tenure of more than fifty years.
While naming the squares to honor important personages was an important legislative action, the early functions of the squares were of equal import. They served as sites for seats of government, for the first cemetery, for an early jail and churches, a school, a public water fountain, and as the site for veterans' memorials. Today they play a large part in maintaining the stability of Beaver's residential character — an important feature of the significance of the historic district, nestled as it is in the heart of a formerly-heavily industrialized area.
The residential character of this community is an important factor in its overall significance, particularly with comparison to its municipal neighbors in the Beaver Valley, including Beaver Falls, Aliquippa, Ambridge, Monaca, and Rochester. Beaver was never planned or developed as an industrial center like other towns on the banks of the Ohio and Beaver Rivers. This characteristic of Beaver has been long recognized as a positive attribute, as evidenced by the August 25, 1934 issue of the News-Tribune of nearby industrialized Beaver Falls which noted
The town [Beaver], beautifully laid out with parks and public squares, is distinctly a residential town. Retired professional and business men and many active lawyers and business people of the nearby sections live in Beaver.
Accolades such as these are borne out by local City Directories of the early years of the twentieth century. For example, Arthur and W. C. Mayer, president and vice president, respectively, of the Beaver Falls-based Mayer China Company both lived in Beaver in architect John Craner-designed Tudor homes at 790 River Road and 225 College Street. William H.Harris built his home at 329 Iroquois Place, but commuted to Aliquippa for his employment as superintendent of the Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation's Aliquippa mill. Jacob Freund occupied two homes in the Beaver Historic District — 329 Iroquois Place and 187 Taylor Avenue — but travelled to Wampum for his service as the treasurer of the American Cement Tile Manufacturing Company.
Beaver County industries found other communities to settle, such as Ambridge (named for the American Bridge Company), and steel towns such as Aliquippa, Beaver Falls, Midland, and Rochester. The county seat of Beaver remained middle- and upper-class residential in character. This absence of industrial development, with its concomitant sprawl~and, in bad times, its decay-has left Beaver Borough and the Beaver Historic District an attractive, sought-after residential community, planned for those who could afford large lots and concomitant homes. The community's continued evolution through the nineteenth and early twentieth century was as a place for the owners, managers, and middle-class employees of nearby industrial facilities, and the arrival of the railroad contributed to Beaver becoming a bedroom community for Pittsburgh, as commuters boarded the P & L E passenger trains at the East End Avenue station for the daily trip into the city. This pattern of social structure and residential construction is reflected in Beaver's planned subdevelopment beyond the 1790s grid pattern during the District's nearly two hundred-year period of significance.
The Beaver Historic District is important as the reflection of shifts in residential development patterns typified by the subdivision both of in-lots and suburban out-lots during the latter years of the nineteenth century and the first third of the twentieth. A representative subdivision plan-but far from the only example-is the 1889 Moore Brothers and Cunningham Plan of Lots 131-133 (at the northeast corner of Fourth and Buffalo Streets), which took the three lots of an original Leet quadrant and created a total of thirteen building lots complete with rear alley access. Such subdivisions became common in Beaver throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and are indicative of the changing life styles of the period. In these land-use patterns can be seen the forces of the Industrial Revolution, the mechanization of society, and the departure from an agrarian life style, along with the resultant decrease in the popularity of and need for spacious, multi- acre tracts. Indeed, the patterns of residential development reflected in Beaver continued to change into the twentieth century, until some plans contained lots with a frontage of only forty feet. This decrease in preferred lot dimension corresponds as well to the modification both of architectural vogues and patterns of living, with building lots and houses becoming smaller and neighborhood development considerably more dense. Such fluctuations can be seen in Beaver along Fifth and Sixth Street, where twentieth-century Bungalows and American Foursquares crowd side-by-side with each other on comparatively narrow lots.
A further important feature of Beaver's community planning heritage is the "Water Lot," fronting on Fifth Street. Pure water being a prerequisite of any community, Beaver's citizens guarded their drinking water from the very earliest days. Although water issued from numerous fissures along the hillside, this particular spot was the favored "watering hole" for Fort Mclntosh soldiers during the 1770s and '80s. Later, the spring was the only source for potable water for the community and pipes fashioned from bored-out logs carried water by gravity from the spring to a series of public watering troughs throughout town. Shielding the spring is an ashlar sandstone building with a quonset-like roof.
Comparing Beaver and the Beaver Historic District to other western Pennsylvania communities, identifies this community as a clearly distinct entity. The late eighteenth-century saw the "central diamond and grid" pattern used across the region. However, the exceptional public open space concept, established in 1792 and for the most part carefully guarded to the present, is a distinctive trait claimed by Beaver alone. The original plan was respected and built upon throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century, as evidenced by subdivisions such as the aforementioned 1889 Moore Brothers and Cunningham Plan and the J. F. Dravo 1892 Plan, which subdivided In-Lots 38-40 (at the corner of Second and Raccoon [now Dravo] Streets), creating fourteen lots and Cecil Alley.
In addition to its representation of the pattern of community planning, the Beaver Historic District is important as the long-standing seat of local and county government. The town was named for the nearby river, which, in turn, carried the name of the valuable animals which populated its banks. The Delaware Indians, the earliest residents, had as their chief "King Beaver," who had also taken his name from the river. The French, the first non-indigenous settlers, translated the Delaware name to "Riviere au Castor," or Beaver River. Prior to the establishment of the town, the point at the junction of the Ohio and Beaver had been known as 'Sawkunk" and "Shingoe's Town" by the Delawares. Later the English referred to it simply as "the old French town," and later, "Mclntosh," after the fort. When the borough was created by legislative action in 1802, it was named "Beaver" and was designated the county seat. Development in Beaver grew steadily throughout the new century. The population of the community increased until in 1870 it reached 1,170, 1,500 in 1890, 2,350 in 1900, and by the '30s 'had risen to 5,700. As the industrial fortunes of the Beaver Valley grew, Beaver remained an unspoiled residential and light commercial center whose own fortunes were assured both by its desirable residential nature and by its position as county seat.
Court was first held in Beaver in 1800, in the house/tavern of Abner Lacock (not extant). Lacock one of the first three judges of the new County and later became a U. S. Senator. When the court moved from Lacock's Tavern in 1804, the first permanent Court House was erected on the "state lot" later known as Harmar (now Quay) Square. Subsequent Court Houses were built in 1810 and in 1877 on Agnew Square. None of these early court houses are extant; the 1877 building endured until 1932, when a painter's torch ignited a bird's nest in the cornice and the building burned. The present Art Deco seat of government was rebuilt in 1933 on the foundations of its 1877 predecessor; it remains a political and architectural anchor for the downtown and for the historic district. Governmental responsibility for public safety and welfare is represented in the Beaver County Jail of 1859, located on Corporation Street facing Mclntosh Square. This sandstone fortress was built in the Italian Villa style, complete with a belvedere, which has been removed. The Jail's significance is heightened by the fact that, characteristic of Beaver, even this building, institutional though it is, was designed to give the impression of a large-scale home located in a residential setting in the heart of town. Local political and governmental history, too, is represented in the district. The 1912 Beaver Borough Hall is a Neo-Classical Revival style building of ornamental brick, located squarely in the commercial district on Third Street. Built for municipal offices and the fire and police departments, the building has been the seat of Borough government since it was completed. It has been handsomely rehabilitated and continues to serve its original function.
The Beaver Historic District is also significant in the area of commerce, for its position as a center of trade and commercial activity throughout the period of significance. The central business district along Third Street contains buildings which have served the commercial needs of the community for generations. As a county seat, Beaver could be expected to have a more substantial business district than its neighbors. However, the character of this downtown transcends its position as the mercantile center of a county seat; Beaver's commercial history is the reflection of Beaver residents to maintain a slightly higher standard of living than their working class peers, reflected both in the town's residential architecture and in its central business district. The Leet plan of 1792 established a broad thoroughfare for the commercial district, resulting in a more spacious downtown than that enjoyed by some of Beaver's neighbors. This fact contributes to Beaver's appearance and history of being more prosperous and upscale than the shopping districts in nearby communities which were more industrialized, such as Rochester, Ambridge, Bridgewater, or Aliquippa, even though these communities date from roughly the same period and served similar population bases.
Within the contexts of commerce, and as a participant in the community planning heritage of the district is attorney John M. Buchanan (1851-1909). An 1869 graduate of Washington and Jefferson College, Buchanan read law with pioneer lawyer Samuel Beatty Wilson, likely in the house still standing at 798 Turnpike Street. He was admitted to the bar in 1872 and served as Beaver County District Attorney from 1874 until 1880. A major force in the business community of the town for a generation, he was president of the First National Bank, of the Beaver Valley Traction Company, and of the Beaver and Vanport Electric Street Railway. In 1903, Buchanan suggested that the hitherto unnamed "state lots" at the center of town and at each corner should be named to honor individuals significant to Beaver's history. On November 24, 1903, Borough Council agreed to Buchanan's proposal and named each of the public squares. In addition to his corporate and political contributions, Buchanan's life is also reflected in the district's built environment by his 1897 Buchanan Block on Third Street, Beaver's finest nineteenth-century commercial building.
The district contains the homes of numerous citizens associated with the district's significance under the broad patterns of history within the community. The David Johnson House (ca. 1805) at 800 River Road is a log building originally constructed with hewn logs taken from the abandoned Fort Mclntosh. Johnson was the first County Prothonotary and Register and Recorder and also was the first teacher at the Beaver Academy. It is clapboard sided and has undergone several additions. The home of Attorney DiLorma Imbrie, a prominent Beaver civic leader, is a five-bay building located on Quay Square. Imbrie purchased the property from Matthew Quay in 1861 when the latter was named colonel in the Union Army. Imbrie served twelve years in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and was named Chief Clerk of the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention of 1873. The Michael Weyand House at 566 Fourth Street is a five-bay vernacular building which was home to the editor and publisher of the Beaver Argus. At 506 Fourth Street is the 1836 home of hatter John Shively, a three-bay vernacular brick home with paired gable-end chimneys and a massive fieldstone porch added at a later time. At the corner of Market and Turnpike Streets stands a two-story three-bay frame house said to have been the oldest building in Pennsylvania in continuous use as a law office. Built about 1850, it was home and office to Beaver attorney Samuel B. Wilson.
Moving into the middle years of the nineteenth century, Dr. R. T. Taylor's Italian Villa home stands at 374 College Avenue opposite the original site of Beaver College; he was the president of the College and entertained Rudyard Kipling in this home. For many years the property has been home to the Fort Mclntosh Club, a local men's club. The U. S. Strouss House, an Italianate home of wood frame construction located at 341-349 Beaver Street, was the residence of Dr. Strouss, a physician-businessman who was also Vice President of the Beaver Trust Company. A. T. Anderson's 640 Fourth Street residence is a two-story French Second Empire building; Anderson was a principal in the real estate and development firm of Bovard-Anderson. Beside the Court House on Market Street is the 1876 Italianate former home of Judge Henry Hice, now used as a law office. At 419 Sharon Road stands the early twentieth-century fourplex occupied by Amon B. Plowman, Dean of Beaver College. The Frank A. Judd House at 339 Iroquois Place was home to the Chief Clerk of the Pennsylvania State Senate. Adjacent to the Judd House, at 345 Iroquois Place stands the C. M. Hughes House, the home of the Secretary-Treasurer of the Beaver Trust Company and treasurer of the Kirkland Lumber Co. Two residences, 478 Lincoln Avenue and 187 Taylor Avenue, represent the life of Jacob Freund, Treasurer of the American Cement Tile Manufacturing Company. Arthur E. Mayer was president of the Mayer China Co. of Beaver Falls; his John Craner-designed Tudor Revival residence is located at 225 College Avenue. W. C. Mayer was vice president and secretary of the same firm and built a Craner-designed Tudor Revival style home at 790 River Road.
Under Criterion B, the Beaver Historic District is significant for its strong association with Beaver's most illustrious son, Matthew Stanley Quay (1833-1904), one of America's most powerful late nineteenth- century political bosses and a "kingmaker" in every sense of the word. The political and governmental contributions of Quay are represented in his 205 College Avenue home. A National Historic Landmark, Quay's home was originally a modest five-bay two-story brick building likely constructed during the 1850s; it was heavily added to during the twentieth century. An earlier Quay House is located at 740-752 Turnpike Street facing Quay Park. This home was owned by Quay in the 1880s but was lost by him in a poker game. Presently known as the "Colonial Apartments," it has been greatly altered since the time of its association with Quay, but is nonetheless a contributing resource within the historic district.
Quay came to Beaver in 1840 when his father was called to the pastorate of the First Presbyterian Church. Following graduation from Jefferson College in 1850, he soon returned to Beaver, read law, and passed the bar. His political career began in the 1850s when he was elected County Prothonotary, and by 1860 his position as a political power in Pennsylvania was established when he successfully secured western Pennsylvania delegates to assure Andrew G. Curtin's election as Governor. Quay served as Secretary to Curtin, was a colonel in the Pennsylvania Volunteers during the Civil War, and received the Congressional Medal of Honor for valor at the Battle of Fredericksburg. From 1865-1867 he served in the Pennsylvania Legislature, and later edited the Beaver Radical for four years. In 1873 Gov. John F. Hartranft appointed him Secretary of the Commonwealth, a post he held for most of the ensuing years until 1885. In 1887 the Legislature elected him to the United States Senate, and in 1888 he led the Pennsylvania delegation to the National Republican Convention, where he was instrumental in securing the presidential nomination for Benjamin Harrison. With the backing of the powerful American Iron and Steel Association, Quay was named national party chairman and director of the presidential election campaign. He remained a pivotal figure in Republican politics for the rest of his life. In 1904 he died at his College Avenue home which in 1976 was designated a National Historic Landmark for its association with "Quay of Pennsylvania."
The Beaver Historic District is significant under National Register Criterion C for its cohesive collection of architecture which represents most of the styles popular during the period of significance of the District and which reflects the work of local master builders and contractors as well as locally- and regionally-important architects. The streets of residential Beaver are lined with homes constructed in a variety of styles as well as in vernacular adaptations thereof. Buildings executed in the Federal style--such as the DiLorma Ibrrie House (722 Turnpike Street)—typically feature a symmetrical 5-bay facade, with a centered entry and shuttered windows with multi-light sash. Greek Revival homes may have a five-bay facade with a centered entry with transom sash and sidelights (as seen in the house at 901 Fifth Street) or may be of a temple-form design with a side hallway and offset entry on the gable-orientated facade (I. M. Miller House, 245 Beaver Street; 8841 and 495 Second Street). The Beaver adaptation of the Italian Villa style, as seen in the Beaver County Jail and the Beaver College President's House, exhibits a symmetrical facade with a hip roof capped with a belvedere (the Jail's belvedere has been removed). Italianate residences have characteristic vertical proportions with tall, narrow, windows and distinctive bracketed cornices. Typical of these is 540 River Road, 900 River Road, 235 College Street, 174 College Street, and 705 Second Street. Queen Anne homes are built of a variety of materials (e.g., brick, stone, and wood) and are finished in a variety of textures; a number of these also have towers or turrets. Representative of the Queen Anne Style are the Lydia Dravo House (1000 River Road) and 334 Insurance Street. The District's French Second Empire residences are generally Italianate in ornamentation, and are finished with the dormered Mansard roofs typical of the style. Included among these are the H. J. Wilson House (653 Second Street). The Romanesque Revival, with its typical round-arched voids and—in the case of churches-an asymmetrical facade, is represented by the Church of Christ (360 Iroquois Place). The Richardsonian Romanesque style--locally represented by the First Presbyterian Church (College and Corporation Streets) — employs massive rock-faced stone construction with round-arched fenestration. The Art Deco style, characterized by the Court House, features a streamlined profile and the stepped-back facade typical of skyscrapers of the 1930s. The Late Gothic Revival, represented by the Methodist Episcopal Church at College and Turnpike Streets, and by the Park United Presbyterian Church at Commerce and Corporation Streets is distinguished by lancet-arched fenestration and pinnacled towers. Colonial Revival buildings are symmetrical in plan, and may have frontispiece entrances, porticos or colonnaded porches. Many of these homes are of larger scale, including 1020 River Road, 840 River Road, Homes built in the Dutch Colonial Revival style are small in scale and have gambrel roofs and, in some cases, pent roofs along the first floor facade; homes of this design are scattered throughout the district. The Tudor Revival is seen in John Craner-designed residences which are generally large in scale and are built of brick or stone with stucco and half-timbered upper stories; these homes are primarily found along River Road. Bungalows are one and one-half story in height, with a gable roof extending over the front porch and often with dormers to increase the floor space of the half story above; like their Dutch Colonial Revival counterparts, Bungalows are found on nearly every residential street throughout the district. American Foursquare residences are generally un-ornamented and have one-story front porches, hipped roofs, and dormers.
The architecture of the central business district is generally Italianate-derived, with a small representation of Neo-Classical Revival and vernacular buildings. Italianate commercial buildings such as the Quay and Buchanan Blocks have tall window proportions, ornamental window heads, and distinctive bracketed cornices. Vernacular adaptations of these styles have more subdued ornamentation and cornices of corbeled brick.
The district reflects the changes in popularity of residential design modes throughout much of the nineteenth and the first third of the twentieth century, ranging from large-scale turreted Queen Anne homes on once-spacious suburban building lots to small Bungalows and American Foursquares tucked into subdivided lots with a frontage of only forty feet. The commercial buildings in the district reflect the mercantile history of the community and represent the business life of many of the individuals whose residences are found within the residential reaches of the district. A more complete listing of representative buildings in each of the styles is found within the "Description" narrative.
The work of several master builders and architects is represented throughout the historic district. Builders Anderson and Cook (J. T. Anderson and F. H. Cook), later the Cook-Anderson Company, were major contractors whose career encompassed the late nineteenth and the firs[ quarter of the twentieth century, producing residences, commercial buildings, churches, and public facilities. Their work includes the 1897 Buchanan Block (671-677 Third Street), the P & L E Passenger and Freight Stations on East End Avenue, the Methodist Episcopal and the United Presbyterian Churches, and—surely one of their largest projects—the 1933 Beaver County Court House. The Bovard-Anderson Company was established in 1904 and became major real estate developers and builders of small-scale residential buildings throughout the district. Also represented in the historic district are Tallon, Farr, & Company (R. E. Tallon and W. T. Farr) important local builders who in 1901 built the George W. Mackall House (369 Iroquois Place) and the Beaver Trust Company Building at Third and Insurance Streets.
Beaver's best-known architect during the district's period of significance of the district was John Craner (1871-1955). He practiced in Beaver from as early as 1910 until his death, and is best remembered for the commodious Tudor Revival style residences which he designed in Beaver. These homes became his hallmark and add greatly to the architectural significance of the Beaver Historic District. Craner's Tudor Revival buildings are generally large in scale and are of brick or stone construction with characteristic half-timbered second-floor finishes and steeply pitched gable roofs covered with heavy slate. They are found primarily along River Road, facing across the Fort Mclntosh site and overlooking the Ohio River.
Other architects represented in the district include Pittsburgher Thomas Boyd, who designed both the 1877 Court House (destroyed by fire in 1932) and the 1892 J. H. Cunningham House at Second and Beaver Streets, Hodges and Burns (Methodist Episcopal Church), Edward Carlisle and Harry P. Sharrer (Beaver County Court House), and Beaver's own John H. Craner, mentioned previously. The work of Pittsburgh architect James P. Bailey is also represented in the Beaver Historic District; his First Presbyterian Church of 1892 is a Richardsonian Romanesque landmark adjacent to the downtown. Beezer Brothers designed the 1901 SS Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church, a small-scale Gothic Revival brick edifice located on East End Avenue, and Robinson and Winkler of Pittsburgh, were responsible for the 1904-1906 Park United Presbyterian Church.
Under National Register Criterion D, the Beaver Historic District is important for its potential to yield historic archaeological information particularly relating to the construction and use of Fort Mclntosh. The significance of the district predates the Borough's incorporation by more than a quarter-century. Late in 1777, an increase in hostilities arose between the Indians and the whites along the Ohio River south of the Beaver. Gen. George Washington dispatched the Western Continental Army, under General Lachlan Mclntosh, to protect the settlers. In 1778 he erected a fort on the bluff overlooking the Ohio which became the first military post on the "Indian" side of the river. From here, Mclntosh planned to move upon the Sandusky Indian settlements and, as a first step, built Fort Laurens, along the Tuscarawas River in what is now east-central Ohio. During the American Revolution, Fort Mclntosh became the headquarters of the largest army west of the Alleghenies. In 1784, the Fort gained the distinction of being the headquarters of the First American Regiment, the beginnings of today's U. S. Army. The 1785 Treaty of Fort Mclntosh was followed by the Northwest Land Ordinance of that same year which opened the western lands for settlement. The fort was therefore active for about ten years. Following its abandonment, the fortification deteriorated and was eventually dismantled, some logs being used to construct residences nearby in the settlement that was to become Beaver.
In 1893, Judge Daniel Agnew authored Fort McIntosh and Its Times in an attempt to spark interest in restoring what little remained of the Fort at that time. No such interest was kindled, and it was not until 1974 that excavations took place, under the auspices of the Beaver Area Heritage Foundation. Archaeologists discovered a series of stone footers which marked the outer perimeter of the Fort. Further investigation revealed additional footers and fireplace sites. The four-year project uncovered the stone foundations and more than 80,000 identifiable artifacts. However, only about one-half of the Fort has been excavated, since the balance lies under River Road and beneath the homes which lie along this street. Considerable additional knowledge about the construction and operation of the Fort lies in this site.
In addition to Fort Mclntosh, the Pennsylvania Bureau for Historic Preservation has identified one prehistoric site (Pennsylvania Archaeological Site Survey Number 36-BV-259). Bureau archaeological staff felt that this site may be potentially eligible for the National Register, but has not evaluated the site; it is not counted in the Resource Inventory accompanying this nomination. Thus, it is clear that the Beaver Historic District has yielded, and has the potential to yield, information important to American history.
Although smaller than other southwestern Pennsylvania county seats such as Greensburg, Westmoreland County, and Washington, Washington County, Beaver is similar to these in that it retains the court house, the jail, and county administrative offices within the close confines of the downtown. New Castle, the seat of Lawrence County, also larger than Beaver, has a downtown court house but its architectural character has been seriously compromised by years of urban renewal and disinvestment. Architecturally, these communities are characterized by generally the same styles as Beaver, although the more industrialized communities of New Castle and Greensburg exhibit more of large-scale twentieth-century commercial architecture which corresponds to the era of industrial prosperity of each.
Assessing the Beaver Historic District within the context of the region is a relatively simple exercise. While Beaver has never been the largest community in the immediate area, it has clearly been recognized as the "gem" of the Beaver Valley. Beaver Falls, to the north, is a more populous community but its older central business district has been ravaged by the effects of plant closings and disinvestment and its residential areas are considerably less pristine than those in the Beaver Historic District. Aliquippa, to the south, was a steel mill town, and significant portions of its main business artery have been demolished due to disinvestment. Rochester, directly across the river from Beaver, has the potential for a commercial historic district, but does not contain the significant base of historic resources, commercial and residential alike, that is found within the Beaver Historic District. Harmony and Economy (both National Register Historic Districts) are early utopian communities of generally small-scale commercial and residential buildings. The significance of these two areas, while architectural to a point, is more due to their role in the utopian movements of the last century. The Beaver Historic District stands alone because of its architectural character, for its position as the seat of county government and local commercial activity, for the archaeological potential of the Fort Mclntosh site, and as the home of Senator Matthew Quay.
†Taylor, David L., Beaver Historic District, nomination document, 1996, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C