Tyrone Borough Historic District
The Tyrone Borough Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.
Tyrone Borough Historic District, located in Blair County, includes an area primarily comprised of architecturally varied commercial and residential buildings and several institutional buildings which are stylish as well. The Tyrone Borough Historic District is nestled in a valley situated in the northern part of the Logan Valley in the Ridge and Valley section of the Appalachian Valley Province and at the junction of Bald Eagle Creek and the Little Juniata River. The topography is basically flat in proximity to the creek and river but gradually increases in slope moving towards the north eastern boundary of the District. Surrounding the Tyrone Borough Historic District are residential homes to the north, more residential homes and an industrial processing facility to the east, U.S. Route 220 (major transportation route) to the south, and a densely spaced single-family residential neighborhood to the west. Within the Tyrone Borough Historic District, a combination of larger and more modest sized residences — each with some degree of yard space — and spotted institutional building locations are located in the north, east, and west sections of the District. The southern section of the Tyrone Borough Historic District is comprised of a commercial area with no yard space.
Tyrone Borough Historic District includes 441 buildings (garages and outbuildings are not counted unless specified within the building inventory sheets) and 2 structures. Erected between ca.1850 and ca.1938, the Tyrone Borough Historic District contains a wide sampling of late 19th century and early 20th century revival styles in a variety of materials of which brick, stone, and wood frame are represented. Of the 443 buildings included, 12 were erected between 1850 and 1869, 29 between 1870 and 1899, 371 between 1900 and 1925, and 29 since 1925. Also included are the significant structures in the form of bridges.
Of the 43 contributing commercial buildings, the majority are two to three stories in height, of brick construction, and feature the two-part commercial block configuration so typical of small-town Main Streets during the mid-to-late 19th century. The two-part commercial block was an outgrowth of the shophouse building of an earlier period and displays a distinct division between the single-story lower zone which was used for public space and the upper zone which was devoted to more private functions. Generally speaking, the facades of the examples along Tyrone's Pennsylvania Avenue and West 10th Street are treated in a simplistic manner. Little applied ornamentation is present. However, there are instances such as the 1910 Garman Building at 980 Pennsylvania Avenue and the 1892 Hiller Building at 970-972 Pennsylvania Avenue where Victorian influences are present. The Garman and Hiller Buildings are both impressive with each having their corbeled wooden cornices inscribed with respective construction dates and building names. The I.O.O.F. Building at 967 Pennsylvania Avenue has a facade with false front at top, lancet-shaped eyebrow protected windows and polychromed bands in stone, which are also used as window spandrels, and is an example of the Victorian Gothic Revival style.
Finally from a commercial perspective and from an even more exotic Italian Renaissance style influence is the 1906 Jones Building at 1000-1008 Pennsylvania Avenue with its intricately detailed buff Bedford stone, vitrified cherry red brick with projecting cornice, large terra cotta modillions and consoles and the terra cotta balustrade along the roof line with the stone belt course between the first and second stories.
The residential portion of the Tyrone Borough Historic District, which lies to the north and wraps around the northern edge of the Central Business District, is made up of 286 contributing buildings. Most of the homes are 2 to 2-1/2 stories and are constructed primarily of brick with some stone and frame types present as well.
The dominant residential styles in the Tyrone Borough Historic District are those associated with the Late Victorian and late 19th and early 20th century revival periods. Among the more popular are Queen Anne which is exemplified in the ca.1890 house at 1003 Jefferson Avenue with its hipped roof with lower cross gables, turned spindle porch supports and spindled porch frieze. Equally, the ca.1880 home at 1005 Jefferson Avenue with its cross gabled roof, asymmetrical wrap-around porch adorned with spindle work banisters and integral recessed second-story porch deserves mention. Another Queen Anne-style house, ca.1900, but exhibiting certain Stick style elements in its gable ends, is located at 1201 Cameron Avenue. Other features are its colored glass bay windows and large wall dormer.
A fine example from the Romantic Era and Gothic Revival style is the 1855 White House Bed and Breakfast at 861 Washington Avenue. It features a full-height entry porch, double front facing gable, supported by simplified Doric posts, and recessed second-floor porch above a simple entabulated entrance.
Among the numerous period revival houses in the Tyrone Borough Historic District is the ca.1910 Colonial Revival residence at 811 Washington Avenue. It features a side gable roof, a pediment without supporting pilasters, and triple-placed windows with double-hung sashes.
In fine Neo-Classical Revival style is the ca.1900 residence at 1061 Lincoln Avenue which features corner pilasters with Ionic capitals, a second story reverse portico with a first story porch set in and under, a hip roof with large dormers, prominent cornices with dentils and stained glass arched transoms on first floor windows.
A representative Revival example designed in the Italian Renaissance style is the brick home at 863 Washington Avenue. It has a ceramic tile roof, overhanging eaves supported by decorative brackets and an entrance area flanked by pilasters and recessed porch.
Examples of Prairie style are evident in the ca.1920 homes at 14, 12, 10, and 8 Ninth Street, respectively. An example of Prairie stylistic influence is featured in the 1905 residence at 1007 Jefferson Avenue. Its features include brick battened porch piers, an exterior chimney with small high-spaced windows located on either side and an interesting dormer on a side-gabled roof.
Several institutional buildings (19 buildings and 2 structures) are within the Tyrone Borough Historic District and are contributing to the District. St. Matthews Catholic Church, 1101 Cameron Avenue, is a brick and stone Richardson Romanesque style church erected in 1880. Its main stained glass window frieze bears the inscription "St. Matthews Church." Among its significant architectural features are rusticated voussoirs, a parapeted gable and elaborately detailed tower cornices. The Lincoln School at 1307 Lincoln Avenue [extant at time of nomination but now demolished] was constructed of brick and it included interestingly detailed Neo-Classical Revival stone including a balustrade-lined portico in Ionic order. An enriched stone entablature documents its construction as 1916. Concluding, the 1912 U.S. Army Armory at 920 Logan Avenue has already been established on the National Register for Historic Places.
The two contributing structures in the Tyrone Borough Historic District include the ca.1900 raised railroad bed/viaduct which runs along Washington Avenue and provides a passover/viaduct over West 10th Street. This structure combines sandstone bed base slabs and, at the viaduct, steel and truss construction for building materials. The other contributing structure is the road bridge at East Tenth Street and Blair Avenue, ca.1900, which consists of steel and truss construction and is roughly 30 feet above Bald Eagle Creek which passes beneath.
The Tyrone Borough Historic District also contains 91 noncontributing buildings which have been classified as such either because they were built following the District's period of significance or are within the period of significance but have been drastically altered architecturally from their original character. Overall, the noncontributing buildings do not detract greatly from the integrity of the Tyrone Borough Historic District. They comprise 20% of the total buildings and are widely scattered.
Overall, the Tyrone Borough Historic District's contributing buildings maintain a high degree of integrity with their exteriors remaining basically unchanged. The most common change to the business buildings has been the installation of fire escapes or signage to the building themselves. Less than 15% of those contributing have been sided in aluminum in some form. Some woodwork, especially in window frames, has deteriorated through neglect. Other changes to contributing buildings include such examples as a building addition to the American Legion at 1459 Lincoln Avenue and porches at 1056 Lincoln Avenue, 1200 Lincoln Avenue and 1060 Logan Avenue.
The Tyrone Historic District originated with the arrival of the Pennsylvania Railroad's main line in 1850. The Pennsylvania Railroad made Tyrone a junction for railroad traffic coming from short lines to the main line in northern Blair County. These railroads and the exploitation of area deposits of coal and stands of fine timber caused Tyrone to grow and prosper through the early twentieth century. Tyrone became the commercial center for northern Blair County from 1850 through 1938 as a result of the trade that flowed through Tyrone Borough. The Tyrone Borough Historic District contains the historic commercial section of Tyrone. Railroad managers and businessmen erected outstanding examples of mid-nineteenth century to early twentieth century residential architecture in the district. Their housing, along with the housing of workers who settled in the district and commercial and institutional buildings erected during the mid-nineteenth to early twentieth centuries, make the Tyrone Borough Historic District an outstanding concentration of period architecture in northern Blair County.
The first settlers in the Tyrone area appeared at least seventy-five years before the community was founded, when iron was discovered in abundance in northern Blair County. This combined with heavy stands of timber used for charcoal, rich deposits of limestone employed for smelting, and energy harnessed from numerous streams, spurred the development of the iron industry in the region. The Tyrone Forge was developed in 1805, and by 1807 a 150-ton-per-day rolling mill was erected just below the forge. The Upper Tyrone Forge was established in 1813 and an iron furnace at Bald Eagle in 1824. The arrival of the railroad in 1850 began a rush of construction activity designed to capitalize on transporting harvested natural resources and iron ore. In 1851 Lyon, Shorb and Company which owned much of the land in the area had seventy-five lots laid out in the present historic district. Frame houses and buildings were constructed in the historic district to accommodate the rising population and increased commercial activity. Businessmen of many types, including butcher, brickmaker, carpenter, potter, tanner, saddler, inn-keeper, furniture seller and clothing seller, settled in the town within a few years of its beginning. The first hotel, the City Hotel located in the historic district, was built in 1853, primarily as a stop over for railroad passengers. The first railroad station was erected also in 1853. Tyrone was incorporated as a borough in 1857.
The growth of Tyrone, including its commercial section, continued as short line railroads were built into Tyrone to connect with the Pennsylvania Railroad main line. Tyrone became one of the most important stations between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh on the main line as a hub for several branch and independent lines serving the timber- and coal-rich region. The Bald Eagle Valley Railroad Company had a line operating between Tyrone and Lock Haven by 1865. This line became one of the most heavily travelled freight arteries in the region, as well as an important passenger link between Pittsburgh and Easton. A line was constructed between Tyrone and Clearfield in 1869, and extended in 1874 to Curwensville to carry lumber and coal. This line brought thousands of tons of coal and lumber down the Allegheny Front to Tyrone and the main line. The Lewisburg and Tyrone Railroad provided service from Tyrone through Warriors Mark and on to iron mines in Scotia. Tyrone became important enough in the Pennsylvania Railroad system that the company designated the Tyrone Division in 1863. Roundhouses, scales, repair shops and yards for the division were developed outside the Tyrone Borough Historic District in East Tyrone.
Despite a devastating fire, the commercial section of the Tyrone Borough Historic District continued to grow through the later nineteenth century and into the early twentieth century as railroads brought trade into Tyrone. In 1880 a fire swept down Pennsylvania Avenue and up Tenth Street, destroying much of the earlier business district and leaving few commercial buildings from before 1880 in the historic district. Destroyed buildings were rapidly replaced and more erected. With the commercial section rebuilt, the railroad station became the focal point of the community and the block along Pennsylvania Avenue, between the station and Tenth Street (now the 900 block), became a desirable location for hotels, barber shops and stores catering to the traveller. Prunner Hall, built at 955 Pennsylvania Avenue by E. J. Prunner in 1888, contained first-floor storefronts, second-floor offices, and the third-floor Prunner Social Hall which hosted numerous social events. Robert Garman erected a building for his jewelry business at 980 Pennsylvania Avenue in 1910. The First National Bank moved to its newly constructed Italian Renaissance style building at 1000 Pennsylvania Avenue in 1906. The Conrad Building at 1052 Pennsylvania Avenue was built in 1880 just after the fire; the Tyrone post office was housed in this building from 1895 to 1930. All these commercial buildings still stand in the Tyrone Borough Historic District.
The commercial section of the Tyrone Borough Historic District served as an important commercial center for northern Blair County and nearby areas of Huntingdon County and Centre County from 1850 through 1938.The district's businesses served a market that included the area from Bellwood to Port Matilda and the Allegheny Ridge about half way to Huntingdon. By the turn of the century these businesses included, among others, a jewelry store, wholesale grocery, bank, hardware store, insurance agency, furniture store, bakery and department store. The nearest challengers to Tyrone's commercial pre-eminence in this region were Hollidaysburg and considerably larger Altoona, which served residents primarily in central Blair County. Businesses in the Tyrone Borough Historic District also served passengers travelling on the Pennsylvania main line and the short lines that joined the main line in Tyrone.
As business and the railroads prospered in Tyrone, the city grew to include more people and land. By 1870 Tyrone had grown to include 1,800 people. By the turn of the century the population was well over 5,000. At is peak in 1920, Tyrone had 9,084 residents. The village of East Tyrone was started in 1868; it extended from present-day Eighteenth Street to Twenty-Third Street. Most of the people who lived in East Tyrone were employed by the railroad repair shops. East Tyrone was incorporated in 1873 and consolidated with Tyrone in 1893. The Hillcrest area of the borough lying between Fifth and Third Streets was added by 1915. The growth of the borough was aided by the creation in 1901 of the "Tyrone Street Railway Company" which served the borough and connected Tyrone to the surrounding countryside, including Bellwood and Altoona.
As Tyrone expanded, railroad managers, local businessmen and workers erected houses, many of which are located within the Tyrone Borough Historic District. Residences within the district were built in high styles popular during the later nineteenth and early twentieth century, including the Queen Anne, Gothic Revival, Colonial Revival, Neo-Classical Revival and Prairie styles. These residential buildings, together with the commercial buildings erected with later-nineteenth and early-twentieth century architectural details, and Institutional edifices built in such high styles as Romanesque and Neo-Classical Revival comprise an outstanding concentration of 1850-1938 architecture in northern Blair County. No other concentration of contemporary architecture exists in northern Blair County to rival the Tyrone Borough Historic District in terms of numbers of buildings and richness of styles and architectural detailing. The nearest concentration of period architecture that excels the historic district in these terms is in Altoona, which has a larger collection of later nineteenth and early twentieth century residential, commercial and institutional architecture scattered throughout the city.
The end of the Tyrone Borough Historic District's period of significance is marked by the closing of the rail trolley in 1938. The automobile also reduced the importance of rail travel on the Pennsylvania Railroad main line and short lines, and thus the importance of Tyrone. The Tyrone Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad was merged into the Middle Division, leading to the dismantling of the yard and shops in Tyrone, and the curtailing of railroad company expenditures in the town. The commercial, residential and institutional buildings in the Tyrone Borough Historic District remain to represent the commercial and architectural significance of Tyrone.
Ralph T. Wolfgang. A Short History of Tyrone. Tyrone: June, 1950.
Rev. W.H. Wilson. Tyrone of Today: Gateway of the Alleghenies. Vol 1. Tyrone: Press of Herald, 1976.
Tyrone Area Bicentennial Committee. Tyrone of Today (1897-1976). Vol. 2. Tyrone: Press of Herald, 1976.
Richard Sutter Associates, Inc., draft National Register nominations for the Tyrone Historic District, April and September, 1991.