Patton Historic District
The Patton Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. 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 Patton Historic District in Cambria County Pennsylvania is made up of large architecturally distinguished residences, church buildings, former school buildings and modest vernacular dwellings. It is bordered on the south by Magee Street, Patton Borough's commercial thoroughfare. The district's north boundary is also the north edge of the Borough's residential section, beyond which lies a shopping complex and senior citizen housing complex. To the east and west of the district are residential areas with less architectural integrity. The district's hillside location increases the prominence of the large homes and institutional buildings, most flanked by brick pavers sidewalks and streets. Architectural styles include Colonial Revival, Foursquare, Romanesque Revival and Queen Anne. Working class houses in the district are vernacular frame dwellings, and the company-built examples are a uniform design. Most homes are two to two-and-one-half stories tall. Half of the building stock is constructed with Patton produced bricks; others are shingled or have vinyl siding. Many of the tree-lined streets and sidewalks are also built with Patton pavers. There are 42 contributing and seven noncontributing buildings in the district. This is Patton's oldest neighborhood, where most buildings were built before 1900.
Patton Borough is located 30 miles north of the City of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The district is a small neighborhood located in the north central portion of the Borough. The district is historically different from the rest of the Borough because within its boundaries are the greatest concentration of historic institutional buildings and upper-class housing, set amidst both company and privately built working class housing. The district contains the best collection of historic architecture in the Borough. Compared to the district, the rest of Borough's neighborhoods are made up of modest vernacular housing without the concentration of larger dwellings or institutional buildings.
Within the district, larger homes are located along Beech Avenue and to a lesser extent Fifth Avenue. At the foot of Palmer Avenue on Fifth Avenue are the district's two largest residential buildings, twin brick double houses. A group of modest former company homes line the north side of Palmer Avenue. The district's four churches are positioned along the borders of the district with the largest, St. Mary's church complex, occupying the entire west side of Sixth Avenue between Beech and Palmer Avenues. Two vacant public schools occupy a large parcel at the corner of Fifth and Beech Avenues. A personal care home occupies a contributing historic residential building at the corner of Palmer and Sixth Avenue.
The predominant style of architecture is Foursquare, including masonry and wood frame examples. The 1899 St. Mary's Rectory, 907 Sixth Avenue, is a polychrome brick building with yellow brick walls and red brick details in quoins and segmental arched openings. It has a hip roof and dormers with gabled returns. Another example is the 1903 house at 522 Beech Avenue, with a reversed polychrome pattern of red brick walls and yellow brick segmental arches and quoins. This home also features a hip roof, an original one bay front portico with fluted Doric columns and pilasters. A third in this style is 908 North Fifth Avenue (ca. 1910), a wood frame house with one over one double hung sash, front verandah with Doric columns, and original clapboard siding.
The second most popular style in the district is Colonial Revival. These are some of the largest homes, concentrated around the district's west boundary near Sixth Avenue. The ca. 1897 A. O. Summerville Home, 520 Beech Avenue, has a hip roof, Queen Anne window sash, paired dormers, consoles under the eaves, and a centered entry door with sidelights. The ca. 1897 W. H. Sanford House, 519 Palmer Avenue, occupies a prominent corner plot at Sixth Avenue and is bordered by a historic cast iron fence on 2 sides. This yellow brick dwelling has a hip roof, recessed center entry with leaded sidelights, segmental arched openings, dormers with flanking pilasters, louvered shutters, and a half dozen art glass windows. The ca. 1915 dwelling at 601 Beech Avenue is a late addition to the district. It has a hip roof with large multi-sash dormers, sixteen over one and one over one double hung sash, and two story bay windows. There is a center entryway with sidelights, one bay Doric columned porch, and a sun porch with rooftop balustrade.
There are several wood frame Queen Anne style houses in the district, built in the waning years of that style's popularity. Probably the most intact of any high style residence in the district is the ca. 1890 Charles Rhody House, 515 Palmer Avenue. This richly embellished multi-gabled work includes clapboard sidewalls, decorative bands of fish scale shingles, brackets, and hooded gables with a crisscross stick design. The full width front porch has turned balusters and Doric columns. Windows are one over one and two over one double hung sash. A modest interpretation of the same style is the Dr. Stiles House (1907) at 912 North Fifth Avenue. There is a two-and-one-half story multi-gable roof, wraparound porch, original clapboard siding, and well preserved interior fabric including wood grained doors and trim.
Significant numbers of well preserved vernacular houses are located throughout the district. A number are built in brick, attesting to easily available and affordable masonry products in turn of the century Patton. The identical side by side Prindible Houses, substantial brick dwellings, dominate the north end of North Fifth Avenue in the district. The house at 1001-1003 North Fifth dates ca. 1893, while 1005-1007 was built later, ca. 1897. Each has twin steep cross gables, Stick style paneled gable ends, and massive wrap around porches with curvilinear brackets and turned balusters. The prominent corner location and elevated porches further magnify the prominence of the pair. The ca. 1903 brick dwelling at 913 North Fifth Avenue is a yellow brick house with a wraparound colonnaded porch and multi-gable roof. The Dr. J. A. Murray House (1905), 900 North Fifth Avenue, another brick house, has stone sills and lintels, side and rear porches with paneled posts and turned balusters, and a beveled two story bay window. Fine interior details include egg and dart moldings over doorways and a stained hardwood staircase with turned balusters and decorative newel post. The modest 3 bay brick home (ca. 1897) at 511 Palmer Avenue displays a front gable roof and brick segmental window arches. A wood frame L-shaped house (ca. 1897) at 503 Palmer Avenue retains many original features: two over two double sash windows with peaked window lintels, clapboard siding, and a front verandah with square porch posts.
Palmer Avenue, with a few exceptions, is occupied by modest dwellings including the north side of Palmer where the Pennsylvania Coal and Coke Co. built six plank houses. Each is a small, two story, T-shaped, side gable house with a full width front porch and small rear porch. The Crowell's House, at 502 Palmer, retains the standard interior layout with a centered front porch door leading to side by side living and dining rooms. The kitchen is located in the rear wing. The stairway on the living room's rear wall leads to a small upstairs hall accessing three bedrooms. A full basement dug out in recent years allowed installation of central heating, replacing small stoves in first floor rooms. Many of these former company homes have had vinyl siding and new windows installed as energy saving measures.
Churches and related buildings are an important component of the district. At the center of St. Mary's Catholic parish complex on Sixth Avenue is the Romanesque Revival style church building, flanked by the rectory (1899), 907 Sixth Avenue, and school (1913), 901 Sixth Avenue. The Parish Hall, located on Palmer Avenue just outside the district boundary, was put up in 1990. St. Mary's Church (1899), 909-911 Sixth Avenue, is Patton's largest and one of its finest displays of masonry workmanship. This 56 by 120 foot edifice, seating 800 parishioners, is highlighted by a massive bell tower and spire, executed in polychrome brick. Architectural details include contrasting brick pilasters, corbelling, and stained glass windows. The vacant parish school, located at Sixth and Beech Avenues, has changed little over eighty-two years except for the removal of the bell tower. The architectural focus is a projecting center entrance pavilion and a series of stacked, round headed, stained glass window units: a transom over the doorway, an oversized window group on the stair landing, and a half circle window in the gable. Groups of four curvilinear brackets supported by corbelled brick bases are other decorative features. Rough faced stone sills, lintels, and a raised foundation contrast the red brick walls.
Trinity United Methodist Church, 501 Beech Avenue, anchors the southeast corner of the district at Fifth Avenue. Built in 1901, the building was gutted by fire in 1949, substantially rebuilt and reopened in 1951. Despite alterations, the building remains a contributing resource. The church's red brick walls, fenestration pattern and tower are still intact as are corner buttresses and stone details. The interior's tasteful redesign included new art glass windows, a beamed ceiling and hardwood pews. The east wing's flat roof, replacing the original conical roof, preserves the wing's semicircular dimensions. Saint Peter and Paul Byzantine Catholic Church (1893), 518 Palmer Avenue, has stained glass windows and an iconostas or screen with icons and holy images. The front steps, added in 1950, feature a tiled panel dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The 1904 Saint Peter and Paul Orthodox Church, 1006 North Fifth Avenue, is the district's smallest church. Its short six sided tower, topped with a small onion dome and Byzantine cross, contains the two original church bells. There are lancet arches in the louvered belfry and side windows. Side windows have stained glass sash installed in 1977. The rear of this rectangular church has a protruding apse. Despite loss of the original candle lit chandelier and potbelly stove, original wainscoting survives under the wall paneling and parish icons are prominent.
A second institutional type present in the district is the public school. Now vacant Cambria Heights Middle School (1894), 500 Beech Avenue, and Patton High School (1903), 508 Beech Avenue are linked by a ground level walkway. The Middle School features Gothic details in the center entrance framed with stone voussoirs, segmental brick arches, and stone waterlines. The High School building, which projects out nearly to the edge of the sidewalk, displays Gothic ornament around its main entrance, in blind pointed arches, stone courses, and a lancet arched portal made out of cut stone.
There are a total of 49 buildings in the district. Of this total, 42 or 86% were found to be contributing resources. There are seven or 14% of the buildings ranked as noncontributing. In all but one case, a ca. 1960 church rectory, all noncontributing buildings are older with severe alterations destroying their historic building fabric. Examples include the once elaborate Queen Anne style house at 514 Beech Avenue, with vinyl siding and new small window units. Similarly, 910 North Fifth Avenue's complete exterior redesign with new windows and vinyl siding has removed any evidence of historic building fabric. Vinyl siding, window replacements, altering or eliminating porches, and removing architectural details are relatively common occurrences and in combination can significantly alter a building's historic integrity.
Many dwellings in the district have been altered but still retain their basic architectural integrity. The house at 520 Beech Avenue, although it is resided with asphalt shingles, retains Queen Anne windows, dormers and eave consoles. The J. A. Murray House, on North Fifth, lacks its original front porch, removed for maintenance reasons. However, it retains both side and rear porch, old windows, stone sills and lintels, and other original features. Company-built houses on Palmer Avenue, built to identical specifications, have been individualized by owners over the years. New siding, windows and enclosed porches are common, but the houses retain a common building shape, roof type, fenestration pattern, and orientation to the street.
Several modern day building additions are notable for their compatibility with the district's historic fabric. The United Methodist Church, rebuilt following a disastrous 1949 fire, retains large sections of the original brick walls, with new art glass windows, a beamed ceiling and hardwood pews added. The front porch of Tranquil Manor, the former W. H. Sanford House on Palmer Avenue, was rebuilt in recent years much like the original. Now converted to a personal care facility, it provides a home-like atmosphere for its residents. The Central Cambria School District office, located in a former residence, is at 510 Beech Avenue. The Doric columned front porch, segmental arched windows and interior woodwork have all been preserved in this adaptive reuse project. The overall district maintains a high degree of integrity. Despite alterations made to many buildings, their exteriors remain largely intact.
The Patton Historic District is significant for its late nineteenth and early twentieth century style architecture. The district is one of Patton's major concentrations of architecturally styled houses. There are examples of Colonial Revival, Foursquare and Queen Anne styles. It also includes vernacular housing, some of it built for workers employed by the Pennsylvania Coal and Coke Company, Cambria County's largest coal company in the early twentieth century. There is also a well preserved group of institutional buildings, including four churches and three school buildings, several displaying Romanesque Revival architecture. The district is also significant in the area of industry, based on its association with the Chest Creek Improvement Company, Patton Clay Manufacturing Company, nearby coal mines and related industries. It contains the houses of industrial managers and company houses, reflecting the importance of these major industries to the local economy. The district's period of significance begins in 1892 when the settlement of Patton was started and ends in 1920, after which very little new construction took place.
See also: Patton Borough: Beginnings
In contrast to most coal patch towns, Patton's founders envisioned a diversified town. They invested in a variety of businesses, in addition to coal mines, in and around Patton. The founders speculated in residential lots and invested in hotels, retail businesses and a clay goods manufacturing plant. Benefiting from this development were local secondary industries including lumber, railroad, hauling, and agriculture, which further expanded the job base. Patton Clay Manufacturing Company was established in 1893 by G. S. Good, James Kerr, and Alexander Patton. The company was lured from West Virginia by the promise of excellent rail linkages, an ample labor supply and easily accessible clay and coal deposits. Patton Clay Company built its manufacturing plant just outside the district's north end at Terra Cotta Street (torn down ca. 1980). It produced many clay products including sewer pipe and built a reputation for Patton building and paving bricks, which were shipped worldwide. Many homes, businesses, streets and sidewalks in the district are built with Patton bricks.
In 1894 the Borough of Patton opened its first public school, located at 500 Beech Avenue. This massive two story brick building was designed by the firm of Robinson and Snyder of Altoona and built by W. B. Auman of Patton. In 1903 Patton High School was constructed, on an adjoining parcel, by William Diamond of Johnstown at a cost of $66,000. The two buildings were joined by a ground level walkway. Otherwise vernacular, both buildings have formal entry portals enriched with Gothic detailing.
Patton Borough's two oldest congregations were organized in the district: Our Lady of Perpetual Help (at 909-911 Sixth Avenue, today St. Mary's Catholic) and Trinity United Methodist. The original St. Mary's Church (1893) no longer stands. The original Trinity United Methodist Church was built at Sixth and Palmer in 1893, on land donated by the CCLIC where the land office had been located. Construction of the church was assisted by a financial contribution from John Patton. R. L. Goff, a local civil engineer, designed the building.
By the turn of the century, as the Borough's population continued to expand, three new churches were built in the district. Trinity United Methodist Church outgrew their first building and purchased land at the corner of Fifth and Beech Avenues where they constructed a larger brick church in 1901. It was designed by Charles M. Robinson of Altoona. The Romanesque Revival style edifice was gutted by fire in 1949 and rebuilt in 1951, under the direction of architect George C. Hoppel. St. Mary's Catholic Church congregation outgrew its first building, which was removed from the site and transported out of the district to house another congregation. In 1899, St. Mary's built both a new Romanesque Revival style brick church and a Foursquare design polychrome brick rectory. Building materials and labor were donated by parishioners. The congregation purchased additional land on the west side of Sixth Avenue and built a brick Romanesque Revival parochial school (1913; occupied until 1987). They also purchased a 12 room residence for a convent (demolished 1990). St. Peter and Paul Orthodox Church, founded in 1904, built their small vernacular church in the same year at the corner of North Fifth Avenue and Terra Cotta Street. The church is distinguished by a small onion dome atop the bell tower. The fourth congregation located in the district, St. Peter and Paul Byzantine Catholic Church, evolved from the Greek Catholic Union founded in 1898. In 1900 they purchased the former Trinity United Methodist Church building, corner Sixth and Palmer Avenues, for $1,600. This vernacular frame structure, later sheathed in brick, added an iconostas in 1988.
Patton's major industry, mining, employed over 600 miners who resided in the Borough at the turn of the century. Privately financed housing was not built fast enough to house all the new workers and their families. The Pennsylvania Coal and Coke Company built groups of company houses for its employees on several streets in Patton. One group (ca. 1897) is at 502, 504, 506, 508, 510, and 512 Palmer Avenue. These six identical vernacular two story, T-shaped wood plank buildings are characteristic of the coal company houses built in Patton around the turn of the century.
The construction of Patton Clay Manufacturing Company in 1893, just outside the north line of the district, made building lots in the district attractive to both blue collar and management employees. The twin Prindible Houses (ca. 1890s) at 1001-1003 and 1005-1007 North Fifth Avenue, built by Patton Clay's onetime Secretary/Treasurer, are very substantial vernacular two-and-one-half story brick building with cross gable roofs and Victorian wood trim on wrap-around porches. Company Superintendent John Moren resided at 1004 North Fifth Avenue (ca. 1910), a two-and-one-half story vernacular brick home one block from the clay plant. The house was occupied by Stevens Funeral Homes in the 1930s.
Management of both Patton Clay and local mining companies resided in the district's west section, where a number of larger homes were built. Civil and Mining Engineer E. C. Brown, who first surveyed Patton in 1892 and later became Superintendent of Real Estate for Beech Creek Coal and Coke Company, lived at 512 Beech Avenue (ca. 1900) before the 1920s. The large home with wrap around porch and stained glass windows, was later purchased by Ralph E. Good, one-time Secretary of Patton Clay Company and son of company founder George S. Good. A. O. Summerville, Division Manager of Pennsylvania Coal and Coke Company, occupied the impressive ca. 1897 Colonial Revival home at. 520 Beech Avenue. W. H. Sanford, the first Secretary/Treasurer of Patton Clay Company, lived at 519 Palmer Avenue (ca. 1897), one of the most elegant Colonial Revival homes in the district.
Residents employed in Patton's many secondary businesses also lived in the district, which was only one block north of the Borough's main commercial street. Charles Rhody resided in the ca. 1890 high style Queen Anne residence at 515 Palmer Avenue. Rhody Lumber Company purchased timber rights around Patton in 1898, built a sawmill, sold timber and supplied railroad ties. Their storage yard was near the railroad office on Magee Avenue. William Denlinger, an oil dealer and Patton postmaster in 1916, resided at 906 North Fifth Avenue.
North Fifth Avenue, the last street settled in the district, was named "doctors' row" for the number of physicians who have lived there since the early years of the Borough. The brick Dr. J. A. Murray House (1905), 900 North Fifth at the corner with Beech Avenue, is one of the best preserved vernacular brick houses in the Borough. One of Patton's earliest physicians, Dr. S. W. Worell, lived at 913 North Fifth, in a house built ca. 1903. He practiced medicine beginning in 1893 and continued for three decades. Dr. Walter Blair, who opened a practice in Patton in 1903, resided at 904 North Fifth, constructed about 1910. Dr. Stiles owned the dwelling at 912 North Fifth Avenue (1907), a substantial Queen Anne style home.
The district was delineated from the community as a whole because it stands out as the earliest residential growth area where most of the early noncommercial institutions also developed. Simultaneously, dwellings for the working class, professionals and managers were built in the area defined by the district. Class separation in the district is by street instead of by neighborhood boundaries. Company houses on Palmer Avenue are separated by one block from the large single family manager class houses on Beech Avenue and one block from "physicians row" on North Fifth Avenue. The rest of Patton's neighborhoods were more uniformly built as working class areas and these houses are generally vernacular two story dwellings. The apparent democratic nature of the district's population throughout its history is not the result of planning by community founders, by rather a result of expediency. This contrasts from the strict class divisions in most industrial towns.
The district compares favorably with other architecturally distinguished neighborhoods. Westmont Borough, built by the Cambria Iron Company and also founded in the 1890's, shares some of the same architectural styles. Colonial Revival, Queen Anne and Foursquare styles are strongly represented. There is a wider variety of styles in Westmont, including Stick, Shingle and Prairie styles. The easy accessibility of Patton brick was economical for institutional buildings and easily adapted to the Romanesque Revival style. Stone faced construction, in the Gothic Revival style, is utilized for both churches and one school in Westmont. The Moxham neighborhood of Johnstown is another concentration of turn of the century architecture. There many of the larger homes have been divided into apartments and others demolished for church or parking lot construction. In contrast, Patton Historic District has been relatively stable, with little new construction or demolition since 1920. The lack of growth pressure in Patton has assisted in the preservation of its historic building stock. Whereas Moxham retains larger Colonial Revival and Queen Anne style homes, Patton's residential architecture is predominantly in the Foursquare style. The wider range of architectural and construction expertise available to Johnstown area neighborhoods may partly explain the preponderance of a few styles in Patton, a small rural community.
The district has six company built houses on Palmer Street which are well preserved and similar in scale and appearance to houses built by the Pennsylvania Coal and Coke Company in other sections of the Borough. Company built houses were also constructed on McGuire, Herrington, Kerr, McKee, and Lang Streets outside the district. The typical Patton coal miner house is a two story, T-shaped six room house. Coal company built houses are also found in Windber, Pa., founded as the corporate headquarters of Berwind Coal and Coke Company. Windber served outlying coal patch towns also owned by Berwind Coal and Coke Company. Windber's six room houses with side gable roofs and three bay fenestration patterns are similar in appearance to Patton's company built houses. Star Junction, built by the Washington Coal and Coke Company, is a smaller mine coal patch town which offered miners semi-detached houses. Patton's distribution of coal company houses, in scattered groups, differs from both Windber and Star Junction where houses were built in larger concentrations. Patton's overall preponderance of privately built houses, and the smaller number of company built houses, may be attributable to its more diversified economy.
Patton can be compared with larger industrial communities like Windber and Johnstown. The Cambria City Historic District (N.R. listed 1991), a Johnstown neighborhood, grew up in close proximity to the Cambria Iron Company. It was planned as a uniform working class neighborhood, a separate enclave for immigrants working in the mills and mines. The company managers resided in Johnstown's middle and upper class neighborhoods, not in Cambria City. Patton's Historic District, in contrast, was a more democratic mixture including company built houses for the working class, substantial dwellings for professionals and some of the Borough's largest homes built for the industrial managers. Windber, a community built by the Berwind Company as its regional headquarters, had a somewhat varied economic base like Patton. However, it was still largely dependent on the fortunes of Berwind Corporation. The Windber Historic District is divided into managerial and working class sections, and was planned that way from the beginning. Located on high ground on "the Hill" is an exclusive residential area of Colonial Revival, Queen Anne and Bungalow style homes. Working class houses surround the commercial area and are set apart from the exclusive managerial enclave.
Patton's population peaked in 1923, at 4,000 residents. The mining industry began to decline by the 1920s. As a result, after 1920 very little new construction occurred in the district, the ending of the district's period of significance. There were only two major building projects undertaken after 1920, both by religious institutions. The 1951 reconstruction of Trinity United Methodist Church followed a devastating fire at the building. In ca. 1960, a new rectory was constructed at 516 Palmer Avenue by St. Peter and Paul Church.
By the 1950s the demand for Pennsylvania coal dropped off dramatically. Labor troubles, competition from oil, and a declining market were factors contributing to the trend. Patton Clay Works, closed in 1968, was torn down in the 1980s and became the site of a senior citizens center and shopping plaza. Clearfield Bituminous Coal Company (formerly Pennsylvania Coal and Coke Company houses) sold off 50 company houses to their tenants in 1947.
The year 1920 is the date of last construction in the district. Patton's shrinking economy and falling population continued after World War II. One result was deferred home maintenance, particularly by owners of large residences. A number of house conversions into apartments and other uses followed. Despite these changes in use, and minor alterations to much of the building stock, Patton Historic District stands out as the richest collection of turn of the century residential, religious, and institutional architecture in Patton Borough. The district retains a strong physical connection with the heritage of Patton through the history and integrity of its diverse historic building stock.
A Century of Community: Patton, PA 1893-1993. Patton Centennial Book Committee, 1993.
Fitzsimmons, Gray, ed. Blair County and Cambria County, Pennsylvania: An Inventory of Historic Engineering and Industrial Sites. Washington: National Park Service, 1990.
Mulrooney, Margaret M. A Legacy of Coal: The Coal Company Towns of Southwestern Pennsylvania. Washington: National Park Service, 1989.
Sanborn Maps of Patton, PA., Sanborn-Perris Map Co., Ltd, 1895, 1898, 1903, 1919 and 1930.