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McAllister-Beaver House


McAllister-Beaver House, East Bishop Street, Bellefonte Borough, Centre County, National Register of Historic Places,

Photo: McAllister-Beaver House, East Bishop Street, Bellefonte Borough, Centre County, National Register of Historic Places,

The McAllister-Beaver House (817 E. Bishop St.) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1] Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.

Description

The McAllister-Beaver House is a massive, two-story, five-bay limestone structure located at 817 East Bishop Street (Pa. Route 550), Bellefonte. The house stands in a recently developed residential and commercial area and remains as one of the last of the rural farm dwellings which surrounded the borough. The residence features many traditional Georgian building characteristics, including a balanced facade, low gable roof, and the center hall plan. The original structure, a two-story, four-over-four Pennsylvania stone farmhouse, suggests the early Pennsylvania builders' affinity for construction of Georgian buildings. It featured ten fireplaces, an exposed basement in the rear, and a rectangular plan of 42'4" by 34'2". Aside from its traditional Georgian design, the handling of the fine exterior details gives the structure a cosmopolitan air. This "city" presence is quickly recognized in such details as the cast-iron lintels and the imposing entranceway. The lintels were possibly cast at the Bellefonte Forge, suggesting the relationship of this house to the early iron industry of Centre County.

The facade of the building is of evenly-coursed, rectangular limestone blocks with flush, squared quoining. The windows are all six-over-six and in their original state, topped by cast-iron lintels featuring a flower motif. One of the house's most outstanding features is its main entranceway. A large oval panel makes up most of the door, which is a later Victorian type, with carved floral patterns located inside the resulting spandrels. Planking the door are two pairs of plain-shafted Ionic columns, each pair centered by a recessed, five-pane sidelight. The columns support an entablature with dentils, above which is located a recessed, horizontal band of ten glass panes set in two courses of five. A wooden lintel, recessed below a larger iron one, makes up the crown of the door section.

In 1913, several repairs and additions were made: A 20'1" x 23' kitchen ell of sandstone and unevenly-coursed rubble limestone was added to the rear of the house. On the west face, a two-story limestone window bay with hipped roof was built eliminating two fireplaces; extending the depth of the original structure is a two-bay, one-story porch having piers with Doric profiles. Evidence of further repair to the west face is found in the doorway leading from the house to the porch, built to the immediate right of the window bay. Another porch, with simple piers and hipped roof, was added to the east side of the north face to accommodate a new door off the kitchen ell, as well as the original door. Inside, the northeast corner of the house and its stairway from the basement kitchen to a second-story bedroom were blocked off for use as servants' quarters. Privacy then necessitated closing off portions of the main staircase, causing interruptions in its three-story spiral motion. Two fireplaces in the basement, and two more at the east end of the second story were sealed, leaving four still in use. Recent repair to the upper story of the kitchen ell added a new roof, casement windows, and siding, this repair being the only major alteration out of character with the rest of the house.

The stonework at each of the gable ends gives way to paired chimney tops of rye-straw brick. A low-gabled dormer is located at the center of the northern roof section, admitting light to the staircase from attic level. The stairs of the main staircase are of shallow stride; the cylindrical staircase rail rests on a simple newel post.

Significance

The McAllister-Beaver House, located in Bellefonte at 817 East Bishop Street, represents one of the most refined and interestingly detailed stone farmhouses in Centre County. Greek Revival decorative features are combined with a basic Georgian plan in a house which represents one phase of local vernacular house types. It is associated with two prominent county residents of the mid-1800's: Hugh N. McAllister, one of the founders of the Farmer's High School (now the Pennsylvania State University), and James A. Beaver, former Governor of Pennsylvania.

Built around 1850, the house exemplifies the ordered simplicity of early Georgian architecture in its symmetry and plan. Greek Revival exterior detailing is found in the delicately patterned cast-iron lintels and in the handsome recessed entranceway flanked by sidelights and pairs of free-standing Ionic columns. The regularity of the high quality stonework provides the sort of smooth facade favored in the Greek style. Centre County domestic architecture was not highly influenced by the Greek Revival, but many vernacular buildings did exhibit elements of the style. The McAllister-Beaver House is representative of the Pennsylvania farmhouse with this Greek Revival inflection, built before the local currency of more academic styles such as the Gothic Revival and the Italianate. Its builder incorporated decorative elements in a very careful manner, maintaining the farmhouse character while adding enough rich detail to please an influential owner.

The McAllister-Beaver property is part of a 229 acre tract of land bought by ironmaster Philip Benner in 1808. After his death in 1832, the land was divided among heirs who later sold their portions to various individuals. In 1850, Hugh McAllister bought several adjoining tracts of this land and set up a 100-acre farm.

McAllister was born on his father's farm in Juniata County in 1809. He graduated from Jefferson College in Canonsburg in 1833, studied law in Carlisle, and in 1835 entered into law practice with the Hon. W. W. Potter in Bellefonte. Though he was involved in this highly successful law practice, he maintained a strong interest in the science of agriculture. His studies led him to discover that the farmers of the area were not using their land to its best advantage, and he visited counties where more advanced methods were practiced, hoping to gain knowledge that would benefit the farmers of Centre County. In Lancaster he met Frederick Watts, a member of the General Assembly, and together they made plans for the establishment of a school of agriculture. They drew a charter, procured contributions of land and money from several Centre County citizens, and had a $50,000 appropriations bill passed by the Legislature in May of 1857. The school was constructed on land donated by General James Irvin, and the Farmer's High School began its first term on February 16,1859.

References

Linn, John Blair. The History of Centre and Clinton Counties. Philadelphia. Louis H.Everts, 1883.

Mitchell, J. Thomas."A Glimpse of Local History," A collection of newspaper articles published in the Keystone Gazette, Bellefonte, Pa. 1951-58. Centre Co. Library, Bellefonte.

Montgomery, Dorothy J. "A Lawyer, Farmer, and Leader" Newspaper article — Pennsylvania Mirror, State College, Pa., September 12, 1975.

  1. Reade, Nancy, Centre County Historic Registration Project, McAllister-Beaver House, nomination document, 1978, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

McAllister-Beaver House Map

Street Names
Bishop Street East • McAllister Street South

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