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Miles-Humes House


Miles-Humes House, National Register of Historic Places, Bellefonte Borough, Centre County, PA

Photo: Miles-Humes House, National Register of Historic Places, Bellefonte Borough, Centre County, PA

The Miles-Humes House (200 North Allegheny Street) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [] Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.

Description

The earliest known photograph of the Centre County Library and Historical Museum building is an album photograph in the Museum's collection, which probably dates to the 1870's. It is evident from this picture that few changes had been made to the two story stone house built symmetrical in plan. It has a large attic story under a gable roof with three dormers breaking through, and large stone chimneys at either gable end. There is a molded cornice beneath the roof line with dentils and with a slash ornamentation in the frieze. The doorway possesses a bracketed, molded cornice with dentils. Panelled double doors are set inside a panelled jamb and a rectangular transom appears above. There appears to be a stained glass window as the transom and it is apparent that the original door was replaced and the doorway modified circa 1860's.

In 1895, a brick annex and the ell were torn down and the rectangular limestone house was lifted four feet from its foundation and moved twelve feet back from the street. The changes which followed this operation are documented in a photo reproduced in a 1900 publication celebrating Centre County's centennial, as well as being evident in the present structure. The overall conception is Victorian-Palladian. The following features deserve attention:

  1. The facade was given a new central emphasis with the replacement of the middle window on the second story with a doorway flanked with side lights and the replacement of the original entrance on the first floor with an arrangement similar to that above. Finally, the central dormer was enlarged and the two windows used instead of one.
  2. The northern end of the building received a two story polygonal bay. Two square leaded stained glass windows break the outer face of this bay, one on each story (they are seen centered over mantelpieces from the interior).
  3. Both the main facade and northern end were given porches which feature masonry foundations, stone pillars combined with stocky Doric columns, and balustrades. A balustrade also appears above the two story bay, and a roof parapet continues this accent.
  4. A new stone ell was constructed to the rear with a truncated gable roof. The southern end of this ell was extended on the third story over a two story porch. There are double window dormers, one at each northern and southern sides and a projected, tapering stone chimney along the northern wall. There is a two story bay projected into the space of the porch and possessing a square leaded stained glass window on each story. These windows are plastered over on the interior.
  5. Wooden window sills on the first story of the old house were replaced with sills of stone.
  6. The old house was given a water table, about two feet off the ground.
  7. A full basement was created under both front and rear sections with a 12" by 12" center beam running across the width of the house, resting on brick pillars 6' across by 17" deep.

The porches and balustrades were removed during remodelling in 1949, returning the exterior character of the house to that of the earlier period.

The interior of the house today reveals a mixture of Georgian and late Victorian features. It should be noted that many of the details of the original house were left intact and that the 1895-96 additions are sympathetic to the earlier style. The stairway is a case in point. A Victorian panelled newel and Victorian ornate pressed board along the stair well and on undersurface of the stairway, but with the ramped handrail, simple square balusters and ornamented stair ends all dating to the original construction.

The main entrance of the house opens into a vestibule created, most probably, in 1895 and measuring approximately 5 feet 10 inches deep by 8 feet across. It is panelled on lateral walls and on its ceiling with ornate pressed board. A wall separates the vestibule from the hall and is opened by a door with panels of etched frosted glass. The hall widens to 10 feet further back, putting the stairway partially in offset. It is wainscotted with pressed board. Its ceiling and cove joining wall and ceiling are of this same material.

The hall is flanked by two rooms on either side — front and rear parlors. In each case, the parlors have been connected in the late Victorian remodelling by opening up the wall between them with large doorways.

The two parlors to the left upon entering each possesses handsome Civil War era marble mantelpieces with arched fireplace openings. They are white marble and are Italianate in style. The parlors to the right have marbleized slate mantles of the same design.

The parlors to the left have pressed boards ceilings in a delicate motif of wreaths, medallions, flowers and garlands. The ornate acanthus pattern fixtures for the suspension of electric lights have been preserved, but are not in use.

The windows in all these rooms have their original panelled jambs, but the original 6-over-6 lights have been replaced here, as in the rest of the house, with large panes.

The stairway is open-newelled and leads to a second floor hall. A small chamber was created at the front of this hall, probably in late Victorian times, with the insertion of a wall with glassed doorway, flanking glassed panels and a broad fanlight overhead.

The two rooms at the front of the house on this story house the Museum and the Linn Room (a collection of items associated with Bellefonte's prominent Linn Family). The Museum room (which is front/left, as you face the house) has an exceptionally nice carved mantelpiece of the early period.

The stairway continued to the third floor which is sectioned into rooms and has ample space.

The rear section of the house dates to 1895-96. There are two fireplaces in this section, along the southern walls on first and second stories. There is a stairway with turned balusters between the second and third floors. Beyond these features, the outfitting of this section is quite simple.

Today, the front of the house contains public library collections, historical collections, office and storage space, and the Museum and Linn Room. The rear section houses offices of the Central Pennsylvania District Library Center, library collections and workroom. This year [1976], the public library collections will be moving to a building across the street, making available more room for historical collections and providing space for a memorial room.

Significance

The Centre County Library and Historical Museum building provides one documented example of how early stone houses of Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, were altered to suit the changing needs and tastes of the late Victorian period. The town of Bellefonte experienced a building boom in the last quarter of the 19th Century. New houses were built where there had previously been no settlement. A considerable degree of pride in the progressiveness of the community and its up-to-date buildings is reflected in the contemporary press. Although this Victorian exuberance did not amplify to the wholesale destruction of older buildings, a definite shift of esteem occurred in favor of the newer, and strictly residential neighborhoods. The founders of Bellefonte and its early businessmen for the most part had lived in the center of her governmental and commercial activity. Beginning as early as the late 1860's the outlying sections of town, and particularly farther North Allegheny Street and intersecting streets were being occupied by some of Bellefonte's most influential citizens.

The history of the present building begins in the period 1814-16, with the erection of a two-story stone home in the Georgian style. This home was built for Captain Joseph Miles, an ironmaster and co-founder of the town of Milesburg, Pennsylvania (1793). Miles was a founding stockholder and first teller and book-keeper of the Centre Bank of Pennsylvania. This bank was created following an act of Assembly in 1814, and served the district of Centre, Clearfield, McKean, Lycoming, Potter, and Tioga counties. It was located in a home on a corner (SE) of Allegheny and Howard Streets, diagonally opposite the site where Miles built his residence. These buildings, at that time, were bordering on the outskirts of town.

Captain Miles sold the house to William Wilson Potter in 1830. Potter was a distinguished lawyer and, in 1836, was elected to the United States Congress by the largest majority given a candidate from this region up to that time. After Potter's sudden death in 1830, his widow invited her niece, Lucy Alexander Humes (1811-1886), and Lucy's husband, Edward C. Humes (1810-1895), to make their home with her. Humes was a founding officer in the private banking company "Humes, McAllister, Hale & Co." which was established in 1856. In 1864, the institution merged into the First National Bank of Bellefonte and Humes served as president of that bank until his death in 1895. William Potter Humes, a son, carried on the family's association with banking. He was a member of the board of directors of the First National Bank for 36 years. By the will of the last Humes survivor, Anna Elmira Humes (d.1935), the house was left for the purpose of accommodating a community library, if one could be organized in reasonable time. The bequest of the house gave new impetus to the idea of forming such a library. Finally, in March, 1938, the Library Association was given title to the building.

The Centre County Library and Historical Museum building owes its significance to its association with Captain Joseph Miles, the Potter and Humes families and to its building history. The original stone house built by Captain Miles was, in every way, typical of its period, being built in the dignified Georgian style of that period, and set close to the street. Some slight changes were made by banker E. C. Humes. It is likely that he added the brick annex, modified the principle doorway, and acquired the marble and the slate mantelpieces seen today on the first floor. By 1895-96, it seems that the family was influenced by the new styles of residences springing up further out Allegheny Street and, particularly, on an intersecting street, Linn Street. It was then that significant remodelling was undertaken including the tremendous project of moving the old stone house back from the street. What we find today is evidence of their respect for the past mixed with the "modern" features they added. The house is expressive of the developing prosperity of Bellefonte and the region during the 19th Century and of the changing tastes in residential living. The bequest of this building provided impetus to the idea of forming a community library. Because of this, it has become the most accessible of Bellefonte's fine old homes.

References

Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, 1795-1895. Souvenir booklet. Bellefonte, J.A. Finkbinder, Samuel S. Taylor, 1895.

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

Souvenir of the Centre County Centennial, July 25th and 26th. 1900, Mallory-Taylor Studios, Bellefonte, 1900.

Ramsey, Gregory, and Halm, Michael, Centre County Historic Registration Project, Miles-Humes House, nomination document, 1976, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Miles-Humes House Map

Street Names
Allegheny Street North

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