Linden Hall Historic District
The Linden Hall Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.
Located in eastern Harris Township in Centre County Pa., Linden Hall developed around a mill erected on Cedar Creek around 1800. Throughout the 19th century, the village spread northward from this nucleus for about a half mile along Rock Hill Road to the junction with Brush Valley Road. The area surrounding the historic district is predominantly farm and wood land and the individual property parcels which in whole or in part comprise the district are of diverse size ranging from one-half acre residential lots to 80-acre farms. Ranging in date from 1810 to 1919, the buildings, which are mostly residences with a scattering of commercial and public buildings, are characteristically vernacular and similar in size and scale. They are mostly of frame or plank construction ranging from two to five bays in width, two and a half stories in height, and with gable roofs. Exceptions to wood construction are two Federal style brick homes; D. Hess, J. Irvin, and the masonry farm house of J. Tressler. In all, there are 33 resources in the district, 23 contributing buildings, 8 noncontributing buildings, one contributing site, and one contributing structure. While many of the buildings have 19th or early 20th century additions, overall integrity is high and with a few exceptions, their condition is good.
Three streams pass through the village, Cedar Creek, which feeds the mill pond, Mickey Run, which lies to the North and parallels the railroad grade and joins Cedar Creek at the western edge of the district, and an unnamed rivulet which forms part of the district boundary and also joins Cedar Creek below the village. The southern part of the village lies in the flood plain of these streams but the northern end around the junction of Brush Valley and Rock Hill Roads is on higher ground. This area was historically called Rock Hill and is the location of the Dubsite church, Rock Hill school, and the Rock Hill cemetery.
Construction of dwellings in the village may be divided into two periods corresponding to the arrival of the railroad in 1885. About half of them were built during the 74 year period 1810-1884 and the rest from 1885 to 1919. After 1919, no dwellings were built in the village until 1952.
Construction during the pre-railroad period was of brick, masonry, or plank with the exception of the frame (1884) Frieda Hess house, built in the vernacular Gothic Revival style. It is a 2-1/2 story house with a cross cabled roof, German (beveled) siding, transomed entrance, label moldings, and Gothic style peaked windows in the gable ends. The brick houses are the 3-bay 1810 John Irvin house, and the 5-bay c.1865 Daniel Hess house. Both of these are vernacular interpretations of the Federal style with 6/6 sashes, shuttered windows, and integral chimneys in the gable ends. The Irvin house has a large 1855 kitchen addition with a cooking fireplace on its eastern gable end and occupies a scenic site overlooking the mill pond to the south. A solarium has been recently added to the rear of the house but this is hidden from the front facade. The Hess house has a 4 over 4 floor plan with a central entrance porch with some high style decoration. A recent kitchen addition has been added to the rear (western) gable end and a small butchering shed and a privy are situated at the rear of the property.
The houses of plank construction include the c.1870 Ross farm house, the 1874 Huss house, and the c.1860 Jacob Meyer house. The Ross and Huss houses are vernacular in style, both having abbreviated entrance porches, shuttered 2/2 sashes, beveled siding, and old rear additions. The Meyer house has a full porch across the front facade and a large addition at the rear. Both the Huss and Meyer houses have no indoor facilities and are served by privys. One noncontributing building, the c.1860 Meyer-Keller Store is also of plank construction.
All of the post-railroad buildings are of frame construction and include not only residences but the 1897 Dubsite church and the 1893 Rock Hill school. Both of these are vernacular single story buildings situated at the north end of the village at the junction of Rock Hill and Brush Valley roads. The church displays a vernacular Gothic Revival influence in its peaked colored glass windows and integral corner entrance and bell tower. The school is typical of one room school houses in central Pennsylvania having an entrance foyer-cloak room, bell cupola, and a raised teachers lectern inside.
In the central part of the village just to the north of the mill pond are five buildings which were built by J.H. Ross in the late 19th century, Ross was the last mill owner and built two residences for himself, two tenant houses, and a store during the post-railroad period. The store, because of substantial changes made to its facade in converting it into apartments by later owners, is noncontributing. The tenant houses are simple I houses with some older additions and little adornment but the houses that he built for himself were more elaborate. The first of these, built c.1886 is a vernacular Gothic Revival house with two side porches, a front dormer, bargeboard in the gable ends, narrow clapboard siding, and a unique two-story bay on the north gable end. The second house, built c.1895, adjoins the store building and is much more elaborately decorated than the first. It was built in the East Lake style with cross gables and a hipped roof over the front facade. The facia and gable ends are heavily decorated with jigsawn bargeboard and shingle siding was used in the gable ends. The full-width front porch and small side porch both have turned posts and high-style trim.
The remaining post-railroad dwellings include the 1885 Hess tenant house which is an I house with a substantial rear addition, the 1900 Frank Wieland house which is a vernacular Queen Anne style dwelling with an adjoining carriage barn, and the 1919 C. Ross house which is the only house in the village which has a cross hipped roof.
Four bank barns are in the village and three are still used to house livestock. Two small single story commercial buildings still exist. These are the 1874 Huss cobbler shop which is situated next to the Huss house, and the 1928 carpentry shop built by John Reifsnyder which stands across from the mill dam.
One contributing structure is in the historic district, the mill pond and dam which serve as the visual forms for the southern end of the district.
The one contributing site is the (1836-1948) Rock Hill Cemetery which has been restored by having its stones reset, cleaned and sealed.
There are 8 noncontributing buildings in the district. Two of these built during the historic period are the c.1860 Meyer-Keller Store which has been changed into a residence and the c.1890 Ross Store which is now an apartment building. The others, all built after the historic period include the 1945 Wilson-Ross Store and two homes with adjoining shops built in the 1950's. These buildings do not adversely affect the overall integrity of the district in that they are all modest structures with minimal visual impact.
The Linden Hall Historic District is architecturally significant as a well-preserved rural village constructed between 1810 and 1919 which grew around a grist mill in Harris Township, Centre County, Pennsylvania. The district represents an excellent collection of diverse 19th and early 20th century vernacular dwelling styles representative of small rural villages in central Pennsylvania. The buildings maintain high integrity and no major intrusions have been constructed. The lack of these, and the preservation of the village may be explained in part by its siting in the flood plain of three intersecting creeks and its relative isolation from major thoroughfares in the township.
Linden Hall is one of the oldest continually inhabited communities in western Penns Valley and closely resembles in its scale and mix of resources, other local villages which evolved around mills established in the early 19th century. Like Oak Hall to the west and Farmers Mills to the east, Linden Hall never grew beyond the small village stage. Other local communities with similar beginnings such as Spring Mills, Coburn, and Pine Grove Mills grew to larger size owing mainly to their locations on main roads through the area.
All of these mill villages share the common attributes of unplanned strip development determined primarily by local geography, and simple vernacular architecture of consistent scale and size. Starting with a mill established along a stream, these villages expanded along roadways which often paralleled the stream and are characterized by their lack of back streets or commercial buildings, a school, and a church or two. Linden Hall because of its proximity to the larger commercial centers of Boalsburg and State College, no longer retains any commercial activity and serves as a residential and farming community.
The first people known to have settled in Linden Hall were the James Watson family who built a cabin along Cedar Creek sometime prior to 1778; however, a number of Indian raids in the area forced them to join the "Great Runaway" of 1778-1788. Upon their return, they brought with them an Irish immigrant, John Irvin, who later married their daughter Anne. Irwin prospered and in 1808, built a grist mill at the narrowest spot on Cedar Creek. The mill and a farm which Irvin established upstream of the mill site, became the nucleus for what was to become the village of Linden Hall. Because of periodic fires, this location was to be occupied by a succession of two more mills until 1928 when operations ceased. The mill was torn down in 1938 but the mill pond still remains.
In 1810, Irvin built a substantial Federal style brick home overlooking the mill pond. Later, in 1842, the home was redecorated with "modern" Italian marble mantelpieces and other trim and, in 1855, a kitchen-dining addition was added to the eastern gable end. After the Civil War and into the 20th century the Irvin property passed through a succession of owners and at present, with the exception of the mill building, the property is intact and the farm land still in use.
While the Irvin mill and home may be considered as the nucleus for the village, the historic district is in part comprised of three other farms and their associated buildings in addition to Irvin's. These were established by John Tressler (1836), Daniel Hess (1857), and John Ross (c.1870). Two of these, the Ross and Tressler farms are still intact farming operations however the Hess farm has been subdivided and now consists of separate resources.
As these and other farms were established during the 19th century, Linden Hall became a local service center and soon other homes were built and businesses started in the village. Among these early commercial enterprises were the cobbler shop operated by George Huss next to his home, and three stores, two of which still exist in the district as non-contributing buildings owing to substantial changes.
Daniel Hess who established his farm in 1857 by purchasing a large tract of land north of the Irvin property, started his career as a traveling merchant from Aaronsburg. Having settled in Linden Hall, he opened a store and in 1865, built a brick Federal style home north of Mackey Run. With his merchant background. Hess realized the impact that a railroad would have on the commercial viability of the village and thus, when the Lewisburg and Tyrone branch of the PRR was advanced to the west from Montandon in the early 1880's, Hess was instrumental in having it extended through Linden Hall and on to Bellefonte the county seat in 1885. This event initiated a period of economic prosperity which lasted until the mid 20's. With rail transportation it became feasible to commercially exploit the vast stands of white pine and hemlock in the mountains nearby and in 1895, the Linden Hall Lumber Company was formed to log in Bear Meadows and along Laural Run to the south in what is now Rothrock State Forest. With the influx of workers for the nearby lumber mill, and the establishment of a coal and lumber business at Linden Hall by Daniel Hess, a local boom ensued which was reflected by a marked increase in building activity. During the period 1885-1900, six new homes, a new school, a church, and two new barns were built all of which stand today. The post-railroad dwellings were predominantly of balloon or frame construction rather than the more common plank, brick, or masonry construction of the earlier years. The more elaborate homes such as the Wieland house, and the J.H. Ross residences and the Dubsite church, reflected the popular Gothic revival influence common in rural Pennsylvania villages in the late 19th century. During this period, there was liberal use of dormers, shingle siding, bargeboard and other high-style ornamentation on porches, gable ends, and soffits. For the most part, these post-railroad buildings were constructed by successful local merchants like Ross and Hess and while some were personal residences, at least three are known to have been built as income property or tenant houses. After the turn of the century, the decline of the commercial lumber industry and the increased use of automobiles which tended to bypass Linden Hall on the Earlystown Road (Rt. 45), caused a dissipation of the boom leading to a construction hiatus. Only three homes have been built within the historic district since 1900, one in 1919, and two others in 1952 and 1956. Passenger service on the L&T ceased in the late 20's but freight continued to pass through the village until 1972 when Hurricane Agnes destroyed portions of the right of way. The track was torn up in 1978 leaving the grade through the village.
Overall, the buildings in Linden Hall have high integrity. The majority are well maintained and retain their original siding, sashed windows, and roof lines. Almost all have additions built during the historic period but, none of these interrupt the building facades thus retaining their historic appearance. The Linden Hall Historic District is a representative example of a small 19th and early 20th century rural central Pennsylvania village which developed around a grist mill located in Cedar Creek. Its significance lies in its retention of vernacular resources of high integrity with diverse architectural styles spanning a construction period of over 100 years. While geography has limited intrusive development in the village, the historic district is threatened today by the need for expansion of Rock Hill Road to service development along Brush Valley Road to the east.
"Historic Resources of the Centre Region" by the Centre Region Planning Commission (1982), D. Elpern director, avail. Pattee Lib. Penn State Univ.
"Sketches of Linden Hall by the Linden Hall Garden Club 1980), avail. Centre County Library, Bellefonte, Pa. or Pattee Lib.
"Daniel Hess, A Pioneer Country Merchant of Linden Hall" by Beth and Dennis Ricker. (1988), Linden Hall, Pa., avail. Pattee Lib. or from the authors.
"Atlas of Centre County Penna." A. Pomeroy & Co., Philadelphia, Pa. (1874). avail. Centre Co. Historical Soc., State College, Pa.
"Walling Map of Centre County" pub. by S.D. Tilden, N.Y., N.Y. (1861), avail. Aaronsburg, Pa. Historical Museum, Aaronsburg, Pa. 16820
"Wildcatting on the Mountain, The History of the Whitmer & Steele Lumber Co." Benjamin F.G. Kline Jr. Strasburg, Pa.
Discussions over the period 1985-1989 with J.Frank Shutt, born in Linden Hall in 1904 and his wife, Ruth Colyer Shutt, and Irene Reifsnyder Ross, daughter of the last miller at Linden Hall