Philipsburg Historic District
The Philipsburg Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. 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 Philipsburg Historic District includes residential, commercial and institutional architecture in a variety of architectural styles from the early nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. It includes roughly one-third of Philipsburg Borough and a small section of neighboring Rush Township, both in Centre County. The terrain is nearly flat, but increases in slope at the northeast corner of the district. The district is centered around the main streets in the community. Bordering the district to the north is a large residential area with mostly altered historic dwellings, to the east modern suburban homes, forested land and the borough boundary, to the south a mix of parking lots and scattered commercial buildings and to the west non-historic commercial development and a large area of historic dwellings with less consistent integrity. Within the district is a densely built-up central business district in the southwest corner, several blocks of vernacular nineteenth century housing in the center and east, and a smaller area of large stylish nineteenth and early twentieth century dwellings flanking the two major thoroughfares. The Hardman Philips House, situated on a large estate comprising approximately one-third of the district, is located in the center. Institutional buildings are concentrated along East Presqueisle Street. There are 255 buildings in the Philipsburg Historic District and two man-made sites, North and South Parks — located at the main intersection, where East Presqueisle and North and South Centre Streets meet. The vast majority of the buildings in the district are contributing (228 or 89%); noncontributing buildings (27 or 11%) are widely dispersed and do not have a significant impact on the integrity of the district. Contributing buildings are those which were constructed during the period of significance (1807-1948) and which retain integrity of materials, feeling, association, workmanship, location, setting and design. Building materials represented include, in order of predominance, brick, synthetic materials and wood. Out of the district's 255 buildings in the district, 17 are estimated to have been built between 1807 and 1860; 153 between 1861 and 1900, 72 between 1901 and 1948, and 13 after the period of significance. Three buildings in the district are already listed individually on the National Register of Historic Places: Union Church (1820/43), the Hardman Philips House (1813) and the Rowland Theater (1917). Overall, the district retains integrity, with original fenestration patterns, building materials, porches and decorative details preserved in many cases.
The residential area in the district lies to the north and east of the main commercial area and is made up of 177 buildings, or 69% of the district. Most houses were built between 1870 and 1900, when the borough tripled in size, following the arrival of railroad service. Reflecting the local growth of brick making after the introduction of rail transportation, a third of residences are of brick construction. Composite and clapboard sidings are nearly as numerous. Most residences are modest vernacular designs, most often two to two and one half stories with a front or side gable roof, many with exterior ornament including applied window trim, turned porch posts columns and eaves brackets.
Early nineteenth residential century styles are represented in the district. Two dwellings date from before 1820. The 1807 John Henry Simler House, at 100 North Second Street, is the oldest building in Philipsburg. The log cabin was covered with clapboard siding before 1850. The 1813 Hardman Philips House is a Georgian style dwelling with a gambrel roof, multiple dormers, full width portico with eight columns and fan windows. Other examples of early nineteenth century styles are concentrated at the south end of South Front Street, on Presqueisle Street between Fourth and Sixth Streets, and on South Centre Street bordering South Park. The ca.1840 late Federal style dwelling at 224 South Front Street is a side gable building with end chimneys, six over six windows, a one bay half round roofed porch and center door flanked by side and overhead lights. The Greek Revival style house at 20 South Centre Street, dating ca.1850 and sheathed in clapboard with a front gable roof, has a small front porch with eaves consoles and a fanlight overhead. The home at 419 East Presqueisle Street, conservatively dated at 1870, displays a much older Federal style type of doorway suggesting a ca.1840 or earlier origin.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, most of the borough's large, high-style residences were built in an L-shape area bordering the Hardman estate. North of the estate is East Presqueisle Street and Hillcrest Drive and to the west is South Centre Street. These homes have deeper setbacks (approximately 40'), often built on multiple lots. Mature trees line the streets. These factors lend the buildings and thoroughfares a grand character and appearance. Dominant architectural styles are Colonial Revival (22) and Queen Anne (10), with a few examples each of Greek Revival, Italianate and Bungalow styles. Individual examples of Federal, Late Gothic Revival, Second Empire, Stick and Dutch Colonial styles are also present.
One eclectic Colonial Revival style home is the 1873 Rowland Mansion, 126 South Centre Street, featuring a two story wrap-around verandah with paired columns. It also has a Queen Anne-inspired asymmetrical layout with bargeboard details. Representative of sawn and incised woodwork widespread in the district is the Queen Anne style 801-03 East Presqueisle Street with decorative shingles, bracketed porch and incised wood details. There are many other examples of Colonial Revival and Queen Anne style homes. Hillcrest Drive, extending northeast from East Presqueisle Street at the north edge of the district, is the site of four high-style dwellings. One is the Colonial Revival style residence located at #102, a rambling two and one-half story brick building with six-over-one windows and half timber and stucco gable ends. An exemplary 1870 Gothic Revival style cottage is located at 107 Hillcrest Drive, with its bracketed one bay porch, six-over-six windows, and incised pointed lintels. The Italianate ca.1880 dwelling at 917 East Presqueisle Street features a front cross gable and porch brackets and is surrounded by an ornamental cast iron fence. Smaller late nineteenth century homes with stylish details are located throughout the historic district, including the 1871 Avery House, featuring spindles, decorative shingles and sawn work. It was built just a block north of East Presqueisle Street at 20 South Ninth Street.
Most numerous in the district's residential areas are modest, ca.1890-1920 single family dwellings, numbering nearly 100. There are large numbers on South Front and South Second Streets. Many vernacular dwellings can be grouped into general types based on similarities in form and detail. Several side gable vernacular houses, like 809 East Presqueisle Street, were given a front cross-gable. The brick double 20-22 North Second Street has two steep cross-gables. A related form, with a protruding front bay over the front porch is seen at the First Evangelical Lutheran Church Parish House, 215 1/2 West Laurel Street, 121 and 423 South Centre Street. Another group of modest late nineteenth century dwellings, in the 400 block of South Second Street, share a set of decorative features, suggesting a common pedigree and construction date. Similarities include: narrow two-over-two paired windows, the use of identical decorative shingles and cut-out wood forms. Built during this period, and scattered around the district, are seven "Four Square-type" houses, often brick. They feature a hip roof, dormers and full width front porch. Several have a Colonial Revival style front doorway with sidelights and overhead transom. The example at 301 South Second Street features a two-story bay window. Another common form of working class housing in Philipsburg is the rowhouse building, where individual housing units share common sidewalls. There are two such blocks in the district, 109-115 Maple Street and 114-130 South Second Ave. The later is composed of nine individually counted units (ca.1890-1900) with Victorian details including segmental arches, decorative brickwork and Queen Anne style sash.
The historic district encompasses 90% of Philipsburg's central business district. Most buildings are two to three stories with abutting sidewalls, and the traditional layout of first floor storefront and upper floor office or apartment use. Construction is overwhelmingly brick. Commercial buildings in the district (70 or 27% of the buildings) are located on two blocks of North Front Street between Spruce and West Presqueisle Streets, one block on South Front Street between Presqueisle and Beaver Streets, one block on Pine Street and three blocks on Presqueisle Street from Railroad Street to North and South Centre Streets. A few additional commercial buildings are situated on W. Laurel Street within a block of North Front Street.
The oldest commercial buildings in the historic district stand near the intersection of Presqueisle, South Front and North Front Streets. A group of seven ornate Italianate style buildings have ornate detailing including oversized eaves brackets, decorative window lintels, stone trim and raised brick quoins. The Foster Block, 2-8 North Front Street, dating ca.1870, has drip mold window lintels, quoins executed in brick and bracketed overhanging eaves. The most lavish adorned Italianate commercial buildings in the historic district are at 216 1/2 and 218-222 East Presqueisle Street, with bracketed eaves, applied decorative window trim and paneled eaves. Only three commercial buildings are estimated to have been built in the 1890s. One is an excellent example of the commercial Queen Anne style, the ca.1890 brick building at 126 North Front Street. Its centerpiece is a third floor hipped roof oriel with decorative cornice that overhangs the street.
Early twentieth century buildings are much more numerous (32 or 46% of the district's commercial buildings), many with tapestry brick facades, displaying varying degrees of ornamentation — based on brick corbeling and composite stone details. This is the dominant commercial building form on North Front Street between Pine and Spruce Streets and on Pine Street. Representing this early twentieth century form is 224 North Front Street (ca. 1920) with decorative facade designs using multiple colored bricks, raised brick corbeling and grouped windows. A simpler variation, representative of many buildings in the commercial zone, is 230 North Front Street, with a narrower four bay second floor facade, single storefront and a corbeled brick cornice. There are also four early twentieth century vernacular buildings with high-style details. They include the Art Deco design F. and A.M. Building (ca.1920), 144 North Front Street, with decorative aluminum framed store windows and molded composition stone details and the 1917 Rowland Theater, 125 North Front Street, in red tapestry brick trimmed with polished granite and limestone and art glass windows over the entrance. The others are 232 North Front Street (1903), with an intact turn of the century storefront incorporating cast iron columns and a pressed metal paneled cornice and 1 North Front Street (ca.1910) with cut stone exterior walls, bracketed eaves and pressed metal cornice.
Another type of commercial building in the district, limited to two buildings on West Presqueisle Street near the railroad crossing, is the wholesale warehouse. The ca.1900 Platt-Barber Wholesale Grocery and ca.1900 Lauderbach-Greist buildings, 20 and 22 West Presqueisle Street, are two story buildings with well-preserved facades. The brick warehouse at #20 has a cut stone facade, an art glass transom, round and pointed arched openings. At 322, Queen Anne style predominate with multicolor glass and decorative brickwork.
Institutional buildings include the Post Office, Town Hall and seven churches. Philipsburg's 1887 Town Hall, at 301 East Presqueisle Street on North Park, is a well-preserved vernacular building with many intact features. These include an open belfry with railing and turned balusters on a two-stage tower, pyramidal roof, fanlight windows and original one-over-one windows with multicolor Queen Anne style sash. Construction of Philipsburg's 1935 Post Office, 208 West Laurel Street, was funded by the Public Works Administration. The architect was Louis A. Simon and the contractor Hyde-Murphy Co. of Ridgeway. The building's modest Colonial Revival style includes brick exterior walls, native sandstone trim and a front entry fanlight.
Three of the district's seven churches are designed in the Gothic Revival style, in varying adaptations that span most of the borough's history. The Early Gothic Revival style Union Church (1820-40), 603 East Presqueisle Street, is a good example of early small town Gothic Revival design in America, with its simplified Gothic features of tiny spires, crenellated tower and pointed arch windows typify this period of Gothicism. St. Paul's Episcopal (1911), 400 East Presqueisle Street, and designed by Henry A. Congdon and Sons, is a high style stone example of the Late Gothic Revival style, with an asymmetrical plan with a squat front bell tower, lancet arches, stone trim, pantile roof, leaded diamond sash and decorative interior cross beams.
The First Presbyterian Church (1908) 509 East Presqueisle Street, along with the attached school (ca.1926) and manse (ca.1920) are the district's principal examples of the Tudor Revival style, with Gothic arched openings, half timbering and cut stone details. The three remaining churches are good examples of late nineteenth century vernacular ecclesiastical architecture. First Baptist Church (1926) at 214 Beaver Street, has pointed arches, leaded glass and half timbering, reflecting Tudor Revival style influences. New Life Center Church (1893) is located at 101 South Second Street. It is a brick building with pointed stone arches and brick corbeling in the eaves, a vinyl enclosed bell tower at the front center and decorative art glass. The Evangelical Lutheran Church (1887), 215 West Laurel Street, was designed by Reverend A. K. Felton, the congregation's second pastor, who also helped build the church. The brick multi-gable building has pointed arches, art glass, and a corner bell tower added around the turn of the century.
The district features two contributing sites, small public parks located on North and South Centre Streets, at the intersection with Presqueisle Street. North Park is a green space containing the 1887 Town Hall and two mounted early nineteenth century cannons. South Park is a larger, entirely open green space. Concrete footpaths radiate from a large central fountain to the edges of the park. Uncounted landscape features include a Civil War statue (1911) standing in the center of the fountain and two Civil War era cannons. North and South Parks have changed little since the mid-nineteenth century, when they were minimally designed and designated as public parks at the town main intersection. The parks' statuary and cannons reflect Philipsburg's military history and offer views of the Town Hall and older residences flanking North and South Centre Streets.
The district contains 27 non-contributing buildings, defined as buildings that were either built after the period of significance (after 1948) or have been extensively altered and no longer contribute to the district's historic character. This group is made up of 14 residences, 12 commercial buildings and one church. Noncontributing resources are widely scattered and comprise only 11% of the total building stock.
The district's most popular residential alterations are synthetic siding, in the form of aluminum and vinyl siding and asphalt shingles; replacement doors and windows; and enclosing porches. Non-contributing residences include 601 East Presqueisle Street, where vinyl siding and fascia and smaller replacement windows have been installed and the front porch has been enclosed. The house at 209 South Front Street has aluminum siding and an inappropriate front addition incorporating bay windows. Houses built after 1948 are few in number, limited to lots where older houses burned or were demolished. Several post-1948 homes were built on upper West Presqueisle Street, including 800 East Presqueisle Street, a brick and vinyl sided dwelling utilizing Colonial Revival style motifs. The newest church in the district, Trinity Methodist Episcopal (1963), is a non-contributing resource because of its construction date. This late Gothic Revival style design is nevertheless compatible with the historic district, featuring cut stone walls, a narrow pointed steeple with copper roofing, pointed arch openings and a rose window.
There are 12 commercial resources in the district defined as non-contributing. Of this group, over half are altered historic buildings. Common alterations to commercial buildings include: framing-in and modernizing storefront openings, reducing the size of window openings and removing historic details. Altered non-contributing buildings include 121 North Front Street (ca.1920) where the storefront has been enclosed and window openings altered. The character of the building has been considerably changed, making it an intrusion in the district. American Veterans Post 159 is housed at 16 West Presqueisle Street (ca.1900), a non-contributing building with permastone-type exterior sheathing and glass block replacing original windows. These examples of thorough modifications are the exception, not the rule, in the historic district. Only 12 buildings in the district (5%) were constructed after the period of significance. They include Midstate Bank (ca.1970), a modern one-story brick building at 19 North Front Street, A.J. Piniuk Dentistry (ca.1990), a one-story wood frame residential-design building at 101 North Front Street and the above mentioned church.
Overall, the district retains integrity. Non-contributing resources and changes to contributing resources do not affect the district's ability to convey its historic and architectural significance. Alterations do not compromise the setbacks, massing, scale, streetscapes or other general characteristics of the district's historic appearance. The contributing 1876 McGaffey House (100 South Centre St.), originally a vernacular wood frame house, was brick-enclosed and transformed into a high style Colonial Revival style dwelling in the early decades of the twentieth century. Sensitive rehabilitation of historic buildings is having a positive impact on the district, particularly on Presqueisle and South Front Streets. The Stick style house at 220 South Front Street, recently restored, has a wrap around porch with sawn leaf design brackets and decorative stickwork in the gables.
The owner of 901 East Presqueisle Street (ca.1890) is currently restoring the house with its clapboard exterior and wraparound porch. One of the largest such projects was the restoration of the Carlisle-Loraine House in the 1970s. The 1917 Rowland Theater, the most elaborate of Philipsburg's several former movie houses, has been reopened as a movie theater by a friends group that is directing its ongoing restoration including decorative art glass and original interior finishes. In 1998, the Philipsburg Historical Foundation began restoring the 1807 John Henry Simler House. Overall, building stock in the Philipsburg Historic District retains the character, materials, workmanship and siting required for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
Philipsburg Historic District is significant as an important local commercial center for the historic lumber, bituminous coal, local railroad, refractory clay, mining and other industries of the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. It was founded in 1797 as a speculative development effort by an English snipping family who worked for fifty years to develop its industries and institutions. It took mid-nineteenth century railroad access to outside markets to finally make Philipsburg an industrial hub and trading center serving southeast Clearfield and southwest Centre County. The district's significance as a local commercial center continued after World War II. The district is also significant in historic architecture as a strong local example of architectural styles, designs and construction from the early nineteenth through the early twentieth centuries. The 1807 John Henry Simler House defines the beginning of the period of significance. The end of the period of significance is 1948, consistent with the National Register 50 year guidelines for significance. Business and industrial leaders built large stylish homes during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, most located inside the district. These, along with scores of modest vernacular working class houses, commercial and institutional buildings, make the district a strong concentration of period architecture and commerce in western Centre County.
In the town's first major growth spurt, between 1813 and 1834, the population increased, new buildings were erected and improvements were made. Hardman Philips followed brother Henry's example of launching new industry: he built a forge mill (1817) and a screw factory (1821) on Moshannon Creek west of the district on North Front Street. The Philipsburg forge was one of 18 iron manufacturers in Centre County in 1826. The most accessed outside market for many of these industries was Pittsburgh. Products were hauled to the Allegheny River in wagons, then transported by boat. Plumbe's saw mill was built in 1830 to provide wood for the construction of boats that would ship the products down the Moshannon Creek. This plan proved impractical because the stream was too small.
Transportation improvements in the area induced further settlement from the east and stimulated new and existing commercial ventures. In 1821, a turnpike was built from Philipsburg to Bellefonte. Its completion opened up a continuous route from Philadelphia to Erie with stage coach service offered at Philipsburg. During the 1820s, turnpikes (US 322 north of Philipsburg and SR 504) were finished, offering Philipsburg greater accessibility to outside markets. However, the expectations raised by this accessibility were never met.
During this period, there was a popular subscription to raise money for a meeting house to serve all congregations. Old Union Church (1820), popularly known as Old Mud Church, was erected (National Register of Historic Places, 1976) on East Presqueisle Street across the street from Moshannon Hall. The earliest grave in the cemetery dates to 1819. The founder's oak (330 year old maple tree documented by a plaque citing Pennsylvania State University documentation) and a monument to Hardman Philips are also located in the cemetery. In 1843, the log church was expanded and renovated in the Gothic Revival style. Pointed arch windows were added, the exterior was covered with stucco, a rear addition built, and the bell from Philips' (by then defunct) screw factory was added to a new three-tier steeple.
Between 1830 and 1860, Philipsburg's economy stagnated, due to a limited transportation network based on road and river systems and technological changes that replaced small iron manufacturers with centralized mills. Hardman Philips failed in his attempt to build a railroad to tap the area's vast coal reserves in 1833 and the Pennsylvania Canal bypassed the area as well. Hardman's screw factory failed, with competition from a new type of screw that Hardman could not produce. In 1833, the local commercial district was composed of small shops concentrated in two blocks of North Front and East Presqueisle Streets, the section that became the main commercial district. Buildings there housed: a blacksmith, shoemaker, spinning wheel maker, cake and beer seller, joiner and cabinet maker and two hatters. There were also a hotel, two taverns, a squire's office and several stables. Physical evidence of the town's early nineteenth century commercial district, which mostly consisted of small one to two story buildings, includes the 105 North Front Street (ca.1830) and the late Federal style brick building at 21 South Front Street (ca.1840), featuring stepped side gables. In 1844, Hardman sold his holdings in Philipsburg to Daniel Ullman of New York and Nathaniel Stanley of Vermont. Their attempt to continue Hardman's operations failed, and the entire holdings came into the possession of Morgan, Hale and Company which was instrumental in securing construction of the Tyrone and Clearfield Railroad to Philipsburg in 1863. In the same year, the Hale family occupied the Hardman Philips House.
The arrival of the Tyrone and Clearfield Railroad (later purchased by the Pennsylvania Railroad) in 1864, and the Beech Creek, Clearfield and Southwestern Railroad in 1885 (later the New York Central Railroad), brought many changes to Philipsburg. With the arrival of railroad service, the community incorporated as the Borough of Philipsburg and the first bank was opened in 1864. Railroad service vastly expanded markets for the area's recently developed coal and refractory clay mines. Philipsburg's first fire clay brick plant opened in the 1880s. The principal mines were developed on the north side of Moshannon Creek, while development of the village took place on the south side of the creek. Other businesses thriving during this period were saw and planing mills, a machine shop and foundry, tannery, shovel factory and brick works. Growth of the commercial district around East Presqueisle and North and South Front Streets, spurred by this industrial growth, is evidenced by half a dozen high style Italianate style brick buildings including the Gray and Foster buildings.
With the railroads, new industries, mining and commercial growth in the 1880s and 90s, Philipsburg experienced a population boom and there were demands for a variety of new public services. The population in 1883 was 1,800 and grew to 5,000 by 1890. The Philipsburg Daily Journal was founded in 1868 and remained in operation until 1978. A new school building was constructed in 1866, just north of the district. In 1881 the first fire company, water company and Board of Trade were all organized. In 1883 electric street lighting, generated by waterpower at Cold Stream Mill just east of the district, was introduced; and a steam heat company built (1884). In 1887 the first and only Town Hall was erected by Hoover, Hughes and Company, one of several local lumber and construction firms. The Town Hall, occupied by borough offices, fire and police departments, is located on North Park facing East Presqueisle Street.
By 1890 there were 117 businesses in Philipsburg, ranging from retail merchants in the main commercial area to several manufacturers. Serving entrepreneurs and the business class were two banks, the Philipsburg and Moshannon Banking Companies. There were four hotels, including the Lloyd House at North Front and Pine Streets, with 25 rooms, electric call bells and large stables. As a trading center, one could find six liveries, five clothing stores, six general merchandise stores (including I. V. Gray's), six groceries, five meat markets, three restaurants and nine confectioneries. I. V. Gray's General Merchandise and Millinery Store was located in the L-shaped Gray Building, 103 East Presqueisle Street. There were seven industries listed within the borough: two planing mills (one Hoover, Hughes and Co.) one machine shop and foundry, a tannery, carriage works and a shovel and mining tool producer. Hoover and Hughes Co. had its planing mill and lumber yards on North Front Street, northwest of the district. Philipsburg was a shipping center, for coal mines and lumber operations, with both the Tyrone and Clearfield and Beech Creek Railroads. The railroads also supplied local merchants and brought passenger traffic into town.
The town commons, a centrally located park area including North and South Parks, was no more than a field for grazing sheep and cattle until the later nineteenth century. In 1887, as already noted, the Town Hall was built in the middle of North Park. Several significant features in the parks survive, including four historic cannons. North Park holds the two oldest cannons (1837 and 1853), produced by Cyrus Alger and Company of Boston. Two Civil War era "parrott rifles," built by the West Point Foundry, are located in South Park. In 1898, a memorial was erected in South Park, honoring Union soldiers who served in the Civil War. It consisted of a bronze 13' tall soldier, a fountain and water troughs for horses. Following its destruction by vandals, the present-day six foot Barre Vermont granite statue and fountain were dedicated on Memorial Day, 1911. Today, the two parks are the Borough's major outdoor public space.
As more people settled in Philipsburg, institutions grew to satisfy the needs of residents. Three Protestant congregations, who had worshiped at the nonsectarian Union Church since 1820, achieved numbers sufficient to erect their own houses of worship: namely, the Methodist (1831), Presbyterian (1848) and Episcopal (1870) denominations. Successor buildings of the three, dating 1911, 1920 and 1908 respectively, are counted as contributing resources within the district. Union Church is still occasionally used for religious services. In 1871, Sophia Philips, widow of Hardman Philips, provided funds for an Episcopal rectory designed by architect J. W. Jones at 924 East Presqueisle Street. Other denominations in the district organized in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The First Evangelical Lutheran congregation, which built its own church adjacent to North Park in 1887, had also worshiped briefly at the Union Church. New Life Center Church, on South Second Avenue, was built between 1893 and 1906. The congregation of the First Baptist Church, built in 1926, has roots stretching back to the mid-nineteenth century. Fraternal groups, important in the social life of the period, built the I.O.O.F. and F.A.&M. Buildings located on North Front Street at the turn of the century. Maple Hill Sanitarium (late 1880s-early 1900s) was operated by Dr. W. B. Henderson in a large ca.1870 wood frame house located at the northeast edge of the district.
Philipsburg's residential areas grew rapidly from the 1880s through the early twentieth century. Industrial leaders and white-collar employees of the various local enterprises built large ornate homes on the north end of East Presqueisle Street and along East Centre Street. Coal mine owner David Atherton lived in the very elaborate 1903 Colonial Revival style house at 911 East Presqueisle Street. The 1889 Carlisle-Loraine House, 336 South Centre Street, was built by O. Perry Jones, a noted Philipsburg banker with regional coal and timber industry interests, including Hoover, Hughes and Co. It is one of the town's most fashionable Queen Anne dwellings. A small but fashionable enclave near the east end of East Presqueisle Street, on Hillcrest Drive, is the site of several very large homes. At 100 Hillcrest Drive is one of the district's largest Queen Anne style houses, built for George Scott, owner of the local water company. Housing built for the working class most often took the form of multiple dwellings, and row houses were one significant type. The larger of two row house buildings in the district, 114-130 South Second Street, was built incrementally. Before 1900, Murray Lumber Company built 126-130; about 1900 local merchant O. T. Switzer constructed 118-124; the last three units, 112 (demolished)-116 were erected by the Lukens family sometime after that date.
By the early 1890s, a total of three rail lines served the Borough of Philipsburg. The last arrival, in 1892, was the Altoona and Philipsburg Railroad, also referred to as the "Alley Popper." It was primarily a passenger train, linking several towns and 14 coal mines to Philipsburg where shopping and entertainment were provided. Philipsburg also became a hub for salesmen who serviced the many industrial and commercial businesses in and around the region. A number of hotels in Philipsburg vied for business travelers who arrived by railroad. The Hotel Philips (1921), the last hotel built in Philipsburg Borough (operating as an elderly housing facility since 1961), is located at the corner of East Presqueisle and South Second Street. Businesses relying on rail transportation, such as the Platt-Barber Company, a wholesale grocer, set up shop near the freight stations. The warehouse is located on West Presqueisle Street, across the street from the former location of the Pennsylvania Railroad station.
In 1917, Philipsburg had a population of 3,800 and was a trading center for 35,000 people, with 91 stores in addition to a number of manufacturers and nearby coal mines. Trolley and bus lines provided transportation between Philipsburg and a number of smaller surrounding towns. The Centre and Clearfield Street Traction Railway Company linked Philipsburg with nearby coal towns including Morrisdale, Allport, Munson, Forest and Wilburne. Retail merchants, hotels, restaurants, local banks and theaters all benefited from pedestrian traffic the street railway generated. In 1917, Congressman and coal magnate Charles Rowland dedicated the grandest of Philipsburg's several movie houses, the Rowland Theater (National Register of Historic Places). Rowland lived in the 1873 Colonial Revival style mansion located at 126 So. Centre Street.
With growth in automobile traffic in the early twentieth century, and the corresponding decline of railroads and streetcar lines, fewer people traveled into Philipsburg. The coal industry declined after World War II, with only a few small surface mines in operation today. Streetcar service finally ended in 1927. The Pennsylvania Station was sold in 1953 and demolished for a drive-through bank in 1968. The New York Central stopped service in the 1930s. Despite the decline, Philipsburg remains a rural trading center, with a small but lively commercial district featuring a variety of businesses and well-maintained neighborhoods.
Similar National Register historic districts located in this part of Pennsylvania include Tyrone, Brookville and DuBois. After 1850, Tyrone grew into a railroad hub on the Pennsylvania Mainline serving a number of passenger and freight lines from smaller communities like Philipsburg. Tyrone's Historic District contains high-style commercial architecture from the very late nineteenth and early twentieth century with Victorian influences and the use of terra cotta, built after a disastrous fire in 1881. DuBois's business district largely dates from one decade of building after an 1888 fire and still contains a variety of Victorian architectural styles. Brookville's downtown fires occurred in the 1870s, but it still retains a collection of older Greek Revival style buildings. Philipsburg had several fires but was never wiped out like Tyrone and DuBois, and therefore displays a relatively broad representation of architectural styles, beginning with ca.1820s early settlement examples. Early twentieth century minimally ornamented brick buildings, rather than elaborate Victorian buildings, predominate in the commercial district. With a few scattered exceptions, Philipsburg lacks the early nineteenth century commercial building stock represented in Brookville. In residential styles, Tyrone's residential building stock is more representative of the 1900-1925 era with examples of the Prairie style. Brookville's residential areas include high-style examples spanning nineteenth to early twentieth century styles. Philipsburg's housing stock by and large dates from ca.1870 to 1910 and is overwhelmingly vernacular, with fewer high-style examples than Brookville. Like Tyrone, architectural styles post-dating 1900 dominate, particularly the Colonial Revival style.
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Hagerty, Mahlon R., Jr. A History of Philipsburg, Pennsylvania, 1797-1860. Thesis, Pennsylvania State College, 1942.
Illustrated Souvenir History of Philipsburg, Pennsylvania, Williamsport, Pa: Grit Publishing Company, 1909.
Interview with Philipsburg native Clair Simler, June 1998.
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Scriptive Review Showing Development of the State of Pennsylvania. New York: E.F. Cram Co., 1917.
________, Trolleys From the Mines - Street Railways of Centre, Clearfield, Indiana and Jefferson Counties. Forty Four, Pa: n.p., 1980.
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† Dailey, Jonathan E., Philipsburg Historic District, nomination document, 1998, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.