Townhouse Row (57--85 N. Main St.) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document as submitted to the National Park Service. Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.
This small historic district is about one half block in length on the west side of North Main Street between King Street and the square. The buildings are a series of three story brick row houses dating from the post Civil War period. The row extends from 57 to 85 North Main Street being interrupted by a small alleyway, Spring Street, between 57 and 61 North Main Street. Most of the buildings are private residences at their second and third stories with commercial establishments at their first stories. The row of seven buildings forms a cohesive unit of relatively little altered period architecture typical of Chambersburg's downtown area. During the Civil War in 1864, Chambersburg was burned by Confederate soldiers. The result was an extensive rebuilding effort during the 1860's and 70's. This row reflects this through reconstruction during the late 19th century.
Generally, three periods of architectural expression are exhibited by this seven-building row. Initial construction appears to have taken place during the third quarter of the 19th century. In some cases, evidence remains of walls or foundations of earlier buildings that were used in the reconstruction during the closing decade of the 19th century and the early 20th century; many of the buildings received an updating with the addition of semi-hexagonal projecting bays and alterations to windows and store fronts. The third period of change occurred during the third quarter of the 20th century with most changes limited to the first story levels.
The buildings of the entire row are of brick construction, painted, with common bond at all elevations. During the late 19th century it was popular to paint brick buildings at the time of construction and the paint layers on these buildings as well as old photographs which are available of Chambersburg's architecture suggest that the buildings in this row were always painted. The southern-most five buildings have segmentally arched window heads above long narrow openings giving a definite rhythm to the streetscape. The two more northern buildings have flat stone lintels above their windows. All of the buildings are topped with massive bracketed cornices which also establish a rhythm for the row and help to provide a finishing point for the buildings. While the street facades of these buildings have the ornamental cornices and various trims, the backs are very plain. Several buildings feature double or triple decker porches along their rear wails.
Buildings Composing the North Main Street Townhouse Row:
All of the seven buildings appear to be in good condition.
The North Main Street Townhouse Row is significant for its architecture, as a relatively little-altered group from the post Civil War period; for its contribution to commercial development in Chambersburg during the late 19th and 20th centuries; and for social and humanitarian considerations as reflecting aspects of the late 19th century life style, not only locally in Chambersburg but on a regional basis.
The town of Chambersburg was laid out in lots in 1784 and became the County Seat of Franklin County in 1784. A pioneer settlement had flourished in the area since 1730. During the Civil War, in July of 1864, the central area of Chambersburg was burned by the Confederate Army. With the oldest and commercial areas of the town thus destroyed, Chambersberg's late 19th century appearance is easy to understand. Between 1864 and 1875 there was a period of extensive rebuilding giving the central part of town a uniform Victorian character.
This row of seven buildings, although by no means a large section of the downtown area, forms a unified and uninterrupted section of the town. The block of Main Street between King Street and the Square although a commercial area has not had the economic development which occurred south of the Square. As a result, this half-block section on the west side of North Main Street remains essentially intact except for a few minor alteration's. These seven buildings were included in the district because they provide an rhythmic architectural series with a natural beginning and ending point. The district begins at an open parking lot dividing it from other more altered buildings near the Square and extends without interruption north to the intersection of Main and King Streets Other areas of Chambersburg have examples of post Civil War buildings locate in the town a series of buildings as large as this group unbroken by intrusions.
Although these houses were built during the late 19th century, evidence in the basements of several structures and unexplained masonry seams in the walls suggest that foundations and some parts of walls of pre-fire houses may have been used. Very few pictures of Chambersburg before the fire are known to exist. Evidence seems to indicate that most structures were one and a half or two stories high of sided log, frame or brick. Many buildings in the area within one block of the square were both commercial and residential establishments. Of the post Civil War group of buildings in this district all were built to accommodate business or professional enterprises at the first story with the upper parts used for residences. Thus the district reflects life styles of the 19th century for families of moderate wealth.
House #4 was owned by Ezra M. Smith and his heirs from 1884 and 1961. Smith is said to have manufactured bed springs on the property and also to have been an undertaker. In 1865 Matthew Welch who owned the property on which building 93 is located sold to John Schofield a 36' X 5' area for a passageway along the north wall of his dwelling. No mention is made of an adjoining building on Schofield's lot. Perhaps John Schofield initially rebuilt the house during his ownership of the property after the fire in 1864. Probably the work which gives the house its present appearance was done under Smith's ownership. In 1909 Ezra M. Smith signed an agreement with Mary M. Kurtz, then owner of building #3, to acquire two feet of the five foot passageway between their respective structures. This could suggest that Smith was planning a major construction project about that time.
Building # 6 was purchased by H.M. Miley, M.D., father of the present owner in 1903. Dr. Miley paid, according to the deed $4500.00 for a lot with a three story brick dwelling house. It was Dr. Miley who hired Maurice Rhoads a builder and architect to renovate the house to its present appearance. Maurice Rhoads was active in Chambersburg at the turn of the century and designed and built several residences and commercial buildings.
The area where this row of buildings stands is near the confluence of the Falling Spring and Conococheaque Creeks. In the vicinity were several industries including a grist mill, a woolen mill and a tannery.