Greensboro Historic District
The Greensboro Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. 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 Greensboro Historic District lies on a wide curve of the west bank of the Monongahela River in southeastern Greene County. The nearly level ground of the floodplain there made it ideal for town development. Laid out in grid form in 1791, the streets either ran nearly parallel to the river or perpendicular to it. The Greensboro Historic District is comprised of 36 buildings, one structure, and one archaeological site. The buildings consist of 24 houses, two garages, two stables, a shed, one church, and six commercial buildings ranging in age from the early nineteenth century into the early twentieth century. (Two of the houses also served as commercial properties.) Almost a third of the houses within the district were built after 1900. Another 28% were built in the antebellum period (1840-1860), and 21% were built in the early nineteenth century. The overwhelming majority are of frame construction with the remainder being log or brick. Only the Baptist church is constructed of stone. The buildings of the district express to varying degrees the current or popular national architectural styles. Therefore, the styles range from the Federal of the early nineteenth century to the Bungalow of the early twentieth. Few could be called high style examples, and most use traditional building forms and plans. Consequently, the architecture within the district can be best described as vernacular. These one- and two-story buildings, with their varied visage, illustrate the growth of this small river port. Most of the buildings within the district have a high degree of integrity. However, eight of the buildings are noncontributing to the district due to unsympathetic changes made to them or were constructed after the period of significance. The district itself maintains the integrity of a small commercial river port.
Although the Monongahela River served as the main entrance into Greensboro during its early history, it now has two vehicular entrances. Both come down long hills from Route 88 on the bluff overlooking the Monongahela. Route 88 provides connections to Waynesburg and Uniontown, Pennsylvania, as well as Morgantown, West Virginia, the closest large city. The descents, especially in winter, provide spectacular views of the river with its eastern shore and Greensboro's sister town, New Geneva. (These two towns shared a nearly identical industrial and transportation history from the late eighteenth century to the mid-twentieth century.) The Greensboro ferry transported people and goods to New Geneva. It operated from the western end of County Street from the late eighteenth century until the mid-twentieth century.The Greensboro ferry transported people and goods to New Geneva. It operated from the western end of County Street from the late eighteenth century until the mid-twentieth century. County Street's intersection with Front Street became the commercial hub of the community. Front Street, which originally zigzagged in a northwesterly direction through town, was part of an early road to Washington, Pennsylvania. The town plan shows six east/west streets and five north/south streets. The only north/south streets on the level river plain are Water and Front streets. The others are at various levels up the bluff.
The earliest residential structures in the Greensboro Historic District, dating to the first quarter of the nineteenth century, include examples of the two thirds Georgian plan and two-room plan houses, the latter, vernacular versions of the hall and parlor plan. An example of the two-thirds Georgian plan is the Kramer/Eddy House. This two-and-a-half story brick house has a hall and two parlors on the first floor. The parlors have back-to-back corner fireplaces with Federal style moldings. The Jones House and the Couch House illustrate variations on the two-room plan which was discussed in detail in the Greensboro/New Geneva Multiple Property Submission Documentation Form. The two-and-a-half story log and frame Jones House has a center chimney with back-to-back fireplaces. Door surrounds in the house indicate an early nineteenth-century date. There is a small vernacular Greek Revival style fireplace surround on the second floor. The two-and-a-half story log Couch House has a four bay facade with two front doors and a central chimney. This is a relatively common house type in the Greensboro/New Geneva area.
Several additional frame houses of early to mid-nineteenth-century vintage survive. The one-and-a-half story frame Kramer/Shelby House evidently had a central chimney with back-to-back fireplaces as well. This house has been modified over the years, but the support timbers (summerbeam and floor joists) indicate that it was constructed in the early nineteenth century. The core of the one-and-a-half story Fetterman/Herrington House appears to be the earliest surviving timber frame building in the district.
The commercial and industrial success of the town is reflected in its number (four) of substantial brick buildings. The rival Greene County river port of Rice's Landing has no brick buildings from the early nineteenth century. Some New Geneva men chose to build their substantial buildings of stone, but the town has three brick buildings built from the mid to late nineteenth century.
Two houses within the district show Greek Revival elements, and three display Italianate features. Possibly the most distinctive house within the district is the 1874 Italianate Thomas Reppert Store and House. Among the particularly noteworthy elements of this six bay brick house are its round arch molded window hoods, recessed panels between floors, paired brackets, and its curved mansard-like third floor roof line. Another prominent house in Greensboro is located across County Street from the Reppert Store/House. Known as the Crawford House, this brick house was built in the Greek Revival style. A Colonial Revival porch and dormers were added later. The Italianate Atkinson House on Minor Street features bracketed eaves, molded (Roman Ogee) siding, and a hipped roof. Other buildings such as the J.C. Reppert House basically only show internal elements of the Greek Revival style. These include fireplace surrounds and window and door moldings.
There are two examples of the Queen Anne style in this district. These include a narrow, gable-fronted, two-story house with its patterned shingles and spindle bracketed porch, and another frame house with its steeply pitched roof, textured shingles, and various bay windows.
Early twentieth-century styles represented here include Prairie, commonly called Foursquare, and Bungalow. There are two particularly good Bungalow examples on Walnut Street. The external materials of these are stucco and brick. One is yellow brick, and the other is red brick. One has a gable front and the other a centered dormer. Both have raised porches, one supported by arched columns, the other by tapered square columns. The only Prairie style house within the district, the Baptist parsonage, is located on Water Street. This frame house has a hipped roof with a centered dormer and a raised front porch supported with square yellow brick columns.
The commercial buildings within the district range from at least the early nineteenth century into the early twentieth century. Many served as residences as well, particularly on the upper floors. The earliest is the c.1800 Boughner store on the corner of Front and County streets. This two-story, clapboarded log building has gone through many changes over the years and now has large paired windows on its street facade. The second floor contained shelves which were used as storage space for the store. The previously mentioned 1874 Reppert Store/House has one half its first floor partitioned for a store. The storefront has a recessed entrance with a double door flanked by large two over two showcase windows.
The remaining commercial buildings date from the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. These include the Donham Drugstore, Pennington Tin Shop, the Davis Theatre, and the McCann Building. All are frame buildings located on the west side of Front Street. The Donham Store, currently the Longo Confectionery, has a narrow recessed entrance flanked by large plate glass windows. A wide, double stacked porch was added to the facade in the early twentieth century. The Davis Theatre has a tall second floor punctuated with four disproportionately small windows. It is topped with a wide cornice inscribed with "1923 Davis Theatre." The first floor has two sets of recessed commercial entrances. The facade of the McCann Building is dominated by its enclosed second floor gallery which protects the sidewalk beneath. The gallery has a series of three over one windows. The first floor has a recessed commercial entrance flanked by large plate glass windows. The base of these windows consists of yellow brick with a centered recessed panel beneath each window. The last of the commercial buildings Pennington Tin Shop was built in typical late nineteenth century storefront fashion with a high parapet accented with a wide cornice in a "picket fence" pattern. The first floor has been renovated with late twentieth-century siding and windows.
The Gothic Revival style Greensboro Baptist Church was built of coursed, rusticated sandstone in 1905. James Parreco was the architect/builder. The main entrance is through a square crenelated tower which projects from the northeast corner of the church. The datestone, inscribed "Baptist Church 1832-1905," is located above the Gothic arched entrance. Louvered inserts fill the Gothic arches of the top section of the tower. The gable walls are parapeted on the south, east, and west sides. A water table projects from and highlights the base of the building on those three sides also. The east gable is distinguished with a large, Gothic arched, stained glass window. The central block of the building has a hipped roof.
A contributing structure in this district is the wharf at the east end of County Street. Constructed of cobblestones which are angled into the river bank, this structure slopes down to the river. It was built about the time of the Civil War after slackwater transportation was extended to the Greensboro area. It was also used as a landing for the packet boats when merchants from Waynesburg and Morgantown depended on this transportation means for vital goods. After the Greensboro ferry moved to this location about 1914, the wharf became a ferry landing as well. There was a frame ferry shanty built on the bank. It is believed that the Crawford family owned the ferry property when it was constructed. Some of the structure has been destroyed through flooding and erosion. Individual stones as well as certain sections are missing so as to create an irregular patchwork effect. It appears to have extended approximately 125 feet along the river bank and was approximately 80 feet deep. Currently it is only about half that size.
Included within this district is the archaeological site of the James Hamilton pottery, the most productive pottery in the area. Tests done on this site (Lots 84 and 85) just east of Water Street and north of Walnut Street revealed both vertically and horizontally stratified pottery sherds which may yield culturally significant information. Located on the floodplain above the Monongahela River, the site is presently covered with trees and grass.
The Greensboro Historic District has a greater range of architectural styles and forms than its sister river town of New Geneva. It not only contains the exquisite Reppert store/house but also small frame houses such as the Fetterman/Herrington house and the Hall house. Greensboro's other rival port, Rice's Landing (listed on the National Register in 1992), is located in northern Greene County. It's great period of expansion included the late nineteenth and twentieth century when it was particularly affected by the coal/coke industry. Therefore its architecture is generally later than that of Greensboro. It has very few buildings built prior to 1850, while Greensboro has a good number of examples. Both Greensboro and Rice's Landing exemplify the ups and downs of commercial/industrial ports on the Upper Monongahela River.
Although as mentioned above there were eleven streets in Greensboro, this district focuses on County, Front, and Water streets. This was the core of Greensboro's early development and is also the section of town retaining the highest integrity. Situated on the Monongahela floodplain, Greensboro has been subject to numerous floods, the most recent occurring in 1985. It will also be subject to increases in the river's normal pool as a new dam is being constructed at Gray's Landing. As a consequence, basement walls and first floor materials have been covered or replaced. Some buildings have been so severely damaged that they have been demolished. Another element affecting this district is the economic decline of the area. As the coal and coke industry dwindled so did the commercial prospects of the area. The economically vibrant town of the early twentieth century was gone by mid century. Neglected buildings deteriorated and were demolished, leaving holes in once cohesive streetscapes. Wherever possible these noncontributing areas were eliminated from the district.
Noncontributing buildings include those which were constructed after the period of significance or so severely altered that they can no longer convey their period of significance. Included in this group are late twentieth-century trailers. There is also one building, known as the Hugas House, that was moved in 1990 to its present location at the corner of County and Front streets. It is not eligible, not only because it was moved, but because it has had its siding removed and an unsympathetic appendage added to its east side.
Although alterations have occurred to this district through demolitions, new siding materials, neglect, and additions, the present district is able to convey its historic significance in association with the Monongahela River and its transportation system as well as the commercial/industrial and architectural development of the area. The form and layout of the Greensboro Historic District sustains the feeling of a small river town of the Upper Monongahela Valley. The architecture of Greensboro is representative of late eighteenth- through early twentieth-century regional vernacular architecture and displays elements of various popular national styles as well.
Statement of Significance
The Greensboro Historic District is significant in the areas of transportation, commerce, industry, architecture, and historic archaeology. The period of significance begins with the laying out of the town in 1791. While the district's industrial and transportation significance are largely contained in the nineteenth century, its commercial and architectural significance extends into the early twentieth century. Greensboro evolved from an early trading center to an industrial center — first, associated with the glass industry and later, the pottery industry. The late eighteenth-/early nineteenth-century New Geneva/Greensboro glass making operation proved that quality glass could be produced on the western frontier when money, men, natural resources, and transportation networks could be effectively harnessed. Likewise, the mid-nineteenth-century Greensboro/New Geneva stoneware potteries were among the most productive in the eastern United States. Talented artisans/craftsmen along with excellent nearby clay banks produced a distinctive stoneware which had a large market. By the 1850s the slackwater system of locks and dams had been developed on the Monongahela River allowing travel from Pittsburgh to the Greensboro/New Geneva area almost year round. This permitted Greensboro to become a shipping point not only for southern Greene County but parts of what is now northern West Virginia as well. Its mid-nineteenth-century growing industrial, commercial, and transportation significance, helped transform the town into a social and cultural center as well. It essentially lost the pottery market due to more efficient producers in the 1880s and became a more localized port with the extension of slackwater transportation to Morgantown in the same period. Nevertheless, Greensboro continued to grow as a local entrepot for farmers, miners, artisans, and businessmen into the early twentieth century. The district is significant for its distinctive local vernacular architecture. Greensboro houses generally conformed to popular national styles on the exterior but retained traditional floor plans in the interior. The central chimney/two-room plan houses of this area represent a type found less frequently throughout the remainder of Fayette and Greene counties. The site of the James Hamilton pottery, one of the most productive in the area, may yield culturally significant information according to archaeological evaluations done there.
The areas of significance mentioned above are interrelated. Industries grew not only due to nearby natural resources but also because there was a convenient transportation system. Likewise, commerce grew because of the need and demand for the economic development of the area. The architecture resulted from the domestic needs of the people in association with their industrial and commercial livelihoods. Greensboro is a significant example of a town where pioneering artisans and entrepreneurs along with natural resources combined to create a small industrial/commercial community using the democratic ideals established by the American Revolution. Laid out in 1791 by farmer/businessman Elias Stone, Greensboro was one of seventeen towns founded before 1800 in the three southwestern Pennsylvania counties of Washington, Greene, and Fayette. The town of "Greensburgh" grew slowly through the early nineteenth century, but expanded sufficiently by 1879 to become its own borough. The architecture of this district reflects the various economic expansions and declines of Greensboro. About 1807 the New Geneva Glassworks moved across the Monongahela and located about a half mile north of Greensboro. This extended the need for various artisans and merchants, but still growth was not dramatic. With the expansion of the pottery industry there in the 1850s and the extension of slackwater river travel to Greensboro in 1856, the town grew in population and in commercial importance. By the 1860s it had become a social and cultural center of the area with a number of churches and social halls. In the late 1880s the pottery industry became concentrated in major industrial centers where transportation and technology allowed greater production at lower costs, leaving production sites like Greensboro as backwaters. In 1889 slackwater navigation on the Monongahela had been extended to Morgantown, lessening the need for Greensboro as a port on the upper Monongahela. However, Greensboro continued to grow as a local commercial and cultural center from the 1890s into the 1920s. In the early twentieth century small coal patch towns grew just outside the borough limits. With the drop in demand for coal in the 1930s, the area became economically depressed.
Just as its sister town New Geneva developed as an early trading center for settlers heading west, Greensboro developed in similar fashion. Eastern settlers could continue overland or have a boat built there and continue down the Monongahela/Ohio River system. Greensboro was a depot for produce sent down the river in arks and later steamboats. Farmers/tradesmen would bring in their raw goods such as hides to be tanned, and these could be bartered for manufactured goods such as nails. In addition to speculators, the earliest lot owners were shopkeepers, innkeepers, and artisans/craftsmen, including two tanners. Town founder, Elias Stone, was assessed in 1802 with "one ferry lot and ferry." In 1808 there were three traders in the area. Among these was Thomas Graham who owned seven lots in Greensburgh. Among the three storekeepers was Charles Alexander Mestrezat who had two houses and four lots there. In 1815 the Greensburgh Manufacturing Company was formed by certain members of the German glass making families there. Its owners operated a steam grist and saw mill and produced barrel staves as well. By 1832 the town boasted 100 dwellings, four stores, one tavern, and 500 inhabitants. By mid-century larger river towns and the National Road had diverted trade away from Greensboro.
Greensboro also became involved in the early industrial development of the Upper Monongahela Valley by 1807. At this time the New Geneva glass company moved its plant from near New Geneva to just north of town. Records indicate that this plant functioned into the 1850s. Some of the raw ingredients necessary to glass production were shipped on the river, and nearly all the finished products were shipped to ports down the Monongahela/Ohio River system. By 1810, $10,000 worth of "New Geneva" glass was passing through Pittsburgh. The Baltzer Kramer & Company glass furnace was assessed at $23,000 in 1822. The 1850 Manufacturer's Census indicates that this factory was still active with 22 workmen producing $18,000 work of glass. The factory continued on the tax rolls until 1859 when it is listed as "not in use."
Alexander Vance pioneered pottery production in Greensboro by 1807 when he first appeared as a potter there. Vance's son-in-law Daniel Boughner became involved in pottery making by 1817. Boughner and his sons Alexander Vance and Daniel, Jr. continued making redware pottery at least until 1849. The low-firing clays used in the manufacture of redware contained iron oxides which produced a red color when fired. This porous, less durable pottery did not require the technology that stoneware did. The locating of prime stoneware clay banks nearby spurred the stoneware industry in Greensboro in the 1850s. By the 1860s the industry had greatly expanded there. In 1870 the James Hamilton Company (on Lots 5, 6, 84 & 85) and the Hamilton and Jones Company (on Lots 50 & 51 outside the district), both located in Greensboro, far out produced other pottery plants in the Upper Monongahela River Valley. By the late 1880s the stoneware/pottery industry became centered in major industrial centers. Greensboro never was connected with a major rail system, and evidently didn't have the financial resources or connections to bring in the technology to compete as production became more mechanized. By the 1890s the heyday of pottery production in Greensboro was past. The only local ware produced in the early 1900s was a utilitarian, undecorated type, and by 1915 there was no local production.
The James Hamilton pottery site is located on three vacant lots in Greensboro. The archaeological testing done on this site revealed a waster which is vertically and horizontally stratified. The waster on the site could be a time capsule of approximately 50 years of pottery production. The pottery sherds found here could reveal the changing technology used in the pottery industry during this time frame. Information from the waster could also disclose what types of wares were in demand by consumers during this period. In addition, the sherds on this site may reveal changes in vessel form or morphology relative to changes in market conditions.
Although there are no surviving kilns or industrial buildings associated with the pottery industry in Greensboro, there are extant commercial and domestic structures associated with potters there. These include the Boughner Store and House on County Street, the Atkinson House on Minor Street, and the Boughner and Couch houses on Front Street.
In 1860 Greensboro was a local cultural center having three churches, a school, an Odd Fellows Hall, and a Masonic Hall. It also supported three grocers, two doctors, two dry goods stores, and a general store. At that time most of the stores lined County Street from Second Street to the river. In 1876 there were four physicians along with a druggist. In that year there were seven merchants located there in addition to a jeweler and the Kramer & Pennington tin store. By the mid-1880s Greensboro had its own newspaper, the Greensboro Graphic.
Despite the loss of the pottery industry, Greensboro held onto its position as a commercial center in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. It was still a major port on the Upper Monongahela. In addition, local farmers and the nearby coal patch residents depended on the goods and services provided by Greensboro merchants and artisans. This continued until after World War I when the coal industry went into a depression. Thereafter, Greensboro declined as transportation patterns changed and the coal industry continued to wane. Nearby towns in Fayette County including Masontown and Point Marion continued to grow commercially into the mid-twentieth century because they retained nearby industries and were part of viable transportation networks.
As previously mentioned, the Greensboro Historic District is significant for its distinctive local vernacular architecture. This is the result of nearly two hundred years of building traditions that evolved through use and experimentation. Among the forces affecting this vernacular tradition were the natural environment, local builder/architects, and inhabitants of various ethnic backgrounds. The initial settlement imprint of the builder/craftsmen of the early settlement era (1790-1820) was long lasting. Elements of nineteenth-century national architectural movements including Federal Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, and Queen Anne were adopted by Greensboro builders. However, most of these homes retained elements or floor plans related to earlier styles and vernacular traditions.
Log was generally the first building material used on the frontier. As the economy improved through commercial farming and the development of industries, more buildings were constructed of stone or brick, a more costly and generally more enduring building form. However, some Greensboro residents continued to build houses of logs to at least the mid-nineteenth century. Log was a traditional as well as a substantial building material. Often the buildings which used log also had a traditional floor plan. A good example of this is the c.1820-1850 Jones/Gashie House with its central chimney, two-room plan.
Greensboro also contains some distinctive examples of mid-nineteenth-through early twentieth-century architecture. Often these can be tied to periods of economic growth in the town's history. The Thomas Reppert Store/House is an exceptional interpretation of the Italianate style. The Atkinson House is a noteworthy example of the same style. Local architect/builder James Parreco's definition of the Gothic Revival style in the Greensboro Baptist Church is also memorable. In addition, there are some fine examples of the Bungalow style.
As with most of the United States, the 1850s through the 1880s was a period of transition in the architectural development of Greensboro. In this period some traditional forms were retained, but at the same time national architectural trends were influential, especially in exterior designs. For example, the Thomas Reppert Store/House expressed the Italianate style on its exterior but retained a two-thirds Georgian floor plan on its interior. Many earlier houses were also updated with new architectural elements. For instance, the Couch House retained the central chimney two-room plan, but displayed a Late Victorian fireplace surround on the second floor.
The late nineteenth century brought more clearly recognizable national styles to the area. At that time, continued industrialization and transportation and communication developments allowed more contact with national trends which increasingly overlaid vernacular building traditions. By the early twentieth century unadulterated examples of the Prairie and Bungalow styles appeared in Greensboro. The twentieth century also brought changes in commercial buildings as well. For example, pressed metal elements and plate glass windows often highlighted store buildings of the early twentieth century.
The Greensboro Historic District expresses its commercial/industrial history through its architecture. There are representative examples of each period of development in this district from the vernacular central chimney, two-room plan houses of the early nineteenth century to the popular Bungalows of the early twentieth century. Few, if any, southwestern Pennsylvania towns can boast the range of architecture from its period of settlement to the twentieth century as can be found in Greensboro. This was largely due to the fact that there was no large scale development in the twentieth century.
Greensboro's significance was the result of its proximity to natural resources, either the required components of a particular industry or a resource that could fuel industries, the Monongahela River, the natural transportation corridor of southwestern Pennsylvania, and men of means with the foresight to recognize the potential of the area. Greensboro has had a rich history in association with the industrial/commercial, architectural, and transportation development of the Upper Monongahela Valley. This is displayed in the varied and distinctive architecture of the Greensboro Historic District. The Monongahela River was the main transportation artery for this area from the late eighteenth century into the early twentieth century, and this district is significant as one of two major river ports in Greene County. This district's buildings along with the wharf and archaeological pottery site are ample evidence of the significant role this town played in the development of the region.
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