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Rices Landing Historic District


Rices Landing Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1] Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.

Description

Rice's Landing occupies a narrow and level river terrace, precipitous hillslope, and level ridgetop adjacent to the Monongahela River in northeastern Greene County. Pumpkin Run, a deeply embedded tributary of the river, bisects the Rice's Landing Historic District which is composed of 63 buildings, five structures and four archaeological sites. This integrated community is dominated by vernacular buildings of one to two stories dating from the Mid-Victorian to Craftsman period. Through the small scale vernacular buildings, the preserved riverfront, and the geological setting, this district has retained its integrity as a river port from the mid-to-late 19th century and the railroad/coal era of the early 20th century.

The descent from a steep hilltop down the winding corridor of Main Street to the narrow river terrace below, offers an inspiring view of the meandering river and verdant hillsides on the opposite shore. The community's orientation to the river remains in the preservation of the river front and Pumpkin Run as community parks. The original mid-19th century linear town plan is situated at the river terrace on both sides of Pumpkin Run.

Until the town was incorporated in 1903, two separate communities known as Rice's Landing to the northwest and Newport to the southeast were divided by the Cumberland and Jefferson Township line. The borough integrated the two linear town plans into one community. A commercial section of the town developed in response to construction of the Monongahela River lock in Rice's Landing while the Newport section contained early industrial sites including a planing mill, machine shop, and pottery. A ferry landing at the northwestern end of Rice's Landing and a boat launching site at the juncture of Pumpkin Run provided additional access to river transportation. Three main roads — Jefferson Street (Millsboro Road), L.R 30077, and Carmichaels Street located on the west, central, and east sides of town connected Rice's Landing with the uplands and Route 88, the main road to Waynesburg. The Pennsylvania Railroad line occupied the edge of the level terrace at the base of the steep uplands.

The narrow river terrace at Rice's Landing afforded expansion only along Main Street and River Avenue. Later development continued to the steeply sloping upland hills and narrow, level benches that terminate on upland ridgetops south and southwest of the town. On streets overlooking the river, folk houses and vernacular Late Victorian and Colonial Revival houses of wood were constructed from 1880 to 1930. The southeastern boundary of the district includes a row of Craftsman and Colonial Revival houses built from 1905 to 1930 on a level upland ridgetop within a subdivision of Bayard Street. The architecture of the Rice's Landing Historic District symbolizes the small-scale vernacular and folk expressions of river towns. The principal alterations in the district have occurred as a result of building demolitions on the southeastern river terrace, and in the commercial section of town. Small additions to accommodate new bathrooms and porches as well as the application of aluminum siding over original clapboards on some houses are the major modifications to residential buildings.

Buildings from the river port era include the Methodist Episcopal Church built in 1873, an 1850s brick jail, and several vernacular wood houses from the Mid-to Late-Victorian period. The general store, an Art Deco bank, and an early Hudson-Rambler garage express the community's importance as a local commercial center for the distribution of goods and services relating with river transportation. Industrial resources are represented by the Y.A. Young Machine Shop, the Excelsior Pottery, and company houses once owned by the H.C. Frick Coke Company during the bituminous coal era. Monongahela River Lock #6, two brick lock keeper's houses from the 1930s, and concrete structures from the railroad period symbolize the significance of transportation to the development of Rice's Landing. Structures include the remains of Lock #6, a concrete bridge from 1914, a 1913 railroad bridge, and a 1913 railroad tunnel.

As the community expanded in response to new industrial and transportation facilities, upland farms to the southeast of the district were subdivided and lots along Carmichaels and Bayard Streets infilled with Colonial Revival and Craftsman houses. Archaeological remains of the Dilworth Mine Complex, the company housing on Red Row, the Hughes Grist Mill and the Union Supply Store are industrial resources that have been documented by pedestrian reconnaissance. The community park along Pumpkin Run contains the earliest building and site in the Rice's Landing Historic District. Access through an arched railroad viaduct provides a dramatic entry from the town to the wooded nature park and meandering Pumpkin Run. The one-story red brick jail with cast iron window bars dates from ca.1850 and is situated on a terrace above Pumpkin Run. Upstream are the archaeological remains of a nineteenth-century grist mill that was once owned by John Hughes. The ashlar mill foundation with brick chimney is still extant as are segments of the head and tail races along the creek.

The earliest residential structures in the Rice's Landing Historic District are folk forms including two hall-and-parlor, two gable-front, and four gable-side houses with balloon frame structural systems covered with clapboards. Inspired by the Italianate, Eastlake, and Queen Anne styles during the period between 1870 and 1910, seven houses in the district have porches embellished with roof brackets, jig-saw trim, turned balustrades, and decorative spandrels. The United Methodist Church, later the Methodist Episcopal Church, was built in 1873 and is now covered with aluminum siding and is situated on Main Street. The vernacular Victorian building has stained glass windows and a small tower. Behind the church and facing the river is the two-story, rectory constructed of clapboard and covered with a gable roof. The John Hughes House on River Street and the houses at 107 and 109 Carmichaels Street overlook the river and are excellent examples of Folk Victorian dwellings with elaborate porch decoration. Late Victorian window surrounds, such as those on the W. A. Young House, are wood with a simple pediment over double-hung windows. This form is also found on the W. A. Young Machine Shop as well as several houses in the district. Access to heavy wood machinery, planing mills and an abundance of pre-cut sections shipped by river and rail brought Folk Victorian housing to even the most rural areas.

Two significant early industrial resources in Rice's Landing are present in adjacent two-story buildings of clapboard that face the river on Water Street. The W. A. Young Machine Shop remains as an excellent example of a preserved machine shop from the early nineteenth century. The two-story shop has original clapboards painted red and multipaned, double-hung windows and three entrances with wood window surrounds. The unusual addition of the foundry to the existing shop reflects the isolation of Rice's Landing and the absence of local foundries. The Young family retained the machine shop through most of its history thus preserving the structure, machinery and context. Although the adjacent Excelsior Pottery has been converted to a residence, the exterior of the site endures as a preserved example of the significant Monongahela River ceramic industry. This two-story building has original clapboards painted blue, a stone foundation and gable roof with boxed cornice and returns. The six-bay facade with three entrances and windows embellished with Folk Victorian wood surrounds has an unobstructed river view.

With the introduction of bituminous coal mining, company houses were constructed along Main Street and on upland slopes adjacent to the railroad. "Red Row" extended Main Street to the mining complex. One-and two-story, detached and semi-detached houses of wood, as well as the large company store on Main Street known as the Union Supply Store, were constructed by Frick. Two examples of two-story semi-detached company houses at 128 and 130 Main Street represent this housing form. The archaeological remains of "Red Row" including stone foundations and refuse areas were identified during field inspection. The Union Supply Store at the corner of Third and Main Street remains as a preserved archaeological site.

The original deep shaft Dilworth Mine with associated structures was situated between the railroad and the river at the northwestern end of Main Street. The brick and concrete fan house is extant and still operates for use by the new Dilworth Mine located east of Rice's Landing. Two one-story red brick buildings with concrete lintels and sills as well as a series of reinforced concrete foundations, including the foundation for the extensive barge-loading facility and power house, are still extant. The original shaft has been infilled and surrounded by a wire fence. Two banks of coke ovens, now completely covered by slate deposits, extend for approximately 500 feet to the northwest of the shaft.

Rice's Landing continued to develop in the early twentieth century in response to the bituminous coal industry and transportation facilities. During this period, the town was a thriving village with several grocery stores, clothing stores, hotels, and other commercial ventures. Representing this period are the Art Deco Rice's Landing National Bank, the Hughes store, and the Nash-Rambler garage, later an Atlantic gas station. The now vacant garage occupies the lot northwest of Pumpkin Run, and is a one-story concrete and wood building with multipaned windows. The Rice's Landing bank now functions as a center for the town's historical society. Constructed ca.1912, the yellow brick bank with ashlar foundation and flat roof is embellished with green and violet geometric designs. The original hammered aluminum desks, marble floors and walls remain; however, the entrance was altered by the removal of decorated columns and the addition of a new porch. The Hughes store is a two-story, seven-bay commercial building of wood situated on the river front east of Pumpkin Run. The store replaced an earlier commission house and has a one-story front porch that covers opposing entrances.

Located on upland agricultural tracts are two early farmhouses and a wood barn with gambrel roof and stone foundation that was part of a third upland farmstead. The barn has been remodeled to function as a firehouse after the dwelling house was demolished. One of the original farmhouses in Rice's Landing — the Teal House — overlooks the town on a hill above the river. The simple gable-front-and-wing form of the Teal House exhibits gable roofs embellished with cornice returns and decorative roof supports. Arched four-over-four light double-hung windows have pedimented lintels. This Italianate dwelling, constructed in 1880 on land purchased from J. Randolph Bayard, is covered with original clapboards, painted white. On Bayard Street, a Stick style farmhouse from 1900 also represents the earlier agrarian function of the uplands. This two-and one-half story residence of clapboard has decorative stickwork on the central front gable and porch pediment. The full-width front porch is supported by round columns.

New subdivisions formed between 1905 and 1930 surrounded the older Stick-style dwelling. Lots were infilled with two-story Colonial Revival and Foursquare dwellings as well as one-story Craftsman bungalows of wood. The bungalows were inspired by the Craftsman movement with their front-gabled, low-pitched roofs and full porches supported by tapered square columns. Two-story Colonial Revival and Foursquare dwellings from the same period reflect the emerging new vernacular styles that utilized pre-cut lumber and plans from popular pattern books.

Five contributing structures relate with the transportation system at Rice's Landing. One is a curved concrete wall for the ferry and boat landing at the end of Main Street. Another structure, Monongahela Navigation Lock #6, engineered by Sylvanus Lothrop, included a fixed crest dam constructed on a solid rock foundation with walls raised to fifteen feet in height. The lock was protected by cribs and fenders while floors were constructed of heavy longitudinal timbers covered with spiked planks. The lock was reconstructed in 1914-16 after the navigation system was acquired by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A new fixed crest dam and two locks, each measuring 56 feet by 360 feet, replaced the original lock. After the construction of the Maxwell Dam in 1964, the lock was abandoned and the river walls were removed. However, the concrete land and middle wall of the 1914-16 lock is still present adjacent to the riverfront park.

Until 1903, Rice's Landing and Newport remained as separate communities divided by the Cumberland and Jefferson Township line but connected by a covered bridge over Pumpkin Run. A later iron bridge was replaced in 1914 with the extant concrete deck bridge. The extension of the railroad from the Third Street freight station east to Crucible altered the original town plan by eliminating buildings on the southwest side of Main Street from Pumpkin Run to First Street. On the east side of Pumpkin Run, the railroad truncated the block of houses at the end of Water Street. Two of the contributing structures in the Rice's Landing Historic District including the 1913 arched concrete railroad bridge over Pumpkin Run, and a railroad tunnel at the end of Water Street, represent the railroad era.

Included in the eleven non-contributing buildings, there are eight metal or wood garages and a wood shed. A concrete block borough building is now situated on a lot once occupied by the Rice's Landing school, which was demolished in the 1970s. A trailer occupies the original Hughes Store lot.

There is a high probability of archaeological resources within the Rice's Landing Historic District's boundaries on Pumpkin Run. In the 1870s, a blacksmith shop was situated on the southern bank of the stream and a warehouse stood on the northern border. The archaeological remains of the mid-nineteenth century brick Monongahela House and associated livery and stable, once owned by Noah Teal and later by John Faddis, are present on the southwest corner of Main and First Streets. The three-story hotel was demolished in 1957, and only the concrete steps remain. Hotel Redd, a second three-story Folk Victorian hotel that was also demolished, stood to the northwest of the Monongahela House. To the south of Pumpkin Run, the kiln and other refuse features associated with the Excelsior Pottery may still have archaeological integrity. As a result of railroad construction and the increase in the Monongahela River pool level, the planing mill, saw mill, and a row of nineteenth-century houses are no longer present. Features associated with these structures and other commercial buildings on Main Street may still have archaeological integrity. However, pending further archaeological investigation, these remains have not been counted or considered as part of the district's significance.

Minor alterations in the Rice's Landing Historic District have occurred as a result of building demolitions, new siding materials and the construction of small additions. However, the integrity and historic feeling of Rice's Landing endures. The primary contributing components of the Rice's Landing Historic District are the W. A. Young machine shop, the Excelsior pottery, the Dilworth Mining Complex, Monongahela River Lock #6, the Art Deco bank, brick jail, and the sequence of vernacular clapboarded Victorian dwellings. Landscape features along the beautiful gorge of Pumpkin Run and along the Monongahela River enhance the integrity and historical feeling of the district.

Significance

The Rice's Landing Historic District is significant in the areas of transportation, industry, and architecture as a preserved, mid-19th to early-20th century Upper Monongahela River port and early industrial town. The town's evolution as a riverport began in the 1860s with the construction of a foundry, blacksmith shop, boat yard and steam sawmill. Although these resources are no longer extant, the Rice's Landing Historic District contains significant extant buildings from the later 19th century. Situated along the river front are the Excelsior Pottery (1870-1885), the W. A. Young and Sons Machine Shop (1900-1965), and the Dilworth Mining Complex (1880-1930). Transportation on the Monongahela River improved in the 20th century when the locks were reconstructed and a new railroad system was introduced through the town. While the integrity of other Upper Monongahela river towns declined due to industrial development, floods, and neglect, this well-preserved, cohesive community dominated by vernacular wood buildings from the Mid-Victorian to Craftsman period provides a sense of historic feeling for the river port era of the mid-to-late 19th century and the railroad/coal era of the early 20th century. The archaeological remains of the Dilworth Mine site also can provide information about the size, layout and processes of this bituminous mining operation.

See: Rice's Landing: Beginnings

By 1859, the river and trade orientation of the town was expressed by the occupations of the inhabitants. A steamboat captain and pilot resided at the landing as did a patent right dealer, Justice of the Peace, and several teamsters. Only three persons listed their occupation as farmer. Early industry at Rice's Landing reflected its increasing prosperity and the need for materials for new construction and boat repair. The emerging Mid-Victorian architectural style required machine-made materials that were applied to basic structural forms. A small foundry, blacksmith shop, and cooper shop were present by 1859; and a new boat yard and a steam sawmill on the floodplain south of Pumpkin Run were under construction. The sawmill remained in operation at this site through the 1940s. None of the early to mid-nineteenth century industrial and commercial resources are extant.

In the early 1870s, local school teacher Isaac Hewitt, Jr. established the Excelsior Works where he produced gray salt-glazed stoneware distinguished by his "Rice's Landing" trademark. Hewitt's pottery was the most profitable company outside of the Greensboro and New Geneva stoneware center located upstream. The company annually produced 45,000 gallons and employed six workers who operated three wheels. Hewitt marketed part of his merchandise through agents while the remainder was sold from wagons by the proprietor. After a decade of success, production was reduced and the annual value dropped from $6,500 to only $2,000 in 1880. As navigation to the Greensboro and New Geneva pottery centers improved, Hewitt's pottery experienced competition for downriver trade, a factor that was most likely responsible for the pottery's demise in the late 1880s. The pottery was later used as a residence and is still extant.

Greene County's economic development depended on its rich bituminous coal industry. By the mid-nineteenth century, hundreds of coal barges floated down the Monongahela River, and coal became one of the most significant materials transported on the improved waterways. The county's coal industry developed as extractive technology improved and new rail systems were constructed. By the twentieth century, coal and quarry products commanded over 93 percent of the total value of all products in Greene County.

The rich Pittsburgh Coal Seam and the deep shaft Dilworth Mine were responsible for an important expansion period at Rice's Landing. The Dilworth Mining Company, the first major coal mine in Greene County, consisted of a deep shaft mine and 190 coke ovens located along the river on the northern border of Rice's Landing. Coal and coke were loaded directly into barges from the riverside mine. The company operated a second mine in the uplands west of town. The fan house and associated archaeological remains from the original Dilworth Mine site represent this aspect of the community's development. The processes and facilities used to produce and transport coal from this early deep shaft mine as well as the size and layout of the mining complex would contribute to our knowledge of the coal and coke industry.

By 1901, the town's directory listed the occupations of 182 individuals who resided in Rice's Landing in both Cumberland and Jefferson Townships. In the Newport side of the town, only 18 persons were not farmers or laborers. Occupations in the Jefferson Township side of Rice's Landing were more diverse including those involved in commercial endeavors such as the hotels, stores, and small shops but only three miners resided there.

Between 1906 and 1913, significant improvements were made in transportation system to the Dilworth Mine which was producing over 100,000 tons of coal per year. In 1906, the Pittsburgh, Virginia and Charleston Railroad — later the Pennsylvania Railroad — extended its line from West Brownsville past the Dilworth Mine to a new freight and passenger station near Third Avenue in Rice's Landing. Seven years later, in 1913, the line was extended through the southeastern part of town and continued to the mines at Crucible and eventually Nemacolin. Concrete abutments embellished with keystones made from Young's Machine Shop patterns carried the railroad across Pumpkin Run. Water Street was truncated. A row of houses along the river and another row to the west of the railroad on the hillside were removed during construction. The following year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who had taken over the Monongahela Navigation System in June of 1897, began a two-year refurbishment of Lock #6.

In response to the successful Dilworth Mine as well as the improved transportation system at Rice's Landing, W. A. Young established a machine shop on the Monongahela River in 1900. As the mine expanded and a new railroad was planned through town, Young expanded his shop with a foundry. The machine shop and foundry continued as a "job shop" supplying a diversity of products relating with the coal industry and river trade. When W. A. Young died in 1940, he requested that his business continue "as long as practical by my sons Walter B. and Harry C. Young who have been in association with me in its operation." Young bequeathed the machine shop to his sons and directed his executors to sell his house and two lots on High Street. Although Young's sons maintained the machine shop until 1965, the foundry remained idle. Today, Young's shop is one of "the nation's best preserved machine shops of the period" according to Robert Vogel, Curator Emeritus of Mechanical and Civil Engineering for the National Museum of American History.

In 1914, the Rice's Landing Coal and Coke Company owned the Dilworth Mine. Within the next few years, the H.C. Frick Coke Company acquired the mine and many of the lots in Rice's Landing including two blocks between Second Street and the ferry landing.

Coal was extracted at the Dilworth Mine through the use of deep shafts, used only when rich veins were available for mining. In 1909, only 6.1 percent of all underground mines in Pennsylvania were shaft mines. Frick's predictions for the wealth of Pittsburgh Coal at Rice's Landing proved valid as the vein continues to be mined today. Frick retained the Dilworth facility as a captive mine for U.S. Steel Corporation and shipped coal via the new railroad.

The year after the railroad was completed through town, Frick built the only company store owned by his firm in Greene County. The Union Supply Store, now an archaeological site on the corner of Main and Third Streets, served the company's 210 employees. To house the workers, one-and two-story semi-detached company houses of clapboards were built and interleaved with existing dwellings along Main Street. Company housing was also constructed along the hillslopes adjacent to the railroad and as an extension on Main Street known as "Red Row." The new railroad and expansion of the mine by Frick brought new residents to the region creating a major community development. As the Mine prospered, the Rice's Landing Realty Company subdivided upland farmsteads and began selling lots in 1905. This evolution can be observed on Bayard Street where an earlier Stick style farmhouse is surrounded by Colonial Revival and Craftsman bungalows that infilled the new subdivision between 1905 and 1930. The hybrid town of Rice's Landing was a contrast to the planned, model coal towns such as Nemacolin owned by Youngstown Sheet and Tube and Crucible owned by the Crucible Steel Company.

The Dilworth Mine continued in operation after World War I when many mines had closed and the industry was declining. During this time, the Rice's Landing National Bank moved from its quarters in the Monongahela House to a new modern building on the corner of Main Street. The subsequent development of Rice's Landing into a commercial district with a clothing store, movie theater, pool hall, restaurant and post office can be interpreted through the bank building, the Nash-Rambler garage; and the Hughes Store. When the mine temporarily closed, workers from Rice's Landing went to Crucible Mine for employment, and other residents "worked the river."

Extant buildings and structures in the Rice's Landing Historic District represent each of the important developmental periods and areas of significance. Representing the town's importance as a center for transportation are the remains of the lock, the lock keepers houses, and railroad features. Industrial resources include the Young Machine Shop, Excelsior Pottery, the Dilworth Mining Complex, and the grist mill site. The town's architectural significance is united by Late Victorian architecture for residential, commercial, and industrial buildings.

Other river port towns on the Upper Monongahela River including Fredericktown, Brownsville, and California have been altered by 20th century construction and the removal of earlier buildings to make way for industrial complexes on prime riverside lots. Floods and the increase in the river's normal pool have also impacted river towns such as Speers, Dunlevy, Gray's Landing, and Greensboro. Although these towns share similar Late Victorian architecture, 20th century impacts have disturbed their integrity. Only Rice's Landing integrated the river navigation system, the hub of rail transportation, bituminous coal mining, and early industry in one location. The preserved Young Machine Shop and Excelsior Pottery are key resources. Rice's Landing retains the significant architectural and environmental integrity of an early river port and industrial town. Topography secludes Rice's Landing from the surrounding area insulating the town from modern expansion in the uplands. Steep hillslopes along the river prevent development to the north and south of town.

References

Anonymous, "To the Stockholders of the Monongahela Navigation Company" (Pittsburgh: Privately published, 1843).

An Original Stockholder, A History of the Monongahela Navigation Company. (Pittsburgh: Privately published, 1873), 12-21.

Bates, Samuel, History of Greene County (Chicago: Nelson, Rishforth and Company, 1888), 486-491, 517-520.

Denny, William, comp. Directory of Waynesburg and Greene County. (Waynesburg: W. L. Schmitz, printer, 1901).

Greene County (PA), Recorders Office, Deed Books V. 142, 172-181. V. 145, 546. V. 214, 248. V. 308, 3. V. 323,369. V. 334, 598. V. 493, 503. V.

Greene County (PA), Recorders Office, Will Book No. 12348.

Interview with Mark Brown, HAER historian, September, 1991.

Interview with Carmen DiCiccio, Bureau for Historic Preservation, March, 1992.

Interview with Christopher Marston, HAER architect, December 2, 1991.

Interview with Norma and Murry Kline, COCO, January 31, 1992.

Interview with Robert Vogel, Curator Emeritus of Mechanical and Civil Engineering, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, February 3, 1992.

Interview with Donald Weinshanker, Resident of Rice's Landing, February 2, 1992.

Interview with Olan West, caretaker of the Young foundry, October, 1991.

Schaltenbrand, Phil, Old Pots and Salt Glazed Stoneware of the Greensboro-New Geneva Region.

Thurston, George H., Directory of the Monongahela and Youghiogheny Valleys, 1859.

United States Engineer Office. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Pittsburgh District. "Monongahela River — Lock No. 6, Steamer 'Mongah' entering landward lock," photograph taken May 17, 1939.

Waynesburg Messenger (Waynesburg, PA), April 2, 1830.

Maps

Barnes, J.R. and J.E., Farm and Coal Land Mac of Green County.

Brunot, Felix, Mac of the Monongahela River from the Virginia to Pittsburgh, 1841.

Caldwell, Joseph, Illustrated Atlas of Greene County, Condil, Ohio, 1876.

Tuttle and Company, 1865 McConnell's Mac, Philadelphia, PA.

Warrantee Atlas, Cumberland Township, Greene County.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1948 Map of Rice's Landing.

  1. Davis, Christine, Rices Landing Historic District, nomination document, 1992, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

See Map

Street Names: High Street, Main Street, River Avenue, Water Street

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