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Marklesburg Borough

Marklesburg Borough Hall, P.O. Box 24, James Creek PA 16657; phone: 814-658-2538.

The Marklesburg Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. Text, below, was selected and transcribed from a copy of the original nomination document. [1]

Description

The Borough of Marklesburg is located in central Pennsylvania's Ridge and Valley region at the southern end of Penn Township, 12 miles southwest of the Borough of Huntingdon. The Borough stretches just over one-third of a mile along either side of PA Rte. 26. The Marklesburg Historic District contains 61 buildings. Of this number, 52 have frontage along PA Rte. 26. Nine buildings are oriented toward S.R. 3010 which intersects with PA Rte. 26 at the approximate center of the historic district. Most of the 61 main buildings have an individual shed at the rear property line which have not been counted separately because they have always been counted as one property. The proposed historic district contains one site, a cemetery. This cemetery is located on the northwest corner of the historic district. Fifty-five buildings within the historic district were constructed between ca. 1845 and ca. 1870. Three additional buildings had been constructed by ca. 1900. Only three buildings were constructed after the period of significance. These were considered noncontributing. Most of the architecture is regional vernacular common during the early-to-mid nineteenth century. These incorporate Georgian, two-story, double-pile, three-to-eight bay and Gothic Revival characteristics. Many buildings retain original architectural details such as small front porches trimmed with brackets and ornamental jigsaw work. The Marklesburg Historic District represents an intact nineteenth century community which developed as a service and commercial center for its local agricultural and industrial customers.

PA Rte. 26, known locally as Bedford Road, is the main thoroughfare traversing the historic district. It runs in a northeast-southwest direction between Huntingdon and Bedford. Its path through Woodcock Valley is bounded by Tussey Mountain to the west and Terrace Mountain to the east. There is a single row of building lots facing PA Rte. 26 on both its east and west sides. A service alley parallels PA Rte. 26 at the rear extreme of each row of lots. The western terminus of S.R. 3010, a secondary road known locally as Railroad Street, intersects with PA Rte. 26. This road which formerly provided a transportation link now has no outlet to the east. S.R. 3010's eastern terminus lies outside of the Marklesburg Historic District at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lake Raystown property line. The Marklesburg Historic District only extends as far as the east property line of St. Matthews Lutheran Church.

The built environment of Marklesburg remains distinctly residential in scale and use. Most of the buildings front on PA Rte. 26 with less than 10-foot frontyard setbacks. The house lots, all one quarter of an acre, are long and narrow with generally modest sideyards, ten to thirty feet wide, and deep backyards that abut service alleys. Many properties retain original outbuildings, generally wood-frame former carriage houses or converted barns with lofts which open onto the rear alley. They presently function as garages or sheds. Those commercial uses that existed from the earliest period, such as stores and craftsmen shops also were housed in residential buildings. Only modifications to wall surfaces, such as first-floor storefronts, alter their outward appearance from an otherwise residential character. Only four buildings, the former Town Hall, the former James Creek School House, the former Methodist Episcopal Church, and St. Matthew's Lutheran Church have distinctly institutional appearances.

Fifty buildings within the historic district are wood construction; of those half appear to be log construction and the other half, wood-frame construction. Wood clapboard siding has been retained on 37 buildings. Of the remaining 13 buildings, five have vinyl siding, six have aluminum siding, and two have insul-brick siding. Several examples of those buildings with wood clapboard siding include the former Huff shoemaker's shop, a one-story, side gable log building with unpainted rough wood siding; and the former Zeigler Hotel, presently operating as a bed and breakfast. The former hotel is a two-story, five-bay, side gable with ell. This configuration appears to include two connected log I-Houses facing Bedford Road and a later ell which fronts on Railroad Street. The rear addition included the kitchen which was positioned to service rail travelers. The main entrance to this addition features a Victorian door with an etched glass transom. The former Indian Queen Hotel has a mix of wood-frame and rubble-stone construction under the clapboard siding. This mix reflects its construction as two separate buildings connected at a later date. This entire building, has been reclaimed from dereliction and is presently being restored. The eleven remaining buildings in the historic district include seven of brick and four of stone construction.

The four institutional buildings within the historic district represent a range of design, construction techniques, and materials. All were built during the period from 1844 to 1872 and include center hall, mid-nineteenth century and Gothic Revival characteristics. In execution, one is brick and three are wood frame. Two of the wood frame buildings retain original wooden siding and the third is brick cased. In utility, one is public space, two are religious spaces, and the fourth is in private ownership.

The former James Creek School, a ca. 1870 brick building, is presently owned by the Borough of Marklesburg. Borough business is conducted on the second story, the Woodcock Valley Historical Society occupies a room on the south end of the first story and the Borough leases space on the north end of the first story to the U.S. Postal Service for the James Creek Post Office. This building is a two-story, side gable with a one-and-one-half story tower centered on the east facade. The Borough purchased and moved into this building in 1954 after vacating the ca. 1870 former town hall which is a two story wood-frame building with a simple wooden cornice. It is presently used for storage.

St. Matthew's Lutheran Church and the former Methodist Episcopal Church which presently houses the James Creek Church of the Brethren were similar to each other in their original form. They were designed as modest wood-frame, front-gabled buildings with a steeple on the gabled end and arched windows on all four facades. The ca. 1870 white frame Lutheran Church building was remodeled in 1892 when the entrance was moved from its original location to a new tower at the northeast corner. A large stained glass window was installed in the former entrance. In 1927 the high steeple was lowered and the building was cased with red brick. The building was again altered in 1952 with an addition to the south facade. Despite the changes, the original Gothic Revival design is still visibly evident. The ca. 1854 Methodist Episcopal Church building has a one story rear addition which is not highly visible from PA Rte. 26. The rear addition does not visually impact the appearance of the original building.

Union Cemetery is located west of PA Rte. 26 directly opposite from the former Methodist Episcopal Church. Access to the cemetery is by the service alley which intersects PA Rte. 26. The cemetery was originally contained on the north side of the access road but has expanded in all directions. A portion presently lies south of the access road as well. The earliest date noted was 1804 and burials continue to take place there. There is a section of approximately fifteen burial plots on the southwest corner which appear to contain remains moved to Union Cemetery from another cemetery.

Overall, the built environment within the Marklesburg Historic District possesses a high degree of integrity for this region. Noncontributing infill is very limited. The effects of modern renovations to contributing buildings are also relatively benign; a few houses have received inappropriate window alterations and thirteen of the houses originally sided with wood now have aluminum, vinyl, or asphalt siding. The Marklesburg Historic District retains its nineteenth century feeling and association as a local service and commercial center through its vernacular architecture. The architecture of the Marklesburg Historic District reflects regional forms and construction trends as well as its multiple use as living and commercial space.

Significance

The Marklesburg Historic District is significant as a local commercial center and for its concentration of regional vernacular architecture. The period of significance is from 1844, the year the village was initially surveyed and first buildings erected, to ca. 1900. Between 1844 and 1855, the village served primarily as a market town and wagon stop along Bedford Road, the main road paralleling the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River through Woodcock Valley. After 1855, the village also profited by the establishment of the Huntingdon and Broad Top Railroad, a coal and iron-hauling line which also paralleled the Raystown Branch from Huntingdon to the Broad Top coal fields south of Marklesburg. Two hotels were operating through the mid-to-late nineteenth century when the village had grown to contain 48 dwellings. More than 13 tradesmen and shopkeepers worked out of their homes or village shops, serving the village and the surrounding industries such as timbering, iron mining, limestone quarrying, milling (grist and lumber), and agriculture. Throughout the period of significance, the population of the village appears to have consisted of skilled craftsmen, merchants, educators, and laborers in local industry. Architecturally, the buildings represent vernacular examples and construction trends common to the region. The earliest houses were built in rapid succession immediately after the founding of the village. Many of these appear to have been log houses, most of which survive with later additions and weatherboard siding. Many of the houses built during the early period eventually incorporated shops or businesses.

Marklesburg was surveyed by Jacob Cresswell during the summer of 1844 and named in honor of General Joseph Markle, the Whig gubernatorial candidate of Pennsylvania that year. Expressing a linear plan, Marklesburg consisted of a single main street with flanking parallel alleys laid out directly behind the single row of lots facing each side of the main thoroughfare. Right angle access alleys were spaced along the entire length of the town. In 1873, the Village of Marklesburg presented a petition for incorporation to the Pennsylvania General Assembly. In this request the inhabitants wrote that "the said village contains a collection of houses collocated after a regular plan in regard to streets and lanes." The Historic District boundary includes the ca. 1844 linear settlement along Bedford Road plus irregular ca. 1870 development along Railroad Street.

The rationale for establishing a local commercial center at this location along Bedford Road at the headwaters of James Creek appears obvious. A regional agricultural community was already well established which the James Creek post office began servicing in 1840. A road which intersected Bedford Road near the southern end of Marklesburg crossed Tussey Mountain to the west and extended to the quarries near Williamsburg. This provided access to the Pennsylvania Mainline Canal as well as access to work sites at the quarries for Marklesburg men. At the same time, iron mining and lumbering were active industries along the eastern slope of Tussey Mountain. Additionally, the Huntingdon and Broad Top Railroad extended its coal and iron-hauling line through the Woodcock Valley in 1855, paralleling the Raystown Branch. The line included a stop known as Marklesburg Station one-half mile east of the village. Between 1865 and 1883, approximately 150,000 tons of iron ore was shipped from Marklesburg and nearby Grafton Stations. The destination of this ore was the Cambria Iron Company of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The scales used to weigh the industrial and agricultural products of the valley prior to transfer to the railroad were situated on Bedford Road in Marklesburg in front of the Zeigler Hotel. Although the scales are no longer extant, this activity occurred within the boundaries of the Historic District.

By 1876, commercial activity in Marklesburg included three stores, a carriage factory, two blacksmith shops, one harness shop, two cobbler shops, three cabinet and joiner shops, one cooper, one gunsmith, and two hotels. Presumably, the market for this commercial activity was due to Marklesburg's proximity to the industry and agriculture of Woodcock Valley and to the railroad's close service.

Overwhelmingly the architecture of Marklesburg is the center hall plan of the carpenters' handbook and vernacular variety. Whether commercial, residential or institutional, the construction is most often wood; either log or frame covered by clapboard siding for added insulation and a more refined finish. An example of this type of construction is the building now known as "Checkers," and the attached building. Although these buildings present a unified front facade, each has a number of additions including a former harness shop at the rear. Another example of the mixed residential, professional, and commercial uses many of these buildings were put to is a building which housed a doctors office and residence as well as a print shop.

Several of the educational, religious, and public institutions represented in the historic district were active in Woodcock Valley prior to the formal establishment of Marklesburg and moved within the historic district boundaries after the village was surveyed. The James Creek Post Office was established in 1840 and has been housed in a number of commercial and residential buildings. Several times when the duties of postmaster changed hands, new facilities were built in the form of one room additions to existing buildings. This explains the one story addition to the south end of one house. The ca. 1904 rear addition to the house subsequently housed a doctor's office and telephone exchange. The brick building at the southern end of the historic district which presently functions as the post office and borough building was built as a school. It was the third school constructed for Marklesburg students and was used as a school until 1952. It is the only extant former school building in Marklesburg. The brick used in the construction of this building was fired in a brick kiln on the Beaver property.

The architecture of the church buildings contained within the historic district represents an earlier tradition and presence in both the Borough and the Valley. St. Matthew's Lutheran Church, organized in 1804, met in several locations before building and occupying their present building in 1871. The Lutheran parsonage is currently located in the house previously discussed in terms of the uses its rear addition received. The house itself was the first house built in the newly surveyed village in 1844. The Methodist congregation was organized in 1848 and met in their building, dedicated in 1852, until the late 1960s. The James Creek Church of the Brethren purchased the former Methodist building when their own congregation was displaced with the opening of Raystown Lake in 1972 and continues to maintain it and hold services there.

The former town hall was built by the Knights of the Golden Eagles after the Borough's incorporation. It was also used by the community as a social center where three act plays were produced during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and by the Borough until Council bought the old brick school it presently occupies. This vernacular wood frame building is intact and has been used for storage since the 1950s.

Marklesburg compares favorably with numerous nineteenth century regional examples of linear communities in Pennsylvania's Ridge and Valley region which began to see permanent settlement after ca. 1790. Movement and settlement accelerated westward along what became part of a major transcontinental route which zigzagged transversely across the Appalachian Mountains. This route avoided the most difficult terrain by following rivers that cut through the mountains in a series of watergaps. The route led upstream from Harrisburg by way of the Susquehanna and its main tributary, the Juniata, then overland to the headwaters of the westward-flowing Conemaugh, then into the Allegheny, and finally joined the Ohio at Pittsburgh. Once this east-west link was established through the Ridge and Valley region, secondary routes branched out into the valleys to the south and north, intersecting the Susquehanna or its West Branch at their northernmost reaches. Typically, each valley contains a road which traverses its length connecting key towns at either end. Local service centers, similar to Marklesburg, were carved out at strategic points along these long corridors. U.S. Rte. 522 lies to the east of PA Rte. 26 connecting McConnellsburg at its southern end to Selinsgrove and the Susquehanna at its northern end. Shirleysburg, a local service center situated along U.S. 522 between McConnellsburg and Mount Union, provides a good comparison to Marklesburg. Shirleysburg has also been determined to contain a potentially eligible historic district. Much of what guided the development of the built environment of both towns happened outside of the respective proposed historic districts but somehow passed through the towns for processing before being transferred out of the region.

Marklesburg and Shirleysburg developed in areas which provided early fortified protection from Indians for its pioneer farmers. Fort Hartslog predated the founding of Marklesburg by approximately 50 years and Fort Shirley predated Shirleysburg. Safeguarded by the forts, farmers proceeded to cultivate the land. Following these came industrialists to extract and in some cases transform the raw materials native in the respective valleys. Surrounding Marklesburg, the industry was primarily the removal and transferral of raw materials related to the manufacturing of iron and steel. Shirlesyburg's industry was more focused on manufacturing goods locally. Bedford Furnace was the early industry there followed by brick and ceramic manufacturing. At both places an extensive network of support tradesmen including blacksmiths, potters, and wheelwrights developed in tandem with social and cultural networks which included tailors, physicians, and clergy.

Each town was carved out of farms belonging to founding families including the Cromwells of Shirleysburg and the Garners and Brumbaughs of Marklesburg. Each town had close access to railroad service; Marklesburg had the Huntingdon and Broad Top Railroad and Shirleysburg had the East Broad Top Railroad. The architecture of both places also reflects the same settlement circumstances, local trends, and cultural heritage of the early settlers who were Scotch-Irish and Germans. The architecture of Shirleysburg, which was formally laid out in 1836, does appear to exhibit a few more stylistic characteristics than the architecture of Marklesburg. Shirleysburg appears to have a greater variety of architectural influences including a number of vernacular Greek Revival buildings. Overall, Marklesburg, Shirleysburg, and other similarly evolved places physically express architectural patterns, place development, and commerce in the long, linear valleys of central Pennsylvania.

Although much of the material culture of Woodcock Valley was abandoned and flooded by the Raystown Lake Project, the Marklesburg Historic District retains integrity as an intact example of a locally significant nineteenth century commercial center servicing agricultural and industrial interests.

  1. Smith, Nancy L., Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Marklesburg Historic District, nomination document, 1995, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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