West Market Street Historic District
The Danville West Market Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.
Danville lies at the head of a narrow valley on the northeast bank of the Susquehanna River in Montour County, Pennsylvania. The North branch of the Susquehanna is about a quarter-mile in width at Danville, and the West Market Street Historic District overlooks the picturesque stream from a shallow hillock. The West Market Street neighborhood was one of the first areas of Danville to begin to develop, and architectural styles represented here span the 1800 to 1925 period and include Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Victorian Eclectic, Queen Anne, Shingle and Georgian Revival. The majority of the dwellings are freestanding, although there are some duplexes and attached single family houses present as well. The West Market Street Historic District is entirely residential in character. Most of the buildings align with the inner edges of the sidewalks, although many of the later and larger structures are set back. The West Market Street Historic District presents an unusual level of integrity. There are only three intrusions present in the district, and none of these front onto Market Street. The West Market Street Historic District contains 11.2 acres and 44 major buildings. Of these 9 are significant, 33 are contributing, and 2 are intrusions.
Danville lies at the head of a narrow valley on the northeast bank of the Susquehanna River in north-central Pennsylvania. The Susquehanna River generally flows northeast to southwest in this part of the state, but at Danville it meanders broadly to the northwest for about two and a half miles, and then turns to the southwest again for about ten miles to its junction with the West Branch. Danville lies at an altitude of 450 to 550 feet above sea level. The ridge to the north of the town crests at between 1000 and 1300 feet, and the hills to the south rise to between 800 and 1000 feet. The valley itself, which trends to the east-northeast, is about two miles wide at Danville, but soon narrows to about a mile in width. Although Danville is well-removed from large urban centers, the town can hardly be considered isolated and inaccessible. Historically the town has been served by several rail lines and the North Branch Canal. Today U.S. Route 11 passes west to east through Danville Borough on its way to Bloomsburg, 7.5 miles to the east. State Route 54 is the major north-south artery and joins Interstate 80 three miles to the northwest. Route 54 is the target of a rebuilding campaign, and a four-lane divided highway stops just short of bisecting the West Market Street Historic District at Factory Street. Danville's rectilinear grid plan does not align with the river, but meets the shoreline slightly askew. Market Street, which follows the crest of a shallow hillock, does not really run east to west, but trends west-northwest to east-southeast. The West Market Street Historic District consists of about three and one-half blocks of West Market Street and one half block of Mahoning Street.
Although Danville is a small town (1980 pop. 5,239), the building stock reflects the greater sophistication and variety of functions of a county seat and manufacturing center. The town has a well-developed commercial district, a substantial industrial corridor and a large state hospital and independent medical center. The West Market Street Historic District, however, is entirely residential in character.
The focal point of the West Market Street Historic District is the intersection of Market and Factory Streets, around which are clustered four of the five largest dwellings in the district. The earliest of these mansions consist of what were originally a pair of uncoursed stone Second Empire style dwellings located in the northeast quadrant of this intersection. One of these buildings exists as it was originally, and the asymmetrical plan of the structure focuses on a three and a half story, convex mansard-roofed tower. The body of the house is two and a half stories in height with a bellcast mansard roof. The other structure, originally very similar to its neighbor, was extensively renovated during 1914-1916 into a two and a half story Colonial Revival style dwelling. Although this or any marriage of Second Empire and Colonial Revival must be a bit odd, the house is still substantial, well-detailed and well-maintained. Just to the west of this structure, across Factory Street, is a massive common bond brick, hip and gable-roofed two and a half story Queen Anne style dwelling. This building displays the textural liveliness of the style, with horizontal banding in the body of the brick, decorative eave-boards, corbel-topped chimneys and terra cotta ridge cresting, with finials and hip rolls. The structure also has the picturesque massing of the Queen Anne style, with numerous extensions, gables and dormers present. To the south of this building, across Market Street, is the largest dwelling in the West Market Street Historic District, a two and a half story Victorian Eclectic edifice with Eastlake, Victorian Gothic, Mansard, Italianate and Neoclassical features. The focal point of the composition is a three and a half story tower topped by a wedge-shaped hip roof, which crowns an extremely varied roofline of hips, gables, mansards and jerkin heads. The additional features of paired brackets, narrow, paired windows surmounted by flat hood moulds and later neoclassical porches make this the most highly eclectic structure in the West Market Street Historic District.
These four mansions form a visual anchor for the eastern edge of the historic district. The western end is anchored by a frame Georgian Revival style structure which occupies the triangular plot formed by Market, Chestnut and Front Streets. This gable-roofed, clapboarded house features a full-width porch on the Front Street side, a Palladian dormer with a swan's neck pediment, and a variety of other decorative features commonly found on Georgian Revival buildings. Although the five aforementioned mansions form visual anchors for the West Market Street Historic District, they are by no means the only buildings worthy of note. The neighborhood contains less substantial structures from nearly every nineteenth century period.
The earliest buildings in the West Market Street Historic District are Federal style in derivation. These consist of plain, modest frame and log vernacular structures, as well as larger and more characteristically Federal brick houses, some with fan-lighted entryways. The Greek Revival style is represented mainly by three-bay wide townhouses, some with transomed and sidelighted entryways and or attic frieze windows. One Greek Revival era structure has the unusual feature of fully parapeted, stepped gable walls. Bracketed cornices, window hoods supported on ancones, and in one case a rooftop belvedere characterize the Italianate style in the district. In several cases, one or more of these features appear on earlier buildings. There are also some examples of Italianate/Second Empire hybrids present as well. Queen Anne style structures can be seen in the West Market Street Historic District in both brick and frame, and include features commonly associated with the style such as corner turrets, bay windows, patterned shingle work, varied rooflines and broad sweeping porches. In a few cases, Queen Anne stylistic features are merged with Shingle and Colonial Revival style elements — delicate dentiling and cameo windows are combined with gables of undulating shingles in which are placed recessed windows. The later, more "pure" form of the Colonial Revival style is also represented.
There are only three intrusions present in the West Market Street Historic District, none of which front onto Market Street. These intrusions consist of a gravel lot on Mahoning Street, until very recently the site of a nineteenth century log structure, a modern duplex on Factory Street, and a Ranch style house on Chestnut Street. The dearth of intrusions, the high level of integrity of most of the structures, and the juxtapositioning of older and newer buildings in the district all serve to enhance the historical character of the area, not as a "museum" of a particular period, but as a chronology of architectural development during the nineteenth century.
The West Market Street Historic District shows local significance in the area of architecture during the 1800 to 1925 period. The first section of Danville was laid out in 1792 by Daniel Montgomery, and shortly thereafter his father, William Montgomery, laid out the West Market Street area and donated several lots to the establishment of an academy. Danville grew slowly at first, but during the 1820's, with the coming of the North Branch Canal, it began to grow more rapidly. By the late 1830's, when Danville began a period of rapid industrialization, the West Market Street area was already becoming a middle-class neighborhood. During the next 80 or so years the population of Danville fluctuated wildly due to the volatile nature of the iron industry, yet the West Market Street area remained a stable, middle-class neighborhood of moderate but steady growth. This stability is reflected in the architectural stock of the district. Because of the slow, steady growth and the social stability of the area, examples of nearly all the major domestic styles of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries remain in the neighborhood, with no intrusions fronting on Market Street. These styles include Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Victorian Eclectic, Queen Anne, Shingle and Colonial Revival. In addition, the vast majority of these examples are substantial, well-maintained and are good, or in a few cases, excellent examples of their respective styles.
Danville, known during the Revolution and the early years of the Republic as "Montgomery's Landing" or "Mahoning Settlement," was laid out in several phases beginning in 1792. The tracts on which the greater part of Danville stands were in the possession of General William Montgomery (b.1736, d.1816) by 1776 or 1777, when he moved his family to the area. Montgomery had become prominent in his native Chester County prior to the Revolutionary War. During his long and diverse career, and among many other interests and activities, he led the 4th Chester County Militia, was elected to the state assembly, which in turn elected him to the US Congress, and served as president judge of Northumberland and Luzerne Counties. However it was his son Daniel for whom the town is named, who was responsible in 1792 for laying out the first building lots in Danville — on a tract he had bought from his father. Another section was added shortly by William Montgomery himself. Several of the lots in the elder Montgomery's tract, lying between Mill and Chestnut Streets and including West Market Street, he donated to the establishment of an academy to be run by the Presbyterian Church. Many of these "academy" lots, as well as the former academy building itself are included in the West Market Street Historic District.
The economy of Danville in its early years revolved around the role of the settlement as a ferry-crossing point, as a trading and milling center, and, beginning in 1815, as the seat of Columbia County. The Columbia County seat was moved to Bloomsburg in 1845, but Danville regained its status as a county seat in 1850 with the creation of Montour County.
The advantageous location of Danville in a developing transportational network played a key role in the social and economic development of the town over the next century or so. The first part of this network was a turnpike, which was extended to the southeast in 1814 to join the Reading to Sunbury "Centre Turnpike." Fourteen years later Danville became a bridgehead. In 1834, when the village contained about 50 buildings along Water, Market and Mill Streets and had a population of around 740, the North Branch Division of the Pennsylvania canal system opened through Danville. In 1853 the first rail line through the town, the Catawissa, was opened. In 1860 the Lackawanna and Bloomsburg Railroad was completed through Danville and in 1870 the Danville, Hazleton and Wilkes-Barre was completed on the south shore of the Susquehanna. The latter line was opened largely through the efforts of Simon Kase, of Danville, whose former home is included in the West Market Street Historic District.
These transportational advantages, in combination with the ready supplies of iron ore, coal and limestone in the vicinity helped to industrialize Danville at a fairly early date. By the late 1830's foundries, furnaces and machine shops were in operation — rolling mills followed in the mid 1840's. The smelting, casting and rolling of iron came to be by far the most important industry in the town, and by 1875 these industries were employing more than 2,000 men. The West Market Street area, already desirable at the beginning of industrialization, became much more so between the late 1830's and the 1920's. The area attracted many middle class professionals as well as a few of the newly wealthy industrialists. Simon Kase has already been mentioned. Another is William Hancock, who in 1845 was a member of the Montour Iron Company team that produced the first "T" cross-section rail in the U.S. He later went into business for himself and by the early 1870's was wealthy enough to build the Second Empire style mansion at 11 West Market Street. Another influential family, the Baldys, were living in the West Market Street neighborhood long before they became an important economic force. The home of Peter Baldy, Jr., a former president of the Co-operative Iron and Steel Works, stands at 100 West Market Street.
Architecturally, the West Market Street Historic District is significant for its broad time frame and for the wide variety of styles represented. The West Market Street Historic District contains representative structures of many of the major nineteenth and early twentieth century architectural styles including Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, "Victorian Eclectic," Queen Anne, Shingle and Colonial Revival.
The best example of the Federal style in the West Market Street Historic District, at 109 West Market Street, is a five by three bay flemish-bonded structure, dated 1804 or 1814, which shows many of the most characteristic features of the Federal era. These include parapeted "mousetooth" gable walls, widely spaced, doubled parapeted end-chimneys, a fan-lighted entryway with side lights, dormers, and full Palladian gable windows. Another five bay brick Federal structure stands at 20 West Market Street, but this has seen the unfortunate addition of full-width shed dormers and aluminum siding. The Greek Revival style is not particularly well represented in the district. The Danville Academy building, originally a fine small-scale Greek Revival structure when it was built in 1855, was remodeled extensively around the turn of the century. Attic frieze windows and/or rectangular transoms with sidelights are seen on a few dwellings, but the most unusual feature on a Greek Revival era building occurs at 119 West Market Street. This three bay wide structure, built in the late 1850's, features fully parapeted, stepped gable walls.
The decorative devices of the Italianate style are well in evidence along West Market Street, if the structural forms of the style are not. The frame house at 211 West Market Street features a squarish, glazed rooftop belvedere. The brick structure at 115 West Market Street has a projecting facade pavilion, almost a proto-campanile. At 113 West Market is a dwelling which shows the oft-found combination of Italianate ornament and French mansard roof. The three story, three bay brick dwelling at 16 West Mahoning Street is the most consistently Italianate structure in the district, with its round-arched windows with hood mouldings, its heavy cornice brackets and its half-length third floor windows.
The later nineteenth century styles of the Second Empire, "Victorian Eclectic," Queen Anne and Colonial Revival are the most conspicuous in the district. The William Hancock House at 11 West Market Street, already mentioned, is a textbook example of the Second Empire style. The structure is two and a half stories tall and is built of smooth-faced uncoursed stone with squared contrasting quoins. The asymmetrical plan is centered on a three and a half story tower. The Hancock House beautifully represents a style that during the twentieth century would become a popular symbol of Gilded Age excess. The structure at 101 West Market Street, a large two and a half story brick dwelling of the early to mid 1880's, presents the variety of texture and form of the Queen Anne style, with banded and corbeled brick work, asymmetrical massing, moulded terra-cotta ridge cresting, and a variety of gables, turrets and projecting pavilions. The largest building in the West Market Street Historic District is the two and a half story, brick Baldy House at 100 West Market Street, also already mentioned. This "Victorian Eclectic" edifice — called so for lack of a more precise term — features elements of the Victorian Gothic, Eastlake and Italianate styles, and even presents a hint of the Second Empire in the mansard roof of the central block. To this central block are added a plethora of gabled, jerkin-headed and hipped bays, pavilions, dormers and turrets. The addition of Ionic order porches during the Edwardian era contributes further to the cacophony of this nonetheless impressive structure. At the western edge of the West Market Street Historic District is the Lavigne House, a frame Colonial Revival style structure dating from the 1900 to 1925 period. This is a large but not overly pretentious structure which uses the standard vocabulary of the style; the Palladian or serliana motif is much in evidence, as is the broken scroll pediment.
The West Market Street Historic District is an unusually well preserved example of a middle-class nineteenth century neighborhood in a small industrial town. There are only three intrusions present, none of which are large, and none of which front onto Market Street. The neighborhood, partly in spite of and partly because of the rise and decline of the Danville iron industry, has remained a largely middle-class area of substantial and well maintained homes. The wide variety of styles represented and the juxtapositioning of older and newer in the district provide a revealing architectural record of domestic, small town, nineteenth century America.
Anonymous. Historical and Biographical Annals of Columbia and Montour Counties, Pennsylvania. Chicago: J.H. Beers and Co. 1915, VI pages 273, 278-280, 285, 287-288, 290, 293-295, 307, 326, 329, 331, 365.
Brower, D.H.S. Danville, Montour County, Pennsylvania: A Collection of Historical and Biographical Sketches. Harrisburg, PA: Lane S. Hart, 1881, pages 11-13, 15, 31, 64, 166-168, 195-196, 198-200, 204, 212, 220, 222, 231, 233.
Egle, William H. History of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: E.M. Gardner, 1883, pages 963-964.
Foulke, Arthur Toye. Picture Book for Proud Lovers of Danville, Montour County and Riverside, Pa. North Quincy, MA: The Christopher Publishing House, 1976, pages 17, 103, 114, 142-143, 276-277.
Livingood, James Weston. The Philadelphia-Baltimore Trade Rivalry: 1780-1860. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1947, pages 46, 53, 152, 157-158, 160A.
Shank, William H. The Amazing Pennsylvania Canals. York, PA: American Canal and Transportation Center, 1960, page 51.
Sipes, William B. The Pennsylvania Railroad: Its Origin, Construction, Condition and Connections. Philadelphia: The Passenger Department, 1875, page 278.
Walker, G.H. and C.F. Jewett. Columbia and Montour Counties, Pennsylvania. New York: F. W. Beers and Co. 1876.