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Lewisburg Historic District


The Lewisburg Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. 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

The Lewisburg Historic District is situated on a predominantly level location along the west hank of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. The streets follow a regular grid pattern oriented to the river bank with the exception of the irregularly shaped campus of Bucknell University, a portion of which occupies the southern end of the district. Most of the town's dwellings are of vernacular design, constructed during the nineteenth century on long-persistent plans derived via southeastern Pennsylvania and common in the Susquehanna Valley, or representing house types that became widely popular during the mid-nineteenth century, such as the gable-front-and-wing. About half of Lewisburg's vernacular houses, however, are embellished with decorative details from recognized styles. The predominant historic architectural styles in the historic district, expressed both in these applied details and in buildings that represent fully realized stylistic examples, are the Greek Revival, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Craftsman and especially the Italianate styles. The historic district contains three properties previously listed on the National Register, viz., the American Hotel or Packwood House Museum at 8-12 Market Street, the Chamberlin Iron Front Building at 434 Market Street, and the Reading Railroad Freight Station at S. Fifth and St. Louis streets (now housing the Borough of Lewisburg offices). These three previously National Register-listed properties are included in the district resource inventory, but excluded from the district's resource count. Buildings in the downtown area range in scale from the imposing form of the four-story U.S. Courthouse and Post Office to more typical two- and three-story commercial buildings sited on narrow lots. Residential scale varies from small houses of bungalow form to impressive mansion houses on large corner tracts. Contributing outbuildings, almost entirely on residential properties, include a large number of extant carriage house-stable buildings of varying scale and architectural character from the period circa 1850-1920 that have been adapted to garage use, as well as garages dating to the period circa 1915-1953. Most of the commercial buildings are of brick or frame construction, while institutional buildings are built in brick or stone. Residential buildings are predominantly of brick or frame construction. The historic district contains a total of 868 contributing and 62 non-contributing resources. Among the contributing are 743 buildings that are the primary resources for their properties, 110 outbuildings (i.e., secondary buildings on properties), 11 structures, 2 objects and 2 sites. There are twenty contributing primary buildings in the district that are attributed to have been built during circa 1773-1824, including some built in log or stone. A majority of the 743 primary buildings in the historic district, however, some 398 or 53%, are attributed to the period from circa 1825 through circa 1870, when a thoroughgoing cycle of architectural renewal or rebuilding was underway in Lewisburg. Two hundred and twenty-five (225) primary buildings are attributed to the period circa 1871-1910, and 99 primary buildings to circa 1911-1953. Historic domestic architecture dominates the historic district's urban landscape. Viewed with reference to historic function, the 743 primary buildings include 679 domestic, 29 commercial, 20 educational (17 Bucknell University buildings and 3 local educational buildings), 7 industrial, 6 religious, and 2 governmental resources. Overall, the historic district demonstrates integrity of its historic and visual character.

General Description

The Historic Lewisburg Urban Landscape

In the downtown area, Market Street, the primary commercial street, follows a general east-west alignment with secondary streets intersecting on north-south tangents. Commercial buildings, ranging in height from two to three stories, dominate Market Street, fronting directly on the sidewalk. Including the previously National Register-listed American Hotel and Chamberlin Iron Front Building, thirty-one historic buildings evidently designed for commercial purposes, varying in date from the late eighteenth to the mid-twentieth century, have been identified in the town's business center, i.e., the segment of Market Street from Front to Sixth streets, and extending along the numbered streets for a block in either direction. There may be approximately 25 more such buildings, but mid-to-late-twentieth-century commercial modifications to the first-story fronts obscure the original character of the facade. The predominant architectural character of Market Street was established during the years of Lewisburg's development as a center of regional commerce between circa 1825 and circa 1870. Commercial buildings from this period are of scale typical for such buildings at that date, ranging from two to three stories in height. The majority of the buildings are of brick masonry construction with a variety of applied features including brackets, elaborate window hoods, and storefront details. Market Street and streets throughout the Borough are lined with distinctive three-globe streetlight posts, a design in use in Lewisburg since the lighting system was initiated in the late 1800s, although the present light posts are replicas installed around 1970.

The historic district's residential neighborhoods are located to the north and south of Market Street, with a large majority of dwellings situated fronting on the north-south streets. The latter streets are numbered but for Front Street, which takes the place of First Street, Water Street, which runs closest to the river, and Brown Street and University Avenue, which represent southwesterly extensions of Second and Third Streets, respectively, that run toward the Bucknell University campus after making an approximately forty-degree turn westward. Early development in Lewisburg occurred in the neighborhoods adjacent to Market Street oriented to trade along the river. Houses and buildings in these neighborhoods front directly on the sidewalk, typical of early town development patterns. Residential buildings in these areas are predominantly of brick and frame construction, with a scattering of early log and stone examples. Churches and other institutional buildings are located in residential neighborhoods, generally sited adjacent to the sidewalk with little or no setback. These institutional buildings, generally of masonry construction, are massive in scale, reflecting their importance. A total of seventeen contributing buildings constructed for Bucknell University are located within the historic district, representing a diversity of institutional styles and periods of development dating from 1848 to circa 1950. University buildings from the period are massive in scale and architectural massing, ranging in height from two to five stories.

In the University Avenue neighborhood, development was closely aligned with the growth of the University. The University Avenue extension first began to develop in the middle years of the nineteenth century to provide housing for professors of the University. Houses in this neighborhood are of brick and frame construction with a mandatory setback of thirty feet from the sidewalk, thereby conferring expansive front and side yards. Situated on the southeast side of University Avenue are two large architect-designed fraternity houses, representing the Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival styles and dating to circa 1925.

Later development occurred in the 800 block of Market Street, and along the undeveloped sections of Brown and S. Sixth streets. With the continued growth of the University in the early twentieth century, residential development took place along these streets until circa 1930. Houses in these neighborhoods are set back from the street and less closely sited than in earlier residential neighborhoods. Houses are predominantly of frame in construction, with a few each built of brick or representing early specimens of concrete-block masonry.

Survivors from Lewisburg's Early Phase: before circa 1825

Twenty-one primary buildings in the historic district, are thought to antedate 1825, when the Greek Revival style began to exert influence locally (including the previously National Register-listed American Hotel). Seventeen of these surviving early resources are located in the southeastern portion near the river along South Water and South Front streets and the adjacent sections of Market and St. George streets, this being the heart of the original town as it was laid out for Ludwig Derr in 1785.

This was probably the area where the best-built early houses, i.e., the residences and stores belonging to the merchants, professionals and better off master artisans, were located. Regarding the four early houses that stand in situations more distant from the town center, one is the log house (now 34 Brown Street) built by Derr circa 1773 close by his mill, which stands outside the original town grid and is thought to be Lewisburg's earliest extant building. The Derr House was later expanded via frame construction into a two-and-a-half-story house with a five-bay facade. The house has three gabled dormers and evident original eight-over-eight sash. (The grain mill building, at 40 Brown Street, a non-contributing resource due to a thoroughgoing alteration to house apartments, is evidently a circa 1800 successor to the original mill.) Two others of the more distant early houses, at 203 N. Third and 227 S. Fourth, represent log buildings of relatively modest size, while that at 29 S. Fourth appears to be a frame house that was enlarged and received Italianate decorative treatment in the mid-1800s. The house has an unusually elaborate entry flanked by Corinthian columns. The location and character of these latter four buildings suggests that the early town had an outer section of less valuable log and perhaps frame houses surrounding the core area of more valuable masonry and substantial frame dwellings.

Overall, six of the historic district's first-generation buildings are constructed of log, at least with regard to their original sections, eight apparently of frame, three of stone and four of brick . Some are not immediately recognizable as to their original character, as all of the log houses are clad in clapboard, masonite or aluminum siding and six of the overall group of early buildings have received the application of Italianate ornamentation. Four of the early houses have been greatly enlarged to double or more their original size, one of them, 200-202 Market (original section built of log in 1812), thoroughly renovated in 1890 with Shingle Style embellishments including a round tower with conical roof. Another log building later enlarged with frame, and fitted with Italianate cornice bracketing, is the National Register-listed American Hotel (Packwood House Museum) at 8-12 Market Street, its original section dating to circa 1795. The residence at 37 S. Water Street is a two-story, three-bay vernacular building constructed in rubble stone masonry for William Williams in 1786, thought to be the oldest surviving dwelling on the plat laid out for Derr in the preceding year. The house has a simple molded cornice, and window openings spanned by decorative jack arches.

Sixteen of the twenty-one pre-1825 dwellings are relatively plain examples of vernacular design and construction employing methods and forms derived from the cultural hearth of southeastern Pennsylvania. Five of the early buildings, however, viz., the brick houses at 140 S. Front Street (1795), 124 St. George Street (1796), 209-215 Market Street (1820) and 229-231 Market Street (1820), and the frame house at 117 S. Front Street (1796), present a degree of architectural distinction enabling their classification as examples of the Federal style. Stylistic elements present in this group of dwellings include Flemish bond masonry on the brick houses, water tables on 140 S. Front and 124 St. George, a belt course on 140 S. Front, a Palladian window on the gable end of 209-215 Market, a fanlight surmounting the front entry on 117 S. Front, and the three-story cube-like massing of 229-231 Market. These five Federal-style buildings demonstrate integrity with reference to their historic exterior character, as do the early vernacular houses at 27 S. Water (log construction built 1791 and clad in clapboard as was commonly done by the early 1800s), 37 S. Water (the Williams House discussed above), 115 S. Front and 209 S. Front (both frame, built ca. 1810 and ca. 1815 respectively).

Greek Revival and Italianate Residences

The historic district contains many buildings that are essentially vernacular in plan but that boast decoration derived from formal architectural styles including the Greek Revival, Italianate, and Queen Anne. In particular, the Italianate style came to be a presence so pervasive in the architectural decoration of the town that it could practically be said to have defined the local concept of a proper building's appearance, at least during the late 1850s, 1860s and 1870s. Many preexisting buildings had Italianate detail applied to them, especially bracketing on the cornice and/or the entry and window openings, as was done to the cornice at the American Hotel, 8-12 Market Street.

Greek Revival-influenced buildings are distributed mainly along Front, Second, Third and Fourth streets, and the stretch of Market Street between Water and Second. This is an area that was largely built up before 1825, indicating the extent to which the building stock there was rebuilt during the 1825-1860 period. The historic district includes several fully developed representatives of the Greek Revival style, most of these being religious, governmental, or educational buildings. Among the district's many fine examples of the Greek Revival stylistic influence on vernacular domestic architecture, an outstanding specimen is the three-story brick mansion at 45 S. Second. The house is constructed in 1857 on a center-passage double-pile or "Georgian" plan with a small two-story service wing extending from the south gable end, situated across St Louis Street from the Courthouse. An earlier domestic rendition is the residence at 39 S. Front, built 1844 on a center-passage single-pile or "I house" plan, with a Flemish bond principal facade incorporating a recessed front entry, its doorway flanked by sidelights with an overhead transom.

Italianate and Italianate vernacular buildings are distributed in numbers along South Water, Front, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, Market, St. Catherine and St. Louis streets, an area constituting most of the historic district, with a cluster of four built by Bucknell professors and dating to 1856-1869 on University Avenue near the campus (accompanied by an outstanding Gothic Revival house built in 1855). Thus the Italianate influence was reflected both in the ongoing cycle of rebuilding that remade the town's historic core area from Front to Fourth streets in the mid-nineteenth century, and in the expansion of the built-up area that took place circa 1850-1870.

Examples of the fully realized Italianate style are primarily confined to the commercial area and to relatively large dwellings built by better off residents of the mid-nineteenth century. The residence at 60 S. Second, constructed in 1870, is a three-story masonry dwelling with a large two-story wing. Finished with smooth stucco, this impressive building is embellished with elongated round-arched windows and hoods, brick quoins, a bracketed cornice and an elaborate cupola capping the main block, and accompanied by a two-story carriage house finished in like manner. The mansion at 82 University Avenue is an example of the Italian Villa form, which is rare locally. The three-story brick house is embellished with broadly overhanging eaves with ornate brackets, round-arched windows and hoods, brick quoins and a four-story projecting tower rising above the principal entry.

Buildings constructed in the Italianate vernacular idiom are especially numerous, with many examples also present of preexisting buildings that received the application of Italianate exterior detail. Superior renditions of the Italianate influence in vernacular building include the brick dwellings at 129 Market and 202 N. Fourth. 129 Market, dated circa 1845 and situated as a rowhouse, is built in a side-passage configuration appropriate to urban design, its form strikingly delineated by quoins of cut stone. The house at 202 N. Fourth, circa 1860, its tall narrow windows accentuating the verticality associated with the Italianate, is fronted by an apparently original wooden porch with ornate posts and cornice. An interesting instance of the adaptation of Italianate detail to an existing building can be seen at 9 Market, where a brick Gothic Revival vernacular house built in 1850 later received Italianate window hoods on its first story as well as a two-story bay window structure incorporating similar hoods and a bracketed cornice. Numerous Greek Revival vernacular dwellings built between circa 1825 and circa 1855 evidently underwent Italianate renovation, at least to their exteriors, around the 1860s. Among these is the house at 200 St. Anthony, sited across the head of Second Street, built circa 1845. Its Flemish bond facade masonry testifies to its pre-Italianate origin, despite the characteristic Italianate double-leaf front doorway, elaborate window hoods and large brackets supporting the broadly overhanging eaves.

Residential Architecture of the Late 19th to Middle 20th Centuries

Many other historic architectural styles are represented by fully developed examples in Lewisburg, albeit in smaller numbers, including Gothic Revival, Second Empire, Victorian Gothic, Queen Anne, Shingle Style, Romanesque Revival, Colonial Revival, Beaux Arts, Neoclassical, Craftsman, Tudor Style, Art Deco, and early Ranch. These styles manifest in a broad range of classifications as regards building function, appearing in residential, educational, governmental, religious and commercial buildings.

For dwellings, later styles are most often seen in areas of the historic district that were developed after circa 1870, when Lewisburg's most thorough cycle of architectural redevelopment or rebuilding had run its course. Examples are, of course, distributed thinly about the older section of the town as well. Areas within the historic district that are characterized largely by construction dating after circa 1870 include S. Sixth Street (where five buildings date to circa 1840-1865 and eighteen to circa 1890-1920) with its vernacular and relatively modest Craftsman houses, the 800 block of Market Street (built up circa 1905-1920) with Colonial Revival and Foursquare vernacular dwellings, and Brown Street. Along the latter, in addition to the circa 1773 Ludwig Derr House (34 Brown) and the associated, much altered mill building, there stand twelve vernacular buildings thought to date between circa 1835 and circa 1870. Brown Street became more thoroughly built up during the period circa 1910-1930, from which years twenty buildings are extant, consisting of substantial one-and-a-half-story Craftsman, two-story Colonial Revival and two-and-a-half-story vernacular houses built on Foursquare plans.

A good example of the Second Empire style is 63 University, constructed in 1874, a frame building of asymmetrical design. The prominent, bracketed cornice runs beneath a mansard roof with round-arched dormer windows. The Queen Anne style was adopted for decorative detail in substantial vernacular dwellings during its period, notably in the circa 1880 frame duplex dwelling at 31-33 S. Seventh, with its ornamented cross gables projecting over opposed bay windows. The Colonial Revival style house at 23 Market Street, built in 1915, contains the characteristic multiple-light configuration for the upper sash of the windows, large three-part windows and a portico for the front entry. A number of fine Craftsman style houses are also located in the historic district, for example, 2 Brown Street, circa 1920, with its characteristic frame construction, one-and-a-half-story height, exposed rafter ends, front-gabled roof and multiple-light upper sash. A fraternity house built circa 1935 at 64 University is a large-scale brick example of Tudor Revival, its long, slate-covered gable roof punctuated by the taller and steeper cross gable roof that shelters the forward-projecting cross wing. An award-winning building is the Ranch style dwelling at 100 S. Front Street, built of brick in 1952, which won a national design prize from House and Garden magazine for its embodiment of architectural principles facilitating the modern mode of life.

Lewisburg's few fully developed mansion-scale expressions of the various styles were built in one small neighborhood in the center of town and at a few other scattered locations. These outstanding architectural resources, which contribute much to the overall architectural distinction of the historic district, are all of brick masonry construction and situated on corner lots. The cluster of elite dwellings is located along the two blocks of S. Second Street nearest Market. Including the house at 201 Market in this group, as it stands on the southwest corner of Market and Second, there are four relatively large and elaborate elite dwellings in the neighborhood, including an example each representing Greek Revival and Italianate influence. The Queen Anne style is well represented here by 106 S. Second (1879), a two-and-a-half-story mansion of asymmetrical design with a three-story polygonal tower and two massive corbeled brick chimneys. The complex roof is embellished with ornamental cresting on the ridge, while the walls carry surface treatments of varying texture. Another large-scale brick example of the Queen Anne is 201 Market, built in 1887 and incorporating some elements associated with the related Romanesque Revival style. The broad double-leaf entry is set in a massive castellated brownstone architrave and flanked by paired windows under wide brownstone arches. The principal or north facade is surmounted by an ornately complex roof line, with the north slope of the hipped main roof supporting two dormers of divergent form, and separated from the conical roof of the polygonal tower at the building's northwest corner by a massive projecting off-center cross gable that rises one-and-a-half stories above the eaves. A bay window is situated just under the peak of this cross gable. The house visually dominates the segment of the town's main thoroughfare extending between First and Third Streets.

Not far from the elite precinct of S. Second Street is the intersection of S. Third and St. Catherine, where a pair of large and elaborate dwellings are situated as neighbors on the west side of S. Third. A fine brick residence in the Gothic Revival style is 135 S. Third, constructed in 1866 for university president and amateur architect Justin Loomis. The steeply sloped main gable roof is matched by equally steep dormers housing narrow, pointed-arched windows and sporting trefoil details. The three-story polygonal tower is capped by a spired pyramidal roof. Across St. Catherine is 203 S. Third Street, constructed circa 1905 and distinguished as an outstanding example of the Colonial Revival style by its columned, full-width front porch, roof balustrade, massive corbeled brick chimney, modillioned cornice and pedimented dormers fitted with round-arched windows.

Among the mansions standing at dispersed locations is the massive Queen Anne residence at 16 S. Third, built 1881, surveying Market Street from windows beneath steeply stepped Dutch-style cross gables accentuated with brownstone. 108 N. Second is Lewisburg's sole fully developed Shingle Style edifice, a two-and-a-half-story house constructed in 1885 with wraparound porch, three-story polygonal tower, a cantilevered projection of its gabled, steeply pitched main roof that incorporates a deeply rounded arch, multiple-light casement windows, and undulating shingle detail on all three stories of the frame walls.

Institutional Architecture (Buildings for Education and Government)

Bucknell University provides several fine specimens of various architectural styles. All of that portion of the university campus that lies within the boundary of the Borough of Lewisburg forms the south end of the historic district. This irregularly shaped area, consisting mostly of a high but gently sloping knoll characterized by well manicured lawn shaded by mature trees and crossed by numerous footpaths, extends over approximately 28 acres. It encompasses seventeen contributing buildings and one contributing structure (a footbridge discussed below) that were constructed by the University, along with six non-contributing dormitory buildings constructed in 1965 and 1987. With the exception of a brick-built railside service-utility building of vernacular character built circa 1950 and set somewhat apart from the others to the east below the Bucknell knoll, these institutional buildings were built between 1848 and 1928. Varying considerably in size, their stylistic character ranges through Greek Revival (three buildings, 1848-1858), Queen Anne (three buildings, circa 1885-1889), Romanesque Revival (one, 1890), Colonial Revival (three, 1887-1927), Neoclassical (five, 1889-1928), and Tudor Revival (one, 1914). All are built of brick masonry but for the Tudor Revival International House, a two-and-a-half-story house that is stuccoed half-timber frame above a brick first story. One of the three original Greek Revival buildings, the large and prominently situated four-story Old Main (originally designated the Main Administration Building) constructed over the years 1849-1858, visually dominates the other older University buildings on the northeast shoulder of the knoll, in effect setting the institutional architectural tone for the group. Another outstanding building is Bucknell Hall, a gem of Queen Anne design constructed on a cottage-like one-and-a-half-story scale. In addition to the institutional buildings, a number of contributing buildings located along or near the northern fringe of the campus, originally private residences, are now owned by Bucknell and used as office space or as auxiliary housing.

Lewisburg's historic local educational and governmental buildings offer some good examples of two styles that were frequently employed to evoke an image of institutional solidity. The Greek Revival is represented by the Union County Courthouse (built 1856) at 101 S. Second, the North Ward School at 116 N. Second (1855), and the West Ward School at 55 N. Eighth (1869). The Union County Courthouse presents a full temple-form, pedimented and denticulated portico, supported by four Ionic columns. The pilastered brick facade with its nine-over-nine window sash is surmounted by an elaborate frieze characteristic of the style. The one-and-a-half-story, brick-built Himmelreich Library, 18 Market (1902), and the four-story stone U. S. Courthouse and Post Office, 301 Market (1933) are examples of the Neoclassical style. The Himmelreich Library represents an especially graceful if somewhat diminutive temple-fronted rendition of this style. A pedimented portico is supported by Ionic columns. The library was provided as a gift to the First Presbyterian Church congregation from local businessman William D. Himmelreich, and then opened to the town at large in 1910. The U.S. Courthouse and Post Office, constructed to house the U. S. District Court, is a monumental representation of Federal authority typical of many erected across the nation in the Depression years.

Religious Architecture

The historic district contains several fine religious buildings. The extant historic churches are relatively concentrated in the center of the town. Three are clustered around the intersection of S. Third and St. Louis streets, and another is situated a couple of blocks away at 101 N. Third. A fifth historic church is located near its above-listed fellows at 42 S. Fourth Street. Lastly, the First Presbyterian Church stands near the Market Street bridge at 16 Market Street. These church buildings are products of the cyclical process of architectural renewal, in much the same manner as many of the dwellings and commercial buildings in the historic district. The oldest is the First Presbyterian Church, constructed in 1856 -- a replacement to an earlier Presbyterian edifice that had been erected in 1833. The church exhibits a full temple-front pedimented portico supported by two Ionic columns. Constructed of common bond brick, the pilastered facade is topped by a frieze with dentils. A multi-tiered cupola housing a belfry, supported by Ionic columns, completes this excellent example of Greek Revival. The next to be built among the group was the First Baptist Church at 51 S. Third, a steep-roofed and relatively austere Gothic Revival building built of dark hornfels stone that dates to 1870 and took over from an older building dating to 1845 that had been located four lots to the north.

The Beaver Memorial United Methodist Church across the street at 40 S. Third is perhaps the outstanding stylistic representative among the town's four Victorian Gothic churches, its monumental effect enhanced by the picturesque rectory next door. Both buildings were designed by Charles Wetzel and constructed of stone in 1890. The church's massive structure is embellished with a steeply pitched roof, buttresses, a pair of corner towers, and pointed-arch windows. The picturesque two-story rectory evokes the Norman influence in the Gothic style with square towers topped by pyramidal roofs. This pair of buildings replaced the town's second Methodist church building, built 1832, and the old rectory, date unknown. A circa 1815 Methodist church had been located on the southeastern corner of S. Front and St Louis streets. Completing the group clustered around S. Third and St. Louis is an excellent example of the Romanesque Revival style as expressed in religious architecture, Christ's Lutheran Church, 100 S. Third, erected in 1901. It replaced a Lutheran church built on that site in 1834. As is typical for religious buildings in this style, the massing of the 1901 Christ's Lutheran exhibits heavy horizontality set off by the tower rising above the main entry at the northwest corner. The typical and numerous rounded arches include those framing the stained-glass triple window in the west end of the edifice. The former Lewisburg United Church of Christ building at 101 N. Third, a Victorian Gothic building now adapted as a residence, was built in 1902 to replace an 1848 Reformed Church building that had been located across St. John St. The presence of an additional downtown Methodist Church, St. Paul United Methodist Church, also Victorian Gothic and constructed in 1916 at 42 S. Fourth, testifies to the historic strength of this denomination in Lewisburg.

Commercial Architecture

With a history of prosperity based largely on commerce, the Lewisburg Historic District contains thirty-one contributing buildings that appear to have been specifically designed to serve as commercial buildings (including the previously National Register-listed American Hotel and Chamberlin Iron Front Building). This number does not include probable surviving early commercial buildings such as the house built by William Williams in 1786, a two-story vernacular dwelling of stone construction at 37 S. Water Street. Williams was a merchant, and his business was probably conducted in large part on this property and in his residence, as was typical in the eighteenth century and in the opening years of the nineteenth. There are many other buildings in the historic district, especially concentrated in the central commercial area along Market Street between Front and Sixth streets, that have first-story commercial spaces with facade designs incorporating plate glass display windows or other elements appropriate to retail or office activity. It is difficult to discern the original character of the first story of these buildings in many cases, however, and it appears probable that a large number of buildings along Market Street have had their facades altered to incorporate a commercial-front first story.

The thirty-one historic commercial buildings identified in the nomination survey include three hotel buildings, three bank buildings, two relatively large office buildings, one theater building, and twenty-two other buildings apparently designed for retail and/or office use. The American Hotel or Packwood House Museum, located at 8-12 Market, a National Register-listed property clad in clapboard, was built circa 1795 as a log building and much enlarged in frame in the middle years of the nineteenth century. (This property was also referred to in the section above treating Lewisburg's surviving pre-1825 buildings.) The hotel building at 136 Market is a brick example of Greek Revival vernacular dating to 1831 and the period just following the completion of the Lewisburg and Mifflinburg Turnpike. It was known as the Rivier House in 1868 when a Beers Atlas of Union County was published. At 44 Market stands a brick hotel building, erected circa 1845 and designated the Mount Vernon Hotel by the Beers Atlas, that was rebuilt circa 1880 with an elaborate Queen Anne arrangement of attic space and roof, in part to incorporate a ballroom on the attic floor. Around 1870, the American Hotel and the Rivier House received the application of ltalianate trim, as was so commonly done in Lewisburg.

The three bank buildings, located on Market Street at Nos. 239, 311 and 409, were all constructed of cut and smoothed stone in 1915, 1899 and 1927, respectively. The earliest of the trio, the Union National Bank at 311 Market, represents a relatively muted example of the Beaux Arts style with its flat roof with paneled balustrade, and its trio of arched, fall-height second-story openings set between pilasters surmounted by ornamented capitals. Its two later fellows, both facing the thoroughfare with recessed entries flanked by monumental columns, exemplify the Neoclassical as employed in commercial buildings. All three banks embody the temple front form of commercial building so beloved of bankers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The two office buildings are examples of the central-block-with-wings form and the vault form. The central-block-with-wings property is the brick-built, two-story Colonial Revival-style office for the local telephone company dating to 1935, located at 20 S. Second. The vault form, defined by penetration of the front facade by a large, tall and relatively narrow central entry, is seen in the McClure Building at 224 St. Louis, a stuccoed masonry building built in 1913 with relatively simple Neoclassical elements such as massive quoins and a flat roof with parapet. The Campus Theatre, 413 Market, is Lewisburg's sole Art Deco building, additionally noteworthy as one of approximately 300 historic motion picture theater buildings in the United States that preserves its single large projection screen. The Campus Theatre dates to 1939, its facade clad in metal panel and embellished with a stepped frontispiece and decorative band.

Of the twenty-two other contributing commercial buildings, with regard to form twenty are specimens of the two-part commercial block, i.e., a two- to four-story building with its facade divided into two distinct upper and lower zones. Architectural historian Richard Longstreth, in his The Buildings of Main Street: A Guide to American Commercial Architecture, has identified this form as "the most common type of composition used for small and moderate-sized commercial buildings throughout the country" (page 24). The single-story lower portion would be occupied by public space such as a retail store, the upper portion by more private area such as residential space, offices or a meeting ball. In America, the two-part commercial block emerged during the first half of the 1800s and became a prevalent building type in urban places by the 1850s. Lewisburg's twenty evidently original examples are distributed along Market Street between Front and Sixth streets, but for one that stands just around the corner at 21 N. Third. These buildings date from circa 1850 to circa 1950, showing the long persistence of this form, which probably appeared in town as an element in the great rebuilding cycle of the mid-nineteenth century. There are five built of frame, four of these from the period circa 1850-1870 and one from circa 1900, the others being built of brick masonry.

The town's most impressive example of the two-part commercial block, the National Register-listed, three-story Chamberlin Iron Front Building, located at 434 Market and constructed in 1868, has a principal facade composed of cast iron, the other walls being laid up in brick. The Chamberlin Building is also a particularly fine representative of the influence of the Italianate style on the decorative aspect of mid-nineteenth-century commercial architecture, the iron facade featuring recessed round-arched windows in the upper floors, with cornice bands supported by brackets on all three stories. An apparently well-preserved, relatively early brick specimen is 204-206 Market, built circa 1865 and also representing Italianate influence, with a round-arched triple window on the second story. 424 Market is a fine brick example of Colonial Revival influence in this form, built circa 1905. The two remaining contributing commercial buildings are examples of the one-part commercial block form (i.e., small single-story commercial building).

Industrial Architecture

Seven historic industrial resources (including buildings associated with utilities) are contributing buildings in the historic district, and a non-contributing building represents an early industrial resource so altered as to have its original nature largely obscured. Buffalo Mills, built in 1883 and now the Roller Mills Antique Center, 517 St. Mary Street, represents an intact flour mill building of the roller mill type. Standing at railside by the junction of the Pennsylvania and Reading lines and embellished with Italianate details such as a window lintel treatment consisting of segmental brick arches, Buffalo Mills is a four-story building constructed in brick masonry with an elevator tower at the north end that is built of frame and clad in metal. The mill building has a large one-story frame addition to the south and is accompanied by a circa 1900 one-story engine house constructed of concrete block. The Lewisburg Furniture factory at 100 N. Water Street is a two-story industrial vernacular brick building comprising several sections built consecutively, the oldest dating to circa 1900. This property is now the Roller Mills Annex. The apartment building at 40 Brown Street is the former Derr Mill building, possibly dating as early as the 1770s. The stone foundation, discernibly comprising two stages of construction, offers evidence of the mill's enlargement and reconfiguration, probably around 1874, when the property became the Lewisburg Star Mills. This mill property represents a non-contributing resource due to extensive alteration, although it is of historic interest as a remnant of the town's early industrial history.

Outbuildings

The 110 contributing outbuildings in the historic district include 77 carriage house-stables, 29 automobile garages dating up to 1953, one small workshop-studio building, one greenhouse, one engine house (which evidently provided power for Buffalo Mills), and a kitchen building. The latter, standing behind the 1796 brick Federal-style dwelling at 124 St. George, is a one-and-a-half-story weatherboarded frame building apparently of same or similar age. Almost invariably situated at the rear of the narrow house lots, most of the carriage house-stables are one-and-a-half- or two-story frame buildings, though there are some of brick or frame-above-brick construction and some of one-story height. Virtually all appear to owe their survival to conversion for garage use. Built between circa 1850 and circa 1920, most have side-gable roofs, but there are a number of front-gabled and shed-roofed examples. A few have attached workshops and one has a relatively large poultry house wing. The carriage-house stables vary widely in size. While most are quite small, many being just barely large enough to accommodate a bay for a modest-sized carriage, a compact horse stall and a small service area, there are a few built on the scale of a small to mid-sized farm barn of the region, with two wagon or carriage hays and stable space for several horses. There are also a number of examples on a scale intervening between the latter large carriage houses, which are generally associated with nineteenth-century mansions, and the small specimens. Some carriage house-stables retain ornamental detail from the Victorian styles, outstanding two-story brick-built specimens being the Italianate carriage house associated with the elaborate 1870 house of that style at 60 S. Second and the Queen Anne example for the 1887 mansion at 201 Market.

Buildings built as automobile garages are also typically sited at the rear of the house lot. Most of the contributing garages are built of concrete block, many employing the molded rockface form of block, and most contain a single garage bay, but there are also brick and frame garages as well as those of two-bay plan. Gabled roofs are common, usually of front-gable orientation, but the half-hipped or jerkin-head roof has several examples in the historic district. Some garages, generally brick or frame, are of Colonial Revival or Craftsman design to complement the associated house, a noteworthy brick Colonial Revival example being the garage at 838 Market Street, complete with a dovecote in its east gable.

Structures. Sites and Objects

There are eleven contributing structures present within the historic district, including five railroad bridges, the remnant of a railroad viaduct, two road bridges, one footbridge, and two water tower bases. Bridges associated with Lewisburg's history as a railroad junction include three on the Reading Railroad line that enters Lewisburg from the south, viz., a substantial stone-built culvert over the south branch of Bull Run, a steel plate girder bridge carrying the lime over St. George Street, and a concrete deck bridge that spans the north branch of Bull Run and bears the date 1915. On the east-west aligned Pennsylvania Railroad (or Penn Central) line are two more bridges and the bridge-related structure. The largest of Lewisburg's historic bridges is the circa 1900 steel truss bridge that spans the West Branch of the Susquehanna. This structure incorporates eight trusses supported by seven massive stone piers, and a stone-masonry causeway bearing the line to approach the bridge from the west. Although it is located only partially within the Borough of Lewisburg, this large bridge is of particular importance for its representation of the role of the railroad in the development of the town as a center of commerce. Another steel plate girder bridge carries the Pennsylvania line over the north branch of Bull Run just above the end of N. Sixth Street.

An additional contributing structure on this line is the curving row of concrete piers, located between N. Sixth and N. Fifth streets, that survive from the low viaduct that connected the Pennsylvania line with the Reading line to the south. There are two stone single-arch road bridges in the historic district, one from circa 1875 carrying University Avenue over Bull Run, the other bearing Walker Avenue over that stream's south branch, dating to circa 1890. A stone's throw from the latter span stands a picturesque stone arch footbridge built of brownstone on the Bucknell campus, this structure commemorating the Class of 1906. The two remaining contributing structures are the circular stone-masonry bases for the former water towers associated with the Lewisburg Waterworks Company that was established in 1883. These structures are located in Soldiers Memorial Field, situated by the West Branch of the Susquehanna.

The Lewisburg Cemetery, approximately 25 acres in extent and located on the west side of S. Seventh Street below St. Catherine Street, is one of two contributing sites in the historic district, the other being the Soldiers Memorial Field situated between N. Water Street and the River. The Cemetery contains a Victorian Gothic-style chapel built in 1899 of dark reddish brownstone, a one-room frame gatehouse with a belfry above its cross-gable roof, a soldiers' memorial plot comprising about 25 soldiers' graves, largely from the Civil War, with a flag pole and two Civil War mortars, several mausoleums of stone and concrete construction, approximately 100-150 large Victorian family memorials of varying design, and thousands of burials. (With reference to the count of contributing resources within the historic district, the Cemetery and its constituent elements were counted as representing a single resource, i.e., one site.) The Cemetery property is lined along S. Seventh Street with a cast iron rail fence of relatively simple late-nineteenth-century design. The other contributing site is Soldiers Memorial Field, situated by the river on the east side of N. Water Street between Market Street and St John Street. This quiet park, about two acres in extent and consisting of lawn area shaded by mature trees, is home to the two water tower bases.

The Soldiers Memorial Monument is a contributing object in the historic district, and is located on a triangular plot at the irregularly shaped junction of University Avenue with St. George, S. Third and Mill streets. The monument, erected in 1901 to commemorate Lewisburg's contribution to the Civil War, consists of a granite obelisk about thirty feet in height, topped by an iron figure of a Civil War soldier. Additional figures of a soldier and a sailor stand on opposite sides of the base for the monument. Another contributing object is the commemorative plaque placed outside the western boundary of the Lewisburg Cemetery by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1935. The plaque, and the ancient oak tree it honors, attributed to be a surviving boundary marker for the 320-acre tract Ludwig Derr purchased from Richard Peters in 1773, stand against the Cemetery fence at junction of S. Seventh and St. George streets.

Integrity

The Lewisburg Historic District demonstrates the integrity necessary to convey its historic significance. The nomination survey identified sixty-two non-contributing resources within the historic district, as opposed to 868 contributing resources. Of the sixty-two non-contributing resources (56 buildings and 6 structures), just six were buildings dating to 1953 or earlier that had their integrity of historic character compromised due to alteration, while fifty-six were built after 1953. One of the six compromised resources is a carriage house that has been transformed into a dwelling, and one a grain mill converted to an apartment building. The other four are houses that have been so thoroughly renovated with modern exterior materials and/or additions on the front as to obscure their character as historic dwellings. There are many frame houses in the historic district that have been reclad in modern siding such as vinyl, aluminum, masonite, vertical board, and asbestos or asphalt shingle, and a few that have had some alteration to windows on the principal facade. It was found, however, that these limited exterior renovations, which appear potentially reversible, were not such as to affect the perception of the buildings' identity in terms of historic forms or types of buildings, method of construction, stylistic derivation or historic period, and hence did not detract from the ability of the resources to contribute as components of the historic environment.

The non-contributing resources are concentrated to a minor degree, with fourteen of them located along the segment of Market Street extending from Second Street to Fifth Street, or within one block of that segment. Apart from the modern concrete roadway bridge that carries Market over Bull Run, these are commercial buildings constructed since 1953 as elements in the redevelopment of the central business area. Typically, these are one- to three-story modern store buildings that are incompatible with the scale, facade proportions and materials of the older commercial buildings. Many of the non-contributing buildings in the commercial area are replacements for ones lost to fire, flood damage or demolition. The presence of the non-contributing resources is offset by the far more numerous historic buildings in the commercial area, their visual impact being limited for the most part by intervening historic resources. Another six non-contributing resources are University dormitory buildings built in 1965 and 1987, located on the northern edge of the Bucknell campus and screened in some measure from street view by historic University buildings and tall trees. The remaining forty-two non-contributing resources, consisting of the six compromised resources from before 1953, six modern bridges and thirty post-1953 buildings, mostly dwellings, are scattered fairly evenly over the historic district so that they tend to create little if any visual disruption to the historic character of the district.

The repeated flooding that has afflicted Lewisburg over the years accounts in large measure for the relative paucity of historic roadway bridges standing in the town. On several residential streets, the Borough has opted to leave the street closed, deciding not to build a replacement span, while on other thoroughfares modern concrete and steel bridges have replaced old structures.

Lewisburg Archtects/Builders

  • Ackerman & Partridge
  • Dodge & Martin
  • Gendell, David
  • Loomis, Justin
  • Nesbit, Jonathan
  • Palmer, Lewis
  • Supowitz, David
  • Walter, Thomas U.
  • Wetzel, Charles S.

Significance

The period of significance for the historic district extends from circa 1773 to 1953, the period during which the district was associated with the historic trends, and attained the characteristics, that qualify the district as eligible for the National Register. This date range is based both on the history of Lewisburg since its initial settlement, and on the construction dates for the contributing resources that compose the built environment within the historic district. The end date, 1953, is in accordance with the National Register 50-year guideline for establishing significance.

Settlement of location that would become Lewisburg commenced circa 1773. The town was laid out in 1785, with construction of dwellings beginning by the following year. Lewisburg emerged in the early nineteenth century as a center for the commerce of its near region, a role which brought it considerable prosperity, particularly during the middle period of that century. The overall body of architecture in Lewisburg, presents an impressive range of domestic, commercial, institutional, religious, and governmental architecture from the late eighteenth through early twentieth centuries. Styles represented in significant numbers include the early vernacular tradition, Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, and Craftsman, with Federal, Gothic Revival, Romanesque Revival, Shingle Style, Victorian Gothic, Beaux Arts, Neoclassical, Art Deco, and Tudor Style specimens also present.

Historic Context

See Lewisburg Borough page for A Brief History of Lewisburg.

Architecture: Significance and Context

The Lewisburg Historic District is significant under Criterion C, in the area of architecture, as its overall concentration of buildings embodies the distinctive characteristics of a number of types, periods and methods of construction. The well preserved townscape of the historic district contains 853 contributing buildings (and 856 if counting the three previously National Register-listed properties), including examples of both vernacular and high-style architecture as expressed in residential, institutional and commercial buildings, making Lewisburg outstanding for its intact display of an unusually broad range of building traditions of the Upper Susquehanna region.

With reference to the 743 contributing pre-1953 buildings that are the primary resources for their respective properties, the survey of the historic district conducted for this nomination counted 614 vernacular buildings and 129 buildings that represent fully developed expressions of academic architectural styles, including Greek Revival, Italianate and Queen Anne. Lewisburg's vernacular buildings embody a range of plans or types, some derived from the English- and German-influenced architectural tradition of southeastern and south-central Pennsylvania that developed during the eighteenth century, such as that of a side-passage double-pile main block with an ell extending to the rear. Many later vernacular buildings in town are built on other plans that became prevalent across much of the nation in the middle and late nineteenth century, such as the gable-front-and-wing plan. Among the vernacular buildings, however, some 295 exhibit the cultural impact of architectural styles as expressed in the embellishment of vernacular house and other building types with decorative elements adopted from academic styles, the Greek Revival and Italianate being especially prominent in this regard. For survey purposes, a building representing high-style expression was considered to be one consistently presenting a broad and distinctive range of characteristics or elements associated with a given style, such as the relative verticality in elevation, the low roof pitch, the bracketed cornice or the double-leaf doorway of the Italianate. A few buildings built on vernacular plans were found to qualify as high-style examples due to the elaborate and fully developed character of their stylistic expression in decorative detail.

Twenty-one primary buildings, all dwellings, are attributed to the period circa 1773-1824, the initial phase of the town's development (including the previously National Register-listed American Hotel). Five of these pre-1825 houses are representative of the Federal style, the others are vernacular buildings. This cadre of surviving late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century buildings serves as a reminder of Lewisburg's nascent years and provides an opportunity for the interior or exterior investigation of early building design and construction methods for urban places in the region.

Lewisburg's architectural history can be considered in terms of successive cycles of architectural renewal, with these waves of rebuilding on existing lots apparently representing at least as much energy and expenditure as expansion of the town's built-up area with new construction. Existing buildings were replaced, extensively renovated or subjected to cosmetic updating of exterior decor. The most important of these cycles of renewal transpired between circa 1825 and circa 1870. The town's growing prosperity as a center for commerce, already on the ascendant, was bolstered by the completion of the Lewisburg and Mifflinburg Turnpike in 1829 and the commencement of canal service via the Eastern Division of the Pennsylvania Canal in 1833. The first of two phases in this rebuilding is defined by its prevailing architectural stylistic influence, that of the Greek Revival, had its impact in the years up to circa 1860. The strong influence of the Greek Revival in Lewisburg was apparently due to a combination of timing and the presence of master builders who were conversant with the style, viz., Henry Noll, Jonathan Nesbit, Lewis Palmer and probably others. The onset of Lewisburg's great rebuilding cycle coincided with the rise of Greek Revival in the Mid-Atlantic region, some fifteen to twenty years before the Gothic Revival and Italianate styles made an impact. As was the case almost throughout Pennsylvania, Gothic Revival never exerted noteworthy influence in the town, although there are some fine individual examples present.

The effect of the rebuilding was felt mainly in the visual character of the town's more substantial dwellings, which remained essentially vernacular buildings in plan. Just ten surviving buildings in the historic district qualify as high-style Greek Revival buildings, and most of these are relatively late built institutional buildings, viz., the Union County Courthouse (1856) at 101 S. Second, the North Ward School at 116 N. Second (1855), the West Ward School at 55 N. Eighth (1869), the First Presbyterian Church at 16 Market (1856) and the three oldest buildings on the Bucknell University campus (1848, 1857 and 1858). Only the relatively modest front-gabled temple-form houses at 725 and 727 Market, built circa 1850, and the circa 1830 I house-plan dwelling with the pilastered facade at 304 S. Seventh stand as domestic examples of Greek Revival.

The restriction for the most part of the fully developed Greek Revival style to institutional buildings was typical of central Pennsylvania communities, where this style manifested chiefly in the decorative scheme of dwellings built on vernacular plans that largely represented continuation of the traditional southeastern Pennsylvania types. The pattern of decoration might incorporate simple rectangular lintels and sills for openings, entries with transoms, sidelights and often relatively narrow doorways, foundations composed of block-like cut stone, and a relatively broad and usually plain frieze below the cornice. The frieze might be punctuated by a series of rectangular eyebrow windows. All these elements emphasized a rectilinear quality to which brick masonry was well suited visually. The nomination survey counted sixty-eight Greek Revival vernacular buildings in the historic district, including sixty-one built in brick and seven in frame. These buildings were constructed between 1827 and circa 1860, the majority being thought to date to before 1850. (This figure includes buildings that appear to have had some Italianate detail applied to them in renovation, but which retained their essentially Greek Revival stylistic influence.)

The more profoundly transforming phase in the mid-nineteenth-century cycle of rebuilding in Lewisburg, however, was that associated with the Italianate style between circa 1850 and circa 1870. This key episode of renewal overlapped that of the Greek Revival and in effect represented a continuation of the same impetus to build or rebuild. The town's economic prosperity continued to grow as railroad connections were established in 1855 and 1869, reinforcing Lewisburg's status as a commercial center. The talented builders Henry Noll and Lewis Palmer may have played a pivotal role in directing local taste in architectural design toward Italianate forms, as each of these artisans constructed buildings of both the Greek Revival and Italianate styles during their careers.

The Italianate left a pervasive visual imprint on the town, with Italianate detail, especially in the form of cornice brackets, applied to numerous Greek Revival vernacular or other existing vernacular buildings to impart an Italianate look. So common was the application of ltalianate detail to existing Greek Revival vernacular buildings that this tendency appears to have led to the evolution in the town of a form of Italianate vernacular in which original construction incorporated some elemental Greek Revival details, such as the plain rectangular lintels and sills and the narrow doorways with transoms, into a mostly Italianate set of exterior elements to create what might be considered a "Lewisburg vernacular." An additional element seen in this local pattern of construction, at least in the more substantial vernacular dwellings, was that of paired end chimneys, which persisted from the early nineteenth century until circa 1920 as a common chimney arrangement. It was employed by local architects in designing Colonial Revival residences in the later years.

As with the Greek Revival style, the historic district contains only a relative few examples of the fully developed Italianate, the nomination survey identifying eighteen buildings that merited reference as high-style specimens, along with one hundred eighty-seven Italianate vernacular buildings. In addition, decorative detail such as brackets, elaborate cornice or opening trim was added in varying extent to impart some Italianate flavor to forty existing vernacular or Greek Revival vernacular buildings, without completely compromising the earlier stylistic character of these buildings. The Italianate influence would probably be even more visually dominant in the historic district, but sixty-six frame buildings identified in the nomination survey simply as "vernacular" (i.e., lacking stylistic character) and thought to date to the period 1850-1880 have been reclad in modern siding, perhaps with the loss of Italianate detail in many cases.

The cycles of rebuilding within the historic district area have continued from circa 1870 to the present, though never again with the degree of impetus experienced in the mid-nineteenth century. In terms of stylistic influence, later rebuilding activity as well as a minor amount of infill construction on sites not built previously has taken the form of the Queen Anne and Craftsman styles and their vernacular variants, and also the Colonial Revival, Minimal Traditional, Ranch, Neocolonial and commercial vernacular as well as the nondescript vernacular.

The Lewisburg Historic District is rich with noteworthy buildings designed by talented master builders and architects. Local builders Henry Noll, Jonathan Nesbit and Lewis Palmer led in local building activity during the great mid-nineteenth-century cycle of renewal. Noll was at home with both the Greek Revival and Italianate styles, designing his own Italianate residence at 701 Market circa 1848 and the graceful Italian Villa dwelling at 82 University in 1856, but also Greek Revival vernacular houses like those at 302 N. Third (1850) and 715 Market (circa 1857). Lewis Palmer also had command of both of these architectural idioms, designing and building the Greek Revival county courthouse in 1856 and 439 Market, a vernacular rendition of that style, in 1857, as well as the grand cast iron-fronted Italianate commercial building at 434 Market, built 1868. The builder Jonathan Nesbit's attributed buildings are Greek Revival: the First Presbyterian Church (1856) and his own vernacular residence, across the street at 17 Market (1857). A noteworthy contemporary amateur designer and enthusiast of the Gothic Revival movement in Lewisburg was Justin Loomis, president of the University at Lewisburg during 1858-1879, who planned and built his own residences at 103 University Avenue (1855) and 135 S. Third (1866), as well as the First Baptist Church at 51 S. Third (1870). An important architect on the national scene, Thomas U. Walter, designer of the U.S. Capitol dome, contributed the Greek Revival design of the Old Main building (1849-1858) on the Bucknell campus.

In later years, the more impressive buildings in Lewisburg were generally designed by architects, largely from out of town. Buildings credited include the university's Bucknell Hall (David Gendell, 1885) and Carnegie Building (Ackerman and Partridge, 1904). Charles S. Wetzel of Danville designed the Beaver Memorial United Methodist Church and accompanying rectory (1890), 40 and 38 S. Third, while the firm of Dodge and Martin was responsible for the Himmelreich Library (1902), 18 Market. David Supowitz, a Philadelphia architect concentrating in theater design, produced the Campus Theatre (1939) at 413 Market.

The nearby towns of Milton and Northumberland, both of which have extensive downtown historic districts, provide an opportunity for comparison. Both are situated on the West Branch of the Susquehanna across the river from Lewisburg in Northumberland County, Milton about four miles to the north and Northumberland about seven miles to the south. Both towns were founded in the late eighteenth century, as was Lewisburg. Milton is slightly larger than Lewisburg, with 6,650 inhabitants in 2000 as opposed to the latter town's 5,620, while Northumberland is somewhat smaller at 3,714. Northumberland's economic history, essentially that of a center for regional commerce supplemented by the activity of a limited number of industrial concerns, is quite similar to that of Lewisburg. The similarity carries over to the architectural assemblage present in Northumberland, which consists of small to moderate-sized dwellings with a few mansion-scale residences and some commercial buildings. The styles represented include early vernacular, Federal, Classical Revival, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Queen Anne and Colonial Revival. Construction is of brick masonry or frame. Northumberland diverges from Lewisburg in that the Italianate apparently had limited impact there.

Milton, on the other hand, was only a minor commercial center, emerging and growing after 1865 as a center for heavy industry. A disastrous fire in 1880 destroyed much of the older building stock, so that only a handful of early vernacular and Federal buildings survive. Greek Revival influence is virtually absent, having apparently been eliminated by the conflagration, while little of the Italianate is to be seen. The town's architectural pride is its collection of fine Romanesque Revival, Queen Anne, Shingle and Colonial Revival dwellings and Neoclassical commercial buildings from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While represented in Lewisburg, none of these styles are especially numerous there.

Commerce: Significance and Context

The Lewisburg Historic District is significant under Criterion A, in the area of Commerce, for its representation of the town's long sustained role as a center for regional commerce that is evoked in its assemblage of commercial, residential, and institutional buildings. Lewisburg's rise to prominence with regard to regional commerce appears to have begun early on, with an initial impetus from the presence of the grain mill established there in the 1770s by the proprietor of the town, Ludwig Derr, before the town was laid out in 1785. The Derr Mill building survives, although heavily altered, at 40 Brown Street, with Derr's vernacular dwelling adjacent at 34 Brown Street. Although it is common to discuss flour and other grain mills as examples of industrial establishments, these businesses were key facilities in the conduct of the commerce of the rural areas of Pennsylvania due to the status of wheat flour as a primary commodity in the state's agricultural economy during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This was especially true with regard to merchant mill businesses such as Buffalo Mills, with its 1883 roller-process mill building surviving at 517 St. Mary Street. Merchant millers were pivotal middlemen in agricultural commerce, purchasing farmers' wheat and other grain, hence the Buffalo Mills property is representative of the town's history as a commercial center.

A ferry was established by the early 1780s at Lewisburg, and a bridge was built over the river in 1818, making Lewisburg one of the primary crossing points along the West Branch of the Susquehanna. Due to Derr's mill and the ferry, the fledgling town was emerging by the 1790s as an important transshipment point for the export of the area's abundant agricultural produce and the import of consumer goods as well as necessities not produced locally. In 1831, a committee of Lewisburg citizens, formed to promote the town's inclusion as a port in the canal system, listed the area's main exports as wheat, flour, pork, and whiskey, and the major imports as plaster, fish, salt, stone coal, dry goods, groceries, and hardware. Lewisburg was said in 1832 to be "the customary market for the products of Brush, Penn, and Buffalo valleys," a role it had apparently achieved well before the opening of the Lewisburg and Mifflinburg Turnpike in 1829 and the commencement of direct canal service in 1834. By 1832, the Derr Mill had been joined by three "large commodious storehouses on the river bank" where merchants apparently stored unmilled grain, flour and other local agricultural commodities awaiting export, as well as twelve general stores and two large tanyards. The transportation improvements of that period did serve to reinforce and expand the town's commercial prominence, however, as did the rail links created during the period 1855-1883. Lewisburg's role as an thriving entrepot and retail center for dry goods, hardware, groceries, and other imports, joined with a function as a local center for banking and other financial activities, continued through the early twentieth century.

In the 1940s, Union County was still known to contain "some of the best farming land in the state," and Lewisburg was still referred to as the "commercial center of a prosperous farming region" as well as being the seat of Bucknell University. Lewisburg has evidently differed historically from other towns of comparable size in relative proximity in that its growth and prosperity has been based largely on commerce rather than on manufacturing. The town's industrial establishment in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was largely limited to four long-term concerns, viz., the Lewisburg Star Mills, the Buffalo Mills, the Lewisburg Woolen Mills, and the Lewisburg Furniture Company, none of which were large-scale establishments. Mifflinburg, Sunbury, Milton, Danville, Bloomsburg and Bellefonte have all had developmental histories in which their growth has been based mainly on industry. Northumberland and Muncy, like Lewisburg, had industrial concerns of comparatively modest importance in the lives of the towns, but both communities are a good deal smaller than Lewisburg.

That the town's eminence in business had held up well over the preceding century preceding 1940 is indicated by the impressive collection of nineteenth and early-twentieth century buildings associated with commerce that survive in the historic district, especially in the central business area that occupies the blocks along Market Street between Front and Sixth streets. Among Lewisburg's impressive examples of commercial buildings are the previously National Register-listed Chamberlin Iron Front Building at 434 Market, an outstanding specimen of the two-part commercial block type built in 1868 with Italianate stylistic detail; two other two-part commercial block buildings at 204-206 Market (circa 1865, Italianate detail) and 424 Market (circa 1905, Colonial Revival detail); a bank building of the temple-front form, constructed in 1899 with Beaux Arts detail at 311 Market; and two more temple-front banks with Neoclassical detail at 239 Market (built 1915) and 409 Market (1927). The prosperity brought for Lewisburg by commerce is also reflected in the fine residences and religious and institutional buildings to which the town's commercial leaders applied their profits.

Education: Significance and Context

The Lewisburg Historic District is significant under Criterion A, in the area of Education, for the exemplification of the role of Bucknell University in the development of higher education in Pennsylvania by the portion of the university campus that lies within the boundary of the Borough of Lewisburg and hence within the historic district.

Bucknell, a private university founded by members of the Baptist Church as the University at Lewisburg in 1846, is among Pennsylvania's older institutions of higher learning. The establishment of the future Bucknell was one among a wave of foundings of private colleges by religious organizations that took place between 1825 and 1864, the others being the Methodist school Madison College (1825), the Presbyterian institution Lafayette College (1826), the German Reformed Church's Marshall College (1836; later amalgamated with the older Franklin College), the Quaker schools Haverford College (1833) and Swarthmore College (1864), and three Lutheran colleges, viz., Gettysburg (1832), Susquehanna (1858) and Muhlenberg (1864). These religiously affiliated colleges of the middle 1800s, nine including Bucknell, joined an older cadre of seven Pennsylvania colleges founded up to 1815, all but one of which, the German Reformed Franklin College (1787), had been established on a non-denominational basis.

The religious aspect in the founding of the University at Lewisburg was explicit. Although Lewisburg was home to just five Baptist households in 1840 (Presbyterians were the most numerous denomination in town, with Methodists and German Reformed also fairly common), the 1845 recommendation of Lewisburg as an appropriate site for a Baptist university in Pennsylvania by the Northumberland Baptist Assembly met with an enthusiastic endorsement from wealthy Baptist leaders in Philadelphia and Chester County. The canal and turnpike would provide means of transportation to reach the school, the flourishing town would help meet the institution's logistical needs, and the location was recommended as conducive to good health. The four Baptist institutions of higher learning that were in operation in 1846 were the schools now known as Brown University (Rhode Island), George Washington University (D.C.), Colgate University (New York), and Denison University (Ohio). The Baptists of Pennsylvania were eager to establish their own college. In 1953, Bucknell's charter would be amended, effectively terminating its Baptist Church affiliation.

Publicly funded higher education in Pennsylvania was initiated when the legislature enacted the Normal School Act of 1857. The act empowered the establishment of regional teacher training colleges, such as those at Millersville (1857), Kutztown (1867), West Chester (1871), and Indiana (1875). The normal schools, eventually fourteen in number, were later organized into the State System of Higher Education. In 1863, following the passage of the Federal Land Grant College Act, the State government founded the Agricultural College of Pennsylvania, which in 1874 was renamed the Pennsylvania State College. In addition, the years following the close of the Civil War (1865) saw a renewed impetus in the founding of private colleges in Pennsylvania, including several institutions for women. Like its fellow older colleges, Bucknell participated in the expansion of higher education, in its case undergoing a process of relatively rapid growth in size and elaboration in programs and facilities after enlisting the interest of benefactor William Bucknell in 1882. The college adopted the name Bucknell University in honor of its patron in 1886.

As Bucknell has grown since the late nineteenth century, the presence of its faculty, staff and student body has contributed increasingly to the town's vitality as a commercial center, with the patronage of downtown retail businesses by the university community lending crucial support to Lewisburg's thriving town center. At present, a high proportion of faculty and students continue to reside in or immediately adjacent to the historic district.

The initial period of the university's development is represented by the three Greek Revival buildings that were constructed during 1848-1858, surveying Lewisburg from the knoll that had provided the school's founders with an elevated site well suited to enhance the visual aspect of their college. Chief among these is the four-story Old Main, originally the Main Administration Building, completed in 1858. Thirteen other contributing buildings constructed for Bucknell, located on or immediately adjacent to the knoll, date to the period 1885-1928 when the university underwent a great expansion in overall size and in the scope of its curriculum. In a manner similar to its contemporary Haverford College with its campus of stone-built buildings, Bucknell adhered to one construction method during this period, brick masonry, in order to impart a unitary visual character to the complex and thereby link the new buildings to the institution's earlier history. The single exception was the half-timbered International House, a small-scale Tudor Style building at the foot of the knoll built in 1914. On the typical academic pattern, these late- and post-Victorian institutional buildings were built to house discrete teaching departments, programs and service functions, and represented architectural styles popular for academic buildings during the period: Queen Anne (circa 1885-1889), Romanesque Revival (1890), Colonial Revival (1887-1927) and Neoclassical (1889-1928).

Buildings representing the university's growth after 1928 are located outside the boundary of the Borough and the historic district, with the exception of a circa 1950 utility and service building located on the south side of the knoll in a setting somewhat removed from the other campus buildings and a non-contributing complex of large-scale dormitory halls constructed in the 1980s and 1990s and situated off the Bucknell knoll to the north.

In addition to the university, there are two historic, Greek Revival-style school buildings located in the historic district, viz., the North Ward School at 116 N. Second, built 1855, and the West Ward School at 55 N. Eighth, constructed in 1869, originally as a private academy (separate from that affiliated with the University at Lewisburg).

Among other communities in the Upper Susquehanna region, nearby Selinsgrove would appear to represent the one most comparable to Lewisburg, in the context of education. Selinsgrove is home to Susquehanna University, also a private college that was of religious origin (Lutheran) and founded in 1858, just twelve years after Bucknell. Bloomsburg and Lock Haven are also of interest in this regard. Both towns are locations for universities that grew from late-1800s normal schools and are now elements in the State System of Higher Education.

Politics/Government Context

The Lewisburg Historic District is significant under Criterion A, in the area of Politics/Government, for its representation of the history of local governmental institutions in Union County as well as of the Federal government's presence in this region of the state. The county was established in 1813 with New Berlin, located about seven miles southwest of Lewisburg, as its initial seat of government. When Union County was divided in 1855, its southern half becoming Snyder County, New Berlin was no longer centrally situated to the county. The selection of a new seat for the county government was submitted to a popular referendum in which Mifflinburg and Lewisburg emerged as the chief contestants. Proponents of Lewisburg as the site raised a $50,000 bond designated for construction of county governmental buildings, a gesture that seems to have swayed the electorate in a fairly close contest. Lewisburg won with 1,436 ballots, over 1,226 for Mifflinburg. In 1856, the handsome Greek Revival courthouse at 101 S. Second Street was completed. Lewisburg became the seat of a Federal District Court in 1933, the U.S. Courthouse and Post Office at 301 Market Street being constructed in that year in the Neoclassical style, a popular choice for Federal buildings during that period.

A cluster of residences of prominent historic political and governmental figures is located along the first block of S. Second Street between Market Street and the courthouse. Eli Slifer, who lived at 32 S. Second during 1852-1861, served in the State House of Representatives for 1850-1851 and in the State Senate for 1851-1855. While a senator, he authored the legislation that divided Union County and created Snyder, advocating Lewisburg for seat of county government. He then served as State Treasurer, 1855-1861, and as Secretary of the Commonwealth, 1861-1867. Slifer was also prominent in local manufacturing, being a partner in the Frick, Slifer & Company Boatyard, 1852-1858, and afterward in Slifer, Walls, Shriner & Company, manufacturers of agricultural implements. In 1861, he moved to a country estate outside Lewisburg. The house on that estate is now the National Register-listed Slifer House museum.

George F. Miller built the house at 43 S. Second Street in 1857, and resided there until 1884, when he built 54 S. Second. Miller served in the U.S. House of Representatives during 1865-1869. Benjamin Kurtz Focht lived in the elegant Italianate mansion at 60 S. Second from 1915 until his death in 1937. Focht, who had been owner-editor of the Lewisburg Saturday News, served in the State House of Representatives, 1892-1898, the State Senate, 1900-1907, and the U.S. House of Representatives, 1907-1913, 1915-1923, and 1933-1937. He passed away after having begun his tenth term in Congress.

Albert W. Johnson, residence at 43 S. Second Street, was in the State House of Representatives for a single term, 1900-1902, but is chiefly of note for his judicial career. Johnson was President Judge of the Union County Courts during 1912-1921, and Federal Judge for Pennsylvania's Middle District for 1921-1941.

MAJOR BIBLIOGRAPHICAL REFERENCES

Beers, D. G. - 1868 - Alias of Union and Snyder Counties, Pennsylvania. Pomeroy & Beers, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Cort. Jason Brewer - 1995 - A Study of the Indispensability of the Railroad to Lewisburg's Nineteenth-Century Economic Development. Bucknell University B. A. Thesis. On file at the Bucknell University Library, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

Gordon, Thomas F. - 1832 - A Gazetteer of the State of Pennsylvania. T. Belknap, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Kalp, Lois - 1980 - A Town on the Susquehanna, 1769-1975. Published privately, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. On file at the Bucknell University Library. Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

Longstreth, Richard - 1987 - The Buildings of Main Street: A Guide to American Commercial Architecture. Building Watchers Series. Preservation Press, Washington, D.C.

Mauser, I. H. - 1886 - Centennial History of Lewisburg. Published privately, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. On file at the Pennsylvania State Library, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Oliphant, J. Orin - 1957 - How Lewisburg Became a Canal Port. Manuscript on file at Bucknell University Library, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Revised from version published in Northumberland County Historical Society Proceedings 21 (1957), 36-66.

Pennsylvania Bureau of Statistics - 1947 - Eleventh Industrial Directory of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Department of Internal Affairs, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Writers' Project - 1940 - Pennsylvania: A Guide to the Keystone State. Compiled by workers of the Writers' Program of the Work Progress Administration in the State of Pennsylvania. Oxford University Press, New York, New York.

SEDA-Council of Governments - 1994 - Lewisburg Historic District nomination draft. On file at the office of the Lewisburg Borough Council, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

Snyder, Charles M., ed. - 1976 - Union County, Pennsylvania: A Bicentennial History. Colonial Printing House, Inc., Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

Theiss, Lewis Edwin - 1946 - Centennial History of Bucknell University, 1846-1946. Bucknell University, Lewisburg Pennsylvania. On file at the Bucknell University Library.

  1. Pendleton, Philip E., Lewisburg Historic District, Union County Pennsylvania, nomination document, 2003, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

See Map

Street Names: 2nd Street North, 2nd Street South, 3rd Street North, 3rd Street South, 4th Street North, 4th Street South, 5th Street North, 5th Street South, 6th Street South, 7th Street North, 7th Street South, 8th Street North, 8th Street South, Apple Tree Alley, Beck Street, Blueberry Alley, Buffalo Road, Cherry Alley, Chestnut Tree Alley, Dale Alley, Derr Drive North, Front Street North, Front Street South, Green Alley, Hawn Alley, Hayes Alley, Hazel Tree Alley, James Alley, Ludwig Alley, Market Street, Peach Tree Alley, Pear Tree Alley, Pine Alley, Raspberry Alley, Route 15, Route 45, Saint Anthony Street, Saint Catherine Street, Saint George Street, Saint John Street, Saint Louis Street, Saint Mary Street, Smith Alley, Spruce Street, Strawberry Alley, Wagner Alley, Water Street North, Water Street South

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