Beallsville Historic District
The Beallsville Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.
The Beallsville Historic District is located some 30 miles due south of Pittsburgh in southeastern Washington County. Beallsville is surrounded by rolling hills of rich farmland and wooded areas that maintain a rural character absent of the intrusion of modern development. Beallsville represents a typical pike town as defined in the Multiple Property Documentation form "Historic Resources of the National Road in Pennsylvania." The majority of the buildings within the linear district are vernacular and face the main street, the National Road. Maiden Street is the major north-south crossroad. A series of narrow alleys are laid both parallel to and across the National Road. Many of the buildings situated along these two major roads reflect a vernacular form of Federal and Greek Revival styles common to Pennsylvania's pike towns. The buildings date for the most part from the Golden Age of pike travel from 1818 to 1852 (hereafter referred to as the "pike era"). At the east end of the Beallsville Historic District, a number of large later 19th-century Italianate and Queen Anne buildings share space with the earlier pike era buildings. To the west, the Beallsville Cemetery is the only contributing site in the Beallsville Historic District . Interspersed throughout the Beallsville Historic District are other examples of smaller Queen Anne homes and some early 20th-century buildings, most notably a number of Craftsman Bungalows. Finally, an original circa 1835 cast iron National Road mile marker is included as a single, yet significant, contributing object in the district. A total of 91 contributing and 29 noncontributing buildings are included in the district. Of the 91 contributing buildings, 28 are outbuildings, such as barns and early garages, and 63 are residences and commercial buildings. Of these 63 contributing buildings, 31 pre-date the Civil War, 19 date from the mid to late nineteenth century, and 13 date from the early to mid twentieth century. Half of the noncontributing buildings are outbuildings, mostly modern garages, while the rest are recently-built homes. The noncontributing buildings are scattered or located along the back of the lots and therefore have little effect on the otherwise excellent integrity of the historic district.
The pike era buildings are side gabled, of brick or wooden construction, two to two-and-one-half stories tall, three to five bays wide and one to two rooms deep. Chimneys are placed most commonly at the gable ends of the buildings, and a number of the buildings have more than one facade entry door. Common alterations to the buildings include replacement of doors and windows, removal or addition of porches, siding with vinyl or aluminum products, and roofing with modern asphalt shingles. In spite of these alterations, the buildings are still recognizable as pike era buildings. Fortunately, most major additions to the buildings have occurred to the rear, thus preserving the rhythm of the historic streetscape.
The oldest building included in the Beallsville Historic District is a 1788 log building at 984 Maiden Street, just north of the National Road. The only log building in Beallsville not covered with some sort of siding, the building was home to town founder Zephaniah Beall. (This and all subsequent buildings discussed in the narratives are contributing unless otherwise specifically noted.) The building sits in the bank of a hill on a raised sandstone foundation, and it continues in use today as an extremely well maintained residence providing a link to Beallsville's early pioneer development.
Two major early 19th-century National Road related buildings are found at the heart of the Beallsville Historic District. The well-preserved Greenfield Stand (or Greenfield Tavern) is a landmark central to the history of Beallsville and the National Road. Built in 1821, at 2848 Maiden Street, the large two story painted brick, front gabled building was expanded later in the century as the National Hotel with the addition of an oddly-shaped wood third story and two story porch wrapping around the north and east sides of the building. Changes in use over the years as a tavern, bank, general store and residence have resulted in few other significant alterations, although the original windows have been more recently replaced and the third story clapboards have been removed and replaced with wood shingles. The pre-1830s Miller Tavern (or Guttery Tavern) at the northwest corner of the National Road and Maiden Street (2849Main Street) has undergone some changes. The two story, side gable painted brick building has a rear addition which gives it a saltbox appearance and uniquely follows the angle in Maiden Street. The building once had an elaborate two story porch, now removed, and there have been changes to the window and door openings.
An example of a typical pike era residence is the unassuming John Hough House, home to Beallsville's National Road era tollhouse keeper, which sits on the south side of the pike just east of Maiden Street at 2852 Main Street. Though the tollhouse, which once stood at the east end of town has long since been demolished, the Hough House remains for the most part intact. The building is of painted brick, four bays wide, one room deep, two stories tall with a side gable and two entry doors under a later porch.
Also included in the district are two late 19th-century churches situated on the National Road. The 1874 Beallsville Methodist-Episcopal Church, a rather simple brick building with decorative rounded facade corbelling and a slender wooden steeple, is found at the west end of town at 2825 Main Street; and the even simpler circa 1890 frame Presbyterian Church sits at the opposite end of the district at 2907 Main Street. The Beallsville Cemetery, a contributing site in the Beallsville Historic District, covers a 15 acre hill behind the Methodist-Episcopal Church and is probably the largest cemetery found in any of Pennsylvania's small pike towns. It contains a collection of markers that have been well cared for, reflecting over 180 years of changing styles in headstones. Also in the Beallsville Historic District is one of the mile markers erected in the 1830s. These cast iron markers stand approximately three feet tall and are obelisk in shape. There are only 21 in existence today scattered along the approximately 90 miles of National Road in Pennsylvania. The closest existing mile markers to Beallsville stand in Centerville to the east and Scenery Hill to the west.
Beallsville's post pike era prosperity is most evident with the large Italianate and Queen Anne residences at the east end of town (2925, 2923, and 2921 Main Street) and such buildings as Miller's Private Bank and the Beallsville School. The bank, at 2850 Main Street, is an 1872 brick Italianate building with decorative stone window hoods and a bracketed cornice over the main entry, which stands at the center of town on the southwest corner of the National Road and Maiden Street. Aside from two altered windows and a recently-changed front door, the bank looks as it did when built, including the interior banking space. The school building, a massive 1895 brick and stone Romanesque Revival style building with a central entry tower and decorative yellow brickwork, overlooks Beallsville from a hill at 11 Gay Street. Adaptive use of the building as a post office, civic center and borough office has resulted in a great deal of modernization of the first floor interior, boarding up of most upper story windows, and the addition of a concrete handicap-accessible ramp on the facade.
Beallsville's 20th-century history shows in the number of fine Craftsman Bungalows along the National Road (2837, 2894, and 2890 Main Street), as well as one automobile-related buildings. McCrory's Gas Station, at 2881 Main Street is a typical 1920s service station with a canopied drive that once housed fuel pumps and a garage. Although it is no longer used as a service station, the building remains unchanged. Down the street, just west of the intersection of the National Road and Maiden Street, sits a large pike era building which was expanded in the rear as an early 1920s Chevrolet dealer and service shop.
While the broad patterns of history and heritage in Beallsville remain well-represented in its buildings landscape, some harsh realities have threatened the cohesiveness of the Beallsville Historic District. Fires in 1944 and 1977 destroyed 19th-century buildings to the west of the Greenfield Stand and at the northwest corner of the National Road and Maiden Street. Other scattered demolitions, such as the tearing down of the historic Captain John Keys House in 1983, and modern infill developments intrude on sections of the streetscape. In addition, there are alterations to a few historic buildings that adversely affect their integrity such as new windows, doors, siding, porches, and removal of original character defining details. Most of the above changes in the community are scattered and impact little on the overall integrity of the historic district. The Beallsville Historic District continues to reflect over 200 years of historic development and change in a small pike town. From log cabins and pike taverns to Queen Anne homes to auto service stations and Craftsman Bungalows, Beallsville retains a sense of its constant identification with the National Road.
The Beallsville Historic District is significant as an intact pike town in southwestern Pennsylvania and for its association with the history of commerce and transportation on the National Road. Beallsville was associated with the history of the National Road. The town is one of the finest surviving examples of a pike town on the National Road in Pennsylvania which developed during the pike era and continued to thrive for years later. The buildings in the Beallsville Historic District reflect styles popular during the three main periods of significance. From the time of the National Road's completion in 1818 and the town's chartering a year later, Beallsville prospered as a stop for the tens of thousands of wagons and coaches carrying goods and passengers to the western frontier and the cities of the east. The large number of surviving early 19th-century buildings lining the streets of town represent architectural styles typical of the homes, taverns and other buildings in the pike towns of southwestern Pennsylvania. The linear settlement pattern along the National Road accompanied by a grid of narrow streets and alleys is an important indicator of this type of road-related town. The continuing survival of these elements in Beallsville, following the 1852 opening of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, makes it one of the best-preserved pike towns on the route of the old pike.
As discussed in "Historic Resources of the National Road in Pennsylvania," the National Road was built in response to a need for improved roads to connect established communities and the rapidly growing western frontier. The road cut the time of travel between Baltimore and the Ohio River and the cost of transporting goods in half. At its peak, daily National Road travel through Beallsville and other pike towns would have included tens of thousands of head of livestock and goods being taken to markets in Conestoga wagons, and mail traffic using the country's first pony express system. Coach services carried the likes of Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, William Henry Harrison, and the Marquis de Lafayette, as well as thousands of common travelers, to the western frontier and back through here. Along the route of the pike, taverns provided, food and lodging for travelers. New pike towns, like Beallsville, developed around the taverns to provide additional services for travelers, coaches, wagons, and livestock such as livery stables, blacksmiths, and repair shops.
The prosperity in the pike towns was relatively short-lived. In 1852 the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's line from Cumberland to Wheeling opened and almost completely halted long haul traffic on the National Road. Even so, the pike was still widely used for local trade and travel. Beallsville became an incorporated borough in this same pivotal year and continued to grow slowly with a steady population over 400 by 1870. In the early 1900s, the National Road saw a rebirth in travel and popularity as an automobile touring scenic highway. Some portions of the old pike were abandoned and others bypassed with the creation of Route 40, but the road remained on its traditional straight path through Beallsville.
Commercial enterprises developed in response to the traffic along the National Road. Several taverns, a hotel, and other businesses thrived in Beallsville based on road business. Beallsville would far outstrip many neighboring communities in its commercial prominence on the National Road during the Golden Age of the pike era from 1818 to 1852. By 1819, Christian Kreider was already operating a tavern. Two years later, Thomas Stewart was keeping a tavern in a small log house and Thomas Norfolk was operating an inn built by Joseph Mills called the Beallsville Sun, the first brick structure in the young town. (None of the previously mentioned resources are known to exist today.) Within a few years, Norfolk built his own brick tavern at the town's central junction of the National Road and Maiden Street. The tavern became a popular and famed stop along the pike during the years it was owned and operated by William Greenfield as the Greenfield Stand (later the National Hotel at 2848 Main Street). Greenfield also operated the Beallsville Savings Bank out of the tavern, issuing notes in small denominations to the growing community. On the north side of the pike, opposite Greenfield's establishment, Charles Miller constructed the Miller Tavern at 2849 Main Street (later the Guttery Tavern) in the late 1820s. Town histories speak of a number of other taverns being kept in Beallsville throughout the 1820s, 30s and 40s, though most of the details on their locations and descriptions have been lost.
In the first two years of Beallsville's existence as a pike town, numerous log, frame and brick homes were built by the growing population. Families, single men and several doctors came to settle in these formative years. General stores, a blacksmith shop, wagon makers' shop, tailor and grocers sprang up. Fraternal orders of Odd Fellows and Masons were founded to provide a much-needed social outlet for the men of Beallsville, and the construction of a Methodist Church in the mid-1820s brought the otherwise rapidly expanding community an air of civility.
Transportation along the road and commerce were closely linked. Decline in road use and commerce followed the opening of the B&O Railroad in 1852. Beallsville retained some commercial prosperity, from local business, and continued to grow. By 1870, the town's businesses included two hotels, four stores, two grocers, two tailors, a saddle and harness makers shop, a blacksmith, wagon maker, marble factory and shoemaker. The discovery of deposits of coal and natural gas added to local prosperity. Around 1872, Jess P. Miller constructed Miller's Private Bank east of the junction of the National Hotel and Maiden Street at 2850 Main Street. When the bank finally closed during the Great Depression in 1933, it was the last surviving private bank in Washington County. With the rebirth of the National Road in the early nineteenth century and the increased use of the automobile, new commercial businesses such as gas stations and automobile dealerships sprang up in Beallsville and some of the other pike towns to accommodate new travelers, while more traditional road-related services such as restaurants and inns experienced an upswing in patronage. By the 1950s, Beallsville's population peaked at 650 residents and then began a decline to its present level of nearly 300 people.
Institutional as well as commercial buildings were also erected. The International Order of Odd Fellows constructed a new meeting hall in 1873, and a year later a new brick Methodist-Episcopal Church was built at the west end of town adjacent to Beallsville's 15 acre cemetery. Nearly 20 years later, a Presbyterian Church was constructed at the opposite end of town. The borough's small, two-room school became overcrowded during this time as enrollment grew to over 90 students. In 1895, a modern brick building was constructed at a cost of $6000 to accommodate elementary and high school classes, which it did until its doors were closed in 1949.
Beallsville is architecturally significant as a representative example of a pike town reflecting styles and forms popular during the three eras of the National Road as outlined in "Historic Resources of the National Road in Pennsylvania." Buildings in Beallsville constructed before 1853 are predominantly wood frame with the exception of taverns and some other commercial buildings constructed of brick. These buildings reflect a typical vernacular form with some Federal and Greek Revival details common in southwestern Pennsylvania and along the National Road. Construction after 1853 was limited until the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Primarily houses and churches, these buildings were designed in the popular styles of the time such as Italianate (2859, 2925, and 2923 Main Street), Queen Anne (2876, 2921, and 2913 Main Street), Colonial Revival (2920 Main Street), and Bungalow (2896 and 2904 Main Street). The churches are simple forms of the Gothic Revival style.
Like the nearby pike towns of Scenery Hill to the west and Centerville to the east, Beallsville has retained a great deal of its original 19th-century character. In Scenery Hill many pike era buildings have been converted into craft and antique stores retaining the original character and commercial uses of the buildings. Centerville was bypassed by the new Route 40 in the 1920s resulting in the decline in Centerville's prosperity yet at the same time preserving the 19th-century buildings and much of the town's identity to the old pike. All three towns retain the linear and rural qualities that characterize pike towns of the National Road.
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