Centerville Historic District
The Centerville 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.
Located approximately fifteen miles east of the city of Washington in Washington County, the linear Centerville Historic District follows the course of the National Road (now Old National Pike) for approximately 3300 feet through the heart of the village of Centerville. In addition to the major cross streets, State Route 481 and Linton Road, several narrow alleys parallel and cross the National Road. As a result of the present-day U. S. Route 40 having bypassed the village, Centerville remains a quiet, tree-lined community with the National Road (the early-twentieth-century U. S. Route 40) acting a�s the main street through town. The district contains ninety-four (94) contributing buildings, including taverns, residences, shops, and service buildings which reflect the activity of the community during all periods of the development and decline of the National Road. Thirty-five (35) of the resources in the district date to the early-nineteenth-century heyday of the National Road (1818-1853), including nearly half of the contributing primary resources. Seventeen (17) other contributing buildings were built between ca. 1855 and ca. 1900, and forty-two (42) were constructed between ca. 1900 and ca. 1946. The majority of these buildings front directly onto the National Road. Although little commercial activity remains in Centerville today, the historically commercial core of the community is represented by the buildings located near the intersection of Old National Pike and PA Route 481 North, with residential resources comprising the majority of the remaining buildings. The Centerville Historic District represents an intact example of a "pike town" community as defined in the Historic Districts Property Type of the Multiple Property Documentation Form entitled, "Historic Resources of the National Road in Pennsylvania."
Most of the buildings in Centerville reflect an unadorned, vernacular form of the Federal and Greek Revival styles common in Pennsylvania's Pike Towns. These buildings, some of which historically served as residences and others as businesses, sit close to and front directly onto the National Road. Dating from the heyday of travel on the National Road (1818-1852), they are side gabled, two or two-and-one-half stories in height, three to five bays wide and one to two rooms deep. Wood and some stone are used in construction of these resources but locally-made brick is the predominant building material found in Centerville.
A typical residential example of this form is 914 Old National Pike, a vernacular Federal-style, two-story, four-bay brick home with a side-gabled roof. This building contains two front entrances which reflect its original use as a multiple-dwelling unit. There are several examples of these two-family homes in Centerville, the majority of which have been converted to single dwellings. Some of the semi-detached houses actually served both commercial and domestic purposes including 911 Old National Pike, which is reputed to have housed Battley White's blacksnake whip business, as well as a home.
Another early-nineteenth century resource type found in Centerville is the brick tavern. Generally sited close to the road, these buildings faced the road and were easy to identify for early travelers by their size and separate barroom and inn entrances. Today, two such buildings remain in the village, the ca. 1821 John Rogers Tavern at 904 Old National Pike and the ca. 1835 Zephania Riggle Tavern at 935 Old National Pike. Both are now residential dwellings. Each is a two-story, brick, side-gabled building. The Riggle Tavern is a two-story, seven-bay building with three entrances. An early twentieth-century full-width front porch spans the entire primary facade, replacing an earlier porch; with the possible exception of this porch, the Riggle Tavern generally exhibits good integrity of form, materials, workmanship, location, and feeling and is a cornerstone to the district. The Rogers Tavern, although clad with aluminum siding and altered with an early-twentieth-century porch and a hipped roof, retains its historic significance.
While ante-bellum brick buildings dominate the district, several resources survive from Centerville's later nineteenth-century role as a commercial center for its rural surroundings. Illustrative examples include several Italianate and Queen Anne style dwellings, a few commercial buildings in the center of the district, and the 1872 Methodist-Episcopal Church at the east end of the village. One of the more striking examples of local vernacular variation of the Queen Anne style in Centerville is found at 955 Old National Pike. This home served as the residence of Joseph Clark, one of the leading citizens in the late-nineteenth-century community. This building is a two-and-one-half-story brick building with a wrap-around porch, front gable, and gabled-ell. The limited ornament reflects a simplified vernacular form of the style. This property also contains a notable sandstone two-bay garage, which may have once served as a carriage house.
The best surviving example of a late-nineteenth-century commercial building is the E. H. Griffith Store, located at 901 Old National Pike. The two-story, front-gabled store is a long narrow rectangular building borrowing some ornamental elements from the Italianate style, including bracketed eaves. The central entrance is flanked by large projecting display windows, each of which is divided into fifteen panes. The building still serves a commercial purpose today.
The Methodist-Episcopal Church is the only religious building included in the district. The Romanesque Revival style brick building is characterized by several art-glass windows and decorative corbeled arches below the eaveline. The symmetrically-arranged front gable-end displays two small rose windows flanking a larger central lancet window above the front entrance of two molded wooden doors. A central tower is capped by a wood louvered section.
Several buildings in the community reflect the twentieth-century revival of the road as an automobile tour route. These include a gas station, two garages, and several dwellings from the first half of the twentieth century. One example of these resources is the ca. 1920 John Williams Service Station located at 968 Old National Pike. The plan is typical of the early gas stations along the National Road as a small squarish building connected to a canopied area which originally sheltered the pumps. The Centerville station is notable for its Spanish Revival-style decorative scheme, featuring a hollow painted metal roof which successfully imitates red terra-cotta tile, stuccoed walls, and simple flared Baroque trim around the windows and door. This service station retains excellent integrity.
One of the surviving garage buildings, the Centerville Boro Building, is located at the corner of the Old National Pike and State Route 481. This two-story cast stone building contains a large open area on the first floor accessed by garage doors on the south, west, and north facades. This area served as an early auto service garage and later as the Centerville road crew garage. The second floor has served as rental housing and Borough offices. The building interior is amply lit by several steel-framed multi-paned windows. This building presently stands vacant.
The housing stock from the early twentieth century in Centerville includes several Colonial Revival style and early Foursquare homes, a few Craftsman Bungalows, and three Sears and Roebuck catalog houses (two Dutch Colonials and one Queen Anne at 1036,1040 and 1044 Old National Pike). Most of these homes are located at the ends of the district due to the existing density in the center of the village by the 1900s.
The district also contains 24 non-contributing resources which are scattered widely throughout the district and do not affect its overall integrity. These include six contemporary residences constructed after the 1950s, two residences which have been significantly altered by additions, window replacement, and artificial siding so as to lose their integrity, fourteen contemporary garages and outbuildings, and two mobile homes. The outbuildings are generally located behind contributing resources and do not affect the rhythm of the Old National Pike streetscape. Most of the non-contributing houses and mobile homes conform to the setbacks and siting typical of the district. Despite minor alterations to some buildings including artificial siding and replacement windows, most of the resources in the Centerville Historic District retain good integrity and the community as a whole presents the setting, feeling, design, location, association, and materials which characterize a Pike Town. The rerouting of U. S. Route 40, bypassing the community in the 1930s has minimized the intrusion of new construction and insensitive alterations.
The Centerville Historic District is significant in the areas of transportation and commerce, for its concentration of local vernacular architecture. The period of significance spans three eras of the development, decline, and revival of the National Road in Pennsylvania from 1819 through 1946. Surveyed and plotted between 1819 and 1821, this district was established as a direct result of the completion of the National Road in Washington County, Pennsylvania in 1818. The community, centrally located between Uniontown and Washington, PA on the National Road, developed to serve travelers on the road. As the location of several taverns, tradesmen's shops, and other facilities, Centerville played a significant role in supporting the first major route to the Old Northwest. Although use of the National Road declined after the completion of the B & O Railroad in 1853, Centerville survived as a small commercial center for the surrounding agricultural and mining region. The early-twentieth-century revival of the National Road as a result of automobile touring was the catalyst for a minor rebirth for the community, which lasted through the Second World War. Architecturally, the Centerville Historic district is comprised of vernacular examples of architectural styles and forms reflective of the early-nineteenth through the early-twentieth centuries. Having been bypassed by a re-routing of U. S. Route 40 in the 1960s, Centerville retains excellent integrity of setting, design, location, feeling, and association as a "Pike Town" historic district of the nineteenth-century National Road as defined in the Multiple Property Documentation Form, "Historic Resources of the National Road in Pennsylvania."
Due in part to its relative isolation for the last several decades, the Centerville Historic District retains a great deal of integrity as an example of a Pike Town. The Old National Pike, which forms the main street through this linear district, continues to reflect the narrow and winding nature of the National Road. The predominance of brick and frame buildings in vernacular adaptations of the Federal and Greek Revival styles situated close to the roadway provides a strong illustration of the early-nineteenth century community which supported road traffic. Later Italianate and Queen Anne-style homes provide architectural context for the village's late-nineteenth-century identity as a prosperous rural commercial center. Several early twentieth-century utilitarian garage and auto service buildings as well as the John Williams Service Station reflect the early automobile-touring era of the National Road. Despite some minor alterations including the application of artificial siding to some buildings, the district retains sufficient integrity to be considered architecturally as well as historically significant.
The planning, construction, development, growth, decline, and subsequent revival of the National Road in Pennsylvania have been detailed in the Multiple Property Documentation Form entitled "Historic Resources of the National Road in Pennsylvania;" Centerville is identified as an example of a "Pike Town" historic district property type. The growth of the built environment in this community directly parallels the periods of expansion and decline of the National Road with the majority of Centerville's extant resources dating to the early-nineteenth and early-twentieth century boom periods of the National Road. These buildings developed specifically to serve travelers' commercial needs during these two eras and demonstrate the materials, settings, workmanship, location, and feeling associated with the architecture of these two periods. In addition to typifying the linear form and building style and location of a Pike Town, Centerville compares favorably with several other potential districts in the area. Neighboring Beallsville and Scenery Hill have seen far more late-nineteenth and twentieth century development while Centerville better retains its National Road-era identity. Hopwood in Fayette County has expanded well beyond its original linear form into a residential suburb of Uniontown while Centerville has retained a more individual identity. Additionally, its location on a bypassed section of the National Road enables the community to better retain the visual sense and feeling of the National Road era of travel.
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Centerville Borough History Commission. Centre to Center. 1976.
Creigh, Alfred. History of Washington County. Harrisburg, PA: Singerly. 1871.
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Interviews with Kay Clendaniel, Centerville resident, January 1996.
Interview with Sue Ellen Bebout, Centerville resident, January 1996.
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