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Welsh-Emery House


The Welsh/Emery House (114 Emery Road) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1] Adaptation copyright © The Gombach Group.

Description

The Welsh/Emery House is a very grand, symmetrical stone house, on a level lot along a stretch of road parallel to and within sight of Rt. 40 (the National Pike) at the edge of the mining town of Richeyville. Early sections of the house date to 1815 while extensive changes occurred in 1878 and 1909 giving the house its present Classical Revival appearance. It is a five bay stone house, two rooms deep, made to look much larger by the addition of a two-story, pedimented portico on Corinthian columns, and the extension of the portico floor as a balustraded terrace across the front and one side of the house. The house also has a prominent roof, with large red Spanish tile, symmetrically-placed dormers with Spanish tile hip roofs, and three tall, cut stone chimneys, all of which contribute to the grandeur of the facade. The house occupies the northern edge of a very large, level farm field, a setting that is unusual in the rolling hills of Western Pennsylvania, and particularly along the narrow, winding ridge that the old National Pike follows through Washington County. Outbuildings on the site include a non-contributing ca.1950 garage with an apartment and a contributing 1890 frame barn. The integrity of the house, barn, and setting remain intact and reflects the transformation from traditional farming to gentleman farming.

The exterior walls of the Welsh/Emery House are built of roughly cut ashlar, laid in random courses. At the corners, larger stones were used, approximating quoins. The windows are all wooden double sashes, (1/1), and have dressed stone lintels and sills. The windows in the first story facade are arranged in banks of four, with one bank to either side of the center front door, occupying the space of two bays to each side. The front door has one large light of bevelled glass, and sidelights with one light of bevelled glass each. There is a second, identical door above the entrance door, at the second story level, leading out onto a small balcony with wrought iron railing. The doors are sheltered by a large wooden portico. The portico has four two-story fluted wooden columns with Corinthian capitals of acanthus leaves, and matching pilasters at the stone facade. At the top of the portico is a large pediment. The tympanum of the pediment has wooden lap siding, with a round portal window at the center. The window has nine lights, arranged with a round light at the center, surrounded by eight segments of a circle. The trim of the portal windows has four keystones.

The other three elevations are similar. The west elevation has no windows, except one at the attic level. The east elevation has a Classical Revival porch on one-story Corinthian columns, with a balustrade connecting the columns and a second balustrade in the second story serving as the railing of a second story porch. At the northeast corner of the house, there are doors at both the first and second levels of the east facade leading onto the porch. There is a large double sash window at the south end of the first story in the east elevation. The rear (south) elevation contains a small, two bay porch with Italianate details (chamfered posts connected by a cut-out balustrade). The masonry in this elevation contains a vertical seam where the original three-bay stone ends and the addition begins (this seam is hidden by one of the pilasters of the portico in the facade). The windows are spaced in three bays to the west of this seam, and two bays to the east.

The first story of the house contains the hallway, living room, dining room, kitchen, and a small powder room. The living room and dining room are reached from the center hallway by large doorways with no doors. Centered in the east wall of the living room is a large fireplace, with a large surround made of river pebbles, believed to have been added ca.1940. To the north of this fireplace is a one-light door leading onto the terrace/side porch. To the south is a large, double sash (1/1) window. At each end of the room (north and south) is a bank of four double sash windows.

The dining room has a large fireplace with a surround and hearth of large blue tiles, believed to have been added ca.1940. There is a delicate wood mantel at the top of the tile, six feet from the floor level. The mantel is supported on heavy iron brackets, in a style that looks like a twentieth century interpretation of "Mediterranean." Studded iron eagles in the same style form the corners of the blue tile surround.

The kitchen has blond-painted wooden cabinets, ca.1960 and a ca.1970 island. It is connected to the dining room by a swinging "cross and Bible" door (all interior doors are six panel, "cross and Bible" doors), and has doors leading to the basement, center hall, and back porch.

The center hall has an open stairway leading from the first story to the attic, with an open area of thirteen feet by five feet in the second story and attic floor levels. The stairway has rectangular oak panels under the stair stringers, both at the sides of the first flight, and as a ceiling under the upper flights. The oak panels are spaced in the overlapping pattern of common bond brick, and are painted. The railing of the stairway is mahogany, on lathe-turned balusters. The balusters are painted. The railing balusters continue around an open area (5 by 13 feet) on the second story and attic level, with square newel posts at the corners. At the base of the stair, the railing forms panelled sides, and are painted except their layered mahogany caps. At the base of the stair, the railing forms an almost complete circle, in place of a newel post. The stairs have unpainted oak treads. In the space behind the first story of the staircase, a small section of the first story center hall has been enclosed as a powder room.

The second story contains four rectangular bedrooms, one over the dining room, one over the kitchen, and two over the living room, and a bathroom at the top of the stairs. The bedrooms are connected by doorways into two-room suites. The two rooms over the living room have one diagonal corner each that may have formerly contained a corner fireplace in each room, over the living room fireplace. The closets in these two bedrooms project into the rooms from the hallway side, and have turned corner beads at their corners. The northeast bedroom has a door leading out onto the roof of the side porch. The bedroom over the dining room has a closet to one side of the chimney pilaster on the west wall, and the bedroom over the kitchen has one on each side of the chimney pilaster on the west wall. The bathroom has fixtures, wall covering, and linoleum that appear to date from before 1950. The third floor, or attic, contains two large bedrooms, one to each side of the hallway. The west bedroom has window seats at the dormer windows at the north and south ends. It has a mahogany mantelpiece on the west wall, with dentils at the mantel edge and swags over the fireplace opening. Around the fireplace opening are white glazed tiles. Above the mantel is a bevelled mirror. In the fireplace is a built-in gas stove that fills the opening. The east bedroom has a similar fireplace, except that the mantelpiece has Tuscan columns with scrolled capitals and no mirror. The west bedroom has built-in closets at the southeast and southwest corners. The east bedroom has no built-in closets.

The Welsh/Emery House has a basement containing two large rooms: one under the hall, dining room, and kitchen. Another room is located under the living room. Half the space in the basement is separated by a masonry wall that originally was stone but rebuilt in brick. This reveals the expansion of the house from three to five bays. Locust posts support the hand hewn log floor joists that have wood pins at the joints. The floor is concrete. Framing arrangements reveal that the stair opening changed when the house was expanded. Doors from the 1870s were used to make some cabinets in the basement.

Behind the house is a ca.1950 noncontributing two story carriage house, with a stone first story (concrete block structure with an outer layer of masonry consisting of large stones in random courses), and a frame upper story. The roof is gabled and clad with asphalt shingles. It contains a large garage on the first floor, and a four-room apartment above that has a small balcony covered by an awning roof. To the east of the house, is a contributing 40' x 80' gable-roofed wooden barn from 1890, which has modest, but stylized details and a high degree of exterior integrity. On the east and west elevations of the barn are center gables, each with a set of triple double-hung wood sash windows. The basement of the barn is divided into several spaces for animals by stone and wooden walls. To the west side, a passage for wagons runs through the basement level, under the main ramp to the upper story. The interior heavy timber structure of the upper story was modified in ca.1960 to accommodate a rustic playhouse for local "little theater" productions that have decreased since 1975 to one or two performances a year. The alterations consisted mainly of addition of a small stage, with partially enclosed wings, and conversion of a loft area into a platform for the spotlight and lighting controls. A couple of major beams across the structure at loft level that obscured the view from the lighting platform to the stage were unfortunately removed as part of the modifications, but the removal does not appear to have affected the barn's structural integrity.

The Welsh/Emery House evolved over several generations from a small three-bay stone house, to a five bay house, and then to the Classical Revival residence it now is, yet very few, if any exterior details have been changed since the portico and terrace were added in 1909. Additionally, only a few elements of the interior appear to have been changed since 1909 (particularly the first story fireplaces, the kitchen, and the bathroom and powder room). Although presently surrounded by a few new ranch-type homes and some commercial developments along modern-day Rt. 40, the Welsh/Emery House retains much of its original grandeur of setting, and all of its original (1909) architectural elegance.

Significance

The Welsh/Emery House is significant for architecture and eligible for the National Register under criterion "C," as a large farmhouse that evolved over several generations into an early twentieth century Classical Revival residence. It is the richest, largest scale, and most detailed example of residential Classical Revival style in the county. It features carved columns, pediment with dentils, and balustrade.

The house represents the long tenure of the Welsh family on this parcel of land. It is situated on the original Welsh tract, patented in March 1786 to John Welsh, a cabinet maker, who immigrated here from Enniskillen, Ulster, Ireland. The patent was based on a Virginia certificate Welsh received in 1780. According to the 1798 United States Direct Tax, there were two John Welsh homes here in Bethlehem Township (perhaps father and son) in the eighteenth century, both modest log structures. The first part of this house was a three bay, two story stone structure built by John Welsh's son William about 1815. William Welsh was one of seven justices in the county then, and had his office in the house. This structure appears to have been similar to other late eighteenth and early nineteenth century stone structures in southeastern Washington County: large rectangular stones serving as quoins at the corners, some facade stone more carefully cut than that of the other elevations, but otherwise a simple, undistinguished fieldstone structure.

In 1878, the house was considerably expanded and remodeled by Joseph Bud Welsh, a son of William Welsh and a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly. Expansion to the house at this time reflects the change from traditional farming to gentleman farming. While the family had farming origins they began to make money by selling coal rights to this and other lands. Although the house is believed to have assumed its five bay, two pile, overall size and form at that time, little else remains of details added in 1878, except the back porch and some Italianate style doors reused in the cellar.

In 1909, the house was remodelled again by Geraldine and Helen Emery, descendants of Joseph B. Welsh who were gentleman farmers as well. It was at this time that the exterior of the house assumed its present style and form. The two-story-tall portico is large and grand. In Washington County no other example exists of a large farmhouse to which this kind of detailing was added on this scale. A similar house in the Ginger Hill area, the McFarland-George Mansion burned to the ground in 1974. It was a brick house built ca.1794 and expanded to include a similar portico and details.

Although some two story porches were added at central front doors on Greek Revival houses in the county, such as the Quail Homestead, built in 1837 (North Strabane Township), and the George Crumrine House, built in 1861 (North Bethlehem Township), the Welsh/Emery House may be the only pre-1920 house in Washington County with a portico on two-story-tall classical columns. Both the Quail Homestead portico and the Crumrine House portico differ from the Welsh/Emery House portico in that they have two levels of one-story-tall columns. However, the Crumrine portico is similar in scale and level of detail to the Welsh/Emery House. Addition of the portico was an indication of the development of coal mines on adjoining farms in the nearby town of Richeyville.

The interior details of the Welsh/Emery House are mostly from the 1909 remodelling, including the trim, windows, and doors in all the rooms, and the three-story staircase. Only the first story fireplaces (ca.1940) and the kitchen cabinetry (ca.1960 and ca.1970), are newer. The staircase is unusual, as Colonial Revival details were not very common in Washington County, particularly in rural areas, such as along the National Pike.

Sources

Crumrine, Boyd. History of Washington County, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia, 1882.

Herron, Mary. "Emery House, in southeastern section of county, was built in Pioneer Era." The Washington Observer. Washington, PA: Observer Publishing Company, 1937.

Mackey, David, Chairman. Preserving Our Past. Washington, PA: Washington County History and Landmarks Foundation, 1975, p. 135.

Swetnam, George and Helene Smith. A Guidebook to Historic Western Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1991, p. 310.

  1. Necciai, Terry A., Welsh/Emery House, nomination document, 1994, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Welsh-Emery House Map

**Information is curated from a variety of sources and, while deemed reliable, is not guaranteed.
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