Scenery Hill Historic District
The Scenery Hill 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 Scenery Hill Historic District sits on a ridge that commands scenic views of the surrounding countryside in all directions. Located approximately nine miles east of the city of Washington in Washington County, the linear district follows the course of the National Road (now U. S. Route 40 or, locally, National Pike East) for approximately 3300 feet through the heart of the village of Scenery Hill. In addition to the major cross streets, Fava Farm, Spring Valley, and Kinder Roads, several narrow alleys parallel and cross the National Road. The majority of the 107 resources which comprise the Scenery Hill Historic District reflect the various stages of development of the Pennsylvania portions of the National Road and were constructed during the boom periods (1818-1853 and ca.1910-1930) associated with the road. Other resources reflect the role of the community as the commercial center for a rural area during the era of the National Road's decline (1853-ca.1900). The Scenery Hill Historic District represents a typical Pike Town as defined in the Multiple Property Documentation Form entitled, "Historic Resources of the National Road in Pennsylvania." The Scenery Hill Historic District contains 93 contributing buildings, consisting of taverns, residences, shops, service facilities, and outbuildings which reflect the activity of the community during all three periods as well as two individually listed resources. Of these resources, thirty-one (31) were constructed prior to 1853, eighteen (18) were built between 1853 and 1900, and forty-four (44) date from 1900-1946. In addition to the buildings, one site, a cemetery, and one object, a National Road mile marker, also contribute to the district. Although commercial buildings are scattered throughout the Scenery Hill Historic District, the vast majority of these resources are clustered in the center of Scenery Hill, east of the intersection with Spring Valley and Fava Farm Roads.
Most of the buildings in Scenery Hill reflect an unadorned, vernacular form of the Federal and Greek Revival styles common in Pennsylvania's Pike Towns. Like most resources in the Scenery Hill Historic District, 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 (1818-1853), they are side gabled with rectangular massing, two or two-and-one-half stories in height, three to five bays wide and one to two rooms deep. Wood is predominant, but brick, and some stone are also used in construction of these resources. A typical residential example of this form is 2159 National Pike East, a ca.1830 vernacular Federal-style, two-story, five-bay frame home with a side-gabled roof and a shed addition at the rear forming a "saltbox" home. Other notable vernacular dwellings from this era include the frame house at 2217 National Pike East, the small log house located at 2212 National Pike East, and the frame semi-detached residence at 2220 National Pike East.
Another early-nineteenth century property type found in Scenery Hill is the brick or stone 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, three notable examples remain in the village, the ca.1794 Hill Tavern (National Register individually listed 1974) at the corner of Fava Farm Road and National Pike East, the ca.1820 Zephania Riggle Tavern at 2190 National Pike East, and the 1827 Ringland Tavern (National Register listed February 1996) at 2208 National Pike East. Each is a side-gabled masonry building.
The Hill Tavern, still fills its traditional role as the central landmark of the Scenery Hill Historic District. Now known as the Century Inn, it continues to operate as a hotel and restaurant, as well. This two-and-one-half-story, five-bay, side-gabled, stone building is one of the oldest taverns on the National Road. Most interior spaces accessible to the public retain their original surface and ornamental materials. Despite some twentieth-century alterations to the building and site, the post-colonial tavern retains extremely good integrity.
Unlike the Hill Tavern, the other taverns were constructed after the National Road was opened in 1818. The later buildings were built primarily with brick, not stone, but retain the box-like, side-gabled massing of their predecessor. An excellent example is the Ringland Tavern, a two-story building with a one-story full-width front porch and wood lintels and sills on the window and door openings. The other outstanding tavern building in the Scenery Hill Historic District is the ca.1820 Riggle Tavern. Originally constructed as a two-story, four-bay, L-shaped brick tavern, the building was purchased by Dr. Byron Clark in ca.1865 and converted into one of the village's most elegant private homes. Renovated in the fashionable Gothic Revival style, the Clark House has a nearly symmetrical three-part plan with a cross-gable and bracketed porch added to the original tavern section, which is flanked by two one-and-one-half story two-bay wings, each with a steeply-pitched cross-gable. All of the gable ends are now adorned with bargeboard under their eave lines. The exterior brick on the front and side facades has been parsed with a smooth untooled layer of stucco. Both of these former taverns house specialty stores today.
Thomas Searight's 1894 volume on the National Road does not identify any other taverns in Scenery Hill. However, two additional notable properties may have once served as taverns. The large scale and multiple entrances of the ca.1812 two-story, five-bay brick building at 2189 National Pike East suggest early use as an inn. Stone lintels and a late-nineteenth-century full-width front porch are the primary ornamental features of this vernacular building, which retains excellent integrity as a pre-National Road-era resource. In addition to what would become the Clark House, Zephania Riggle owned a second commercial establishment in Scenery Hill. The ca.1820 Zephania Riggle's House of Entertainment, a two-and-one-half-story building characterized by bargeboard under the eave lines, projecting bay windows on the east facade and a second-story porch which overhangs the central front entrance, all of which are mid-nineteenth-century alterations to a vernacular double-pile building. This frame building is located at the intersection of Spring Valley Road and National Pike East and, according to local folklore, served as a bordello during the 1860s. Today it is used by a specialty store.
In addition to the early-nineteenth century taverns and residences, the Scenery Hill Historic District includes a small landmark which is an enduring symbol of the National Road. A cast-iron milepost stands in front of 2199 National Pike East. One of the three-sided obelisks erected by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1835 to help travelers mark their progress through the state, this milepost indicates that Scenery Hill lies forty-four miles east of Wheeling, Virginia (now West Virginia) and eighty-seven miles west of Cumberland, Maryland. The distances to Beallsville and Washington are also clearly shown. It is included as a contributing object in the district.
While pre-1850s road-related buildings dominate the Scenery Hill Historic District, several resources survive from Scenery Hill's late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century role as a commercial center for a rural hinterland. Illustrative examples include several Queen Anne and Colonial Revival dwellings, a number of commercial buildings in the center of the district, two churches located at the ends of the village, and the 1911 Scenery Hill Public School.
Contributing residential examples of the Queen Anne style include the dwellings at 2167, 2169 (western portion) and 2196 National Pike East. Typically, these houses have two stories and asymmetrical massing with some decorative ornament and wrap-around porches. Contributing Foursquare Colonial Revival houses from ca.1910 include those at 2132, 2238 and 2242 National Pike East. All are two-and-one-half story, hipped-roof residences.
The Scenery Hill Historic District includes several surviving examples of a late-nineteenth-century wood-frame commercial buildings. Hedge's Hardware Store, located at 2188 National Pike East, is a front-gabled, rectangular, two-story building with a full-width front porch and large display windows flanking a central entrance. A former confectionery store which stands opposite Hedge's Hardware Store, is characterized by similar massing and detailing. These buildings still serve commercial purposes today.
The two religious buildings included in the Scenery Hill Historic District also date from this era. The 1878 Romanesque Revival Methodist-Episcopal Church (2230 National Pike East) is a brick building characterized by several art-glass windows and towers at each of the front corners. The taller of these towers, located at the northwestern corner of the building is finished with a crenellated parapet wall. The smaller tower has a steeply-pitched pyramidal roof. The asymmetrically-arranged front gable-end displays a large stained-glass window above the front entrance. The 1893 Lutheran Church is located at 2120 National Pike East, near the western end of the Scenery Hill Historic District. This is a wood-frame front-gabled building with a tower in the northwest corner and several art-glass lancet windows. The tower once housed a belfry and steeple which were destroyed by fire in 1922 and have not been replaced. The addition of aluminum siding and storm windows, as well as the unrepaired tower compromise the integrity of this resource to some degree. However, the massing, location, and art-glass detailing remain essentially unaltered and this building is being considered a contributing resource.
The Scenery Hill Cemetery is located behind the Lutheran Church at the end of the old South Street. This five acre site contains headstones from all eras of the community's development dating from the 1820s to the present. A few small obelisks mark the resting places of some of the village's more prominent citizens but no tombs or mausoleums are found in this cemetery. It is included as a single contributing site in the resource count.
Two resources are particularly representative of the villages early-twentieth century prosperity as a commercial and social center for its mining and agricultural surroundings, the 1904 First National Bank of Scenery Hill and the 1911 public school building. Located at 2184 National Pike East, the First National Bank is a two-and-one-half story brick Colonial Revival style building with rectangular massing. Unique detailing includes sandstone lintels and sills as well as two heavily elaborated front entrances. The eastern doorway is ornamented by a pedimented cornice while the western entry has a broad bracketed cornice. Both cornices are constructed of painted wood and supported by brick pilasters with stone capitals. Interior woodwork, floor plan, and the bank vault remain unaltered despite the buildings current use as a specialty store.
The public school stands at the top of an alley on the old North Street near the west end of the district. This large, rectangular, two-story, nine-bay, Romanesque Revival building is of brick construction. A crenellated parapet wall and the projection of the three central bays, including the arched entrance, are the primary ornamental features of the otherwise simply adorned building. The current use of the school as a community center and local government building has resulted in minor alterations including the replacement of the front doors and filling of foundation-level windows with concrete block. Good integrity is otherwise reflected by this contributing resource.
Several buildings in the community also reflect the twentieth-century revival of the road. These include an automobile dealership, garages, and several dwellings from the first half of the twentieth century. The 1929 Frank Huffman automobile dealership and garage are the most significant resources associated with the automobile touring era in the Scenery Hill Historic District. These buildings are typical of automobile sales and service buildings along the National Road in their rectangular concrete block construction and proximity to the road. The garage, located adjacent to the Hill Tavern, is a one-story vernacular commercial building with a brick front facade and canopy overhanging the area where gas pumps once stood. Although partially obscured by the slightly newer canopy, decorative brick detailing adorns the front of the building's parapet. A large central side-hinged garage door is flanked by two display widows with porcelain-enamel tiles beneath. The automobile showroom neighbors the garage to the east. This two-story building is characterized by a central garage door, which is flanked by an entry door and a plate-glass window. The upper portion of the front facade has been clad with structural glass tiles. The entire front facade has been braced from behind with an exposed framework of steel tubing (visible on the interior). Both the garage and the showroom today house specialty stores.
The housing stock from the early twentieth century in Scenery Hill includes several Colonial Revival style homes, and two Craftsman style Bungalows. Most of these homes are located at the ends of the Scenery Hill Historic District due to the existing density in the center of the village by the 1900s. One of the ca.1920 Bungalows is located on the corner of Spring Valley Road and old South Street, the other is a wood shingle home at 2116 National Pike East. Both are one-and-one-half story buildings with broad full-width front porches supported by piers.
The Scenery Hill Historic District also contains 14 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, five contemporary garages and outbuildings, and three additional buildings which have lost their integrity as a result of alterations. The outbuildings are generally located behind contributing resources and do not affect the rhythm of the Old National Pike streetscape. The non-contributing houses and altered buildings 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 Scenery Hill 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 Scenery Hill Historic District is significant under Criteria A in the areas of transportation and commerce, and C 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 1818 through 1946, as well as the village's service as a stopping point on the Nemacolin Path from 1794 to 1818. Although first settled in the late eighteenth century, this district grew primarily as a direct result of the completion of the National Road in Washington County, Pennsylvania in 1818. The community, centrally located between Brownsville and Washington, PA on the National Road, developed to serve the needs of travelers on the road. As the location of several taverns, tradesmen's shops, and other facilities, Scenery Hill played a significant role in supporting the first major route to the Old Northwest. Although the use of the National Road declined after the completion of the B & O Railroad in 1853, Scenery Hill 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 similar rebirth for the community, which lasted through the Second World War. Additionally, with its linear plan and predominance of early-nineteenth century buildings, Scenery Hill 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"). Architecturally, the Scenery Hill Historic District is comprised of vernacular examples of architectural styles and forms reflective of the early-nineteenth through the early-twentieth centuries.
The earliest permanent settlement in the vicinity of today's Scenery Hill began in 1785 with Isaac Bush's survey of 393 7/8 acres he named "Springtown." As early as 1794 George Hill kept the Hill Tavern (National Register listed 1974) at its present site in the center of the district. The tavern was a popular stop on Nemacolin's Path, an old Indian trail which preceded the National Road through Scenery Hill. In 1796 Hill purchased Bush's entire tract, conveying the lands to his son Stephen in 1800. (McFarland, p.366, Forrest, 1955, p.91)
The construction and opening of the National Road between Cumberland, Maryland and Wheeling, Virginia (now West Virginia) in 1818 changed the relative fortunes of communities in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Those located along its path flourished as a result of the new westbound traffic and access to eastern markets. The existence of the Hill Tavern made Hillsborough (as Scenery Hill was then known) a prime location to develop a town to service travelers' needs. Realizing the site's potential, Thomas McGiffin, a construction contractor for the National Road, purchased a one-half interest in Hill's holdings in 1819. The two men hired the famed surveyor and National Road engineer, Jonathan Knight, to divide the property into 106 building lots along the National Road, Hillsborough's main street. North (no longer extant) and South Streets paralleled to the National Road behind the building lots, and several streets and alleys crossed the National Road. (Crumrine, p.976, Forrest, 1955, p.91)
In the July 19, 1819 issue of the Washington Reporter, Hill and McGiffin advertised the sale of land in the village of Hillsborough, "with strong encouragement to the enterprise of the Merchant, the Mechanic, and Innkeeper." They touted the location "on the National Road adjoining Hill's Stone Tavern," as having no rivals within ten or twelve miles. Its position halfway from Brownsville to Washington enhanced the attraction of the townsite. (Crumrine, p. 976)
Despite later competition from nearby Beallsville, Hillsborough thrived as a stop for travelers along the National Road. Taverns served as the primary commercial and social centers along the National Road, providing not only food, drink, and shelter for travelers, but a convenient gathering place for local residents to obtain news from the East and West. As the Hill Tavern gained in popularity, several additional taverns opened in the community. These included the contributing ca.1820 Riggle Tavern and the 1827 Ringland Tavern (individually listed on the National Register). Both are two-story vernacular buildings of brick construction. The Riggle Tavern, located at 2192 National Pike East, was first built by Nathan Pusey but was kept by Zephania Riggle from the 1840s until it ceased operation 1862. Riggle was a prominent tavern keeper on the National Pike with another inn in Centerville and a less reputable House of Entertainment in Scenery Hill. The Ringland Tavern, at 2208 National Pike East was originally built as a residence by James Beck, a partner in the road and bridge contracting firm, Kinkead, Beck, and Evans. After one year, Beck sold his home to George Ringland who kept it as a tavern until 1840. (Searight p.266-267) While all three buildings survive and continue to serve commercial purposes, only the Hill Tavern remains in operation as a restaurant and inn.
Several other businesses on the National Road in Hillsborough served both travelers and locals. Shoemakers, blacksmiths, groceries, hardware stores, wagon makers, and druggists all thrived in Hillsborough. A post office was established across from the Hill Tavern in 1819 immediately following the subdivision of the community. The village's commercial operations served thousands of National Road travelers and many continue in this role today as antique stores and specialty shops.
In addition to the businesses, Hillsborough contained a number of residences. Some of these buildings remain today, examples include the frame houses at 2217 and 2220 National Pike East.
The peak years of the National Road ended with the completion of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad between Baltimore and Wheeling in 1853 and the Pennsylvania Railroad between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in 1855. The majority of westbound traffic preferred the faster, more comfortable, and less expensive new mode of transport. The National Road fell into disrepair and, for the second half of the nineteenth century, became primarily a local access road for the farming communities in rural portions of Fayette and Washington Counties. Most taverns and many other businesses which had relied on National Road traffic closed by the Civil War. Communities along the road either declined or discovered new identities. This was the case for Hillsborough, which under the new name Scenery Hill (ca.1870) became a small commercial and social center for its primarily agricultural hinterland and the mining communities which developed by the turn of the century. The name may have been changed to alleviate confusion with nearby Millsborough.
Several of the taverns were converted into private residences. The most famous of these adaptive reuses was of the Riggle Tavern. Purchased in 1862 by Dr. Byron Clark, the town's physician, the tavern was remodeled in the fashionable Gothic Revival style. Now a specialty store, the high-style residence is one of the best extant indicators of the mid-nineteenth century prosperity of Scenery Hill. Several Queen Anne and Colonial Revival style residences in the Scenery Hill Historic District reflect the growth of the village in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as well.
The development of coal mining and the coke industry boosted the economy of the area in the 1880s and 1890s. The nearby mining operations in Cokeburg and Marianna helped Scenery Hill prosper as a commercial district for mine managers who preferred to shop outside the company stores. The growth of the area as a result of the mines allowed the village to expand from 38 dwellings in 1870 to 47 in 1910. During this time the community was home to as many as five physicians, five stores, blacksmiths, carpenters, wagon-makers, a hotel, and two livery stables. Two churches (the 1878 Methodist-Episcopal Church at 2232 National Pike East and the 1893 Lutheran Church at 2120 National Pike East), the 1904 First National Bank of Scenery Hill (2184 National Pike East), and the 1911 brick Romanesque style Scenery Hill Public School (all extant contributing resources) were also erected during this era to accommodate an expanding regional population. (McFarland, p.366)
The coal and coke industries began a steady decline in the early twentieth century, but the growing popularity of automobile touring beginning in the 1910s brought a resurgence of travel to the National Road. An expanding middle class with more leisure time combined with the affordability of mass-produced assembly-line automobiles in the 1910s and 1920s to create a boom in tourism along historic roads and trails. By 1910, portions of the National Road had already been improved for rubber-tired vehicles and in 1926 the National Road was designated a part of U. S. Route 40, a primary transcontinental highway. Scenery Hill's surviving food and lodging facilities experienced a rebirth during this era. New businesses also developed to serve a new generation of travelers, these included the 1929 Frank Huffman garage and auto dealership.
The depression of the 1930s and World War II gas rationing precipitated a temporary decline in automobile touring. Following the war, the newly-constructed Pennsylvania Turnpike drew most of the east-west traffic from the U. S. 40 in Pennsylvania. Scenery Hill continued to serve as a mercantile center, catering to a growing market for heritage tourism in the area. Today, the historic homes, taverns, and stores house antique stores, restaurants, and specialty stores with the Hill Tavern continuing to anchor the community.
Due in part to a community interest in restoration and preservation which promote a local tourist trade, the Scenery Hill Historic District retains a great deal of integrity as an example of a Pike Town. The National Road, renamed National Pike East in Scenery Hill, continues to form the main street through this linear district. 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 Gothic Revival, Italianate and Queen Anne style homes provide architectural context for the village's late-nineteenth century identity as a prosperous commercial and social center for surrounding mining and agricultural communities. Early twentieth-century utilitarian commercial and auto service buildings reflect the early automobile-touring era of the National Road. Despite some minor alterations including the application of artificial siding to some buildings, the Scenery Hill Historic 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;" Scenery Hill 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 Scenery Hill'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, building styles and location of a Pike Town, Scenery Hill compares favorably with several other potential districts along the road. Neighboring Beallsville contains more late-nineteenth and twentieth century development while Scenery Hill 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 Scenery Hill has retained a more individual identity in a rural setting and has not developed much beyond the axis of the National Road as a Main Street. Scenery Hill also continues to harbor commercial activity, while Centerville has become almost exclusively residential.
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