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Salem Crossroads Historic District


Salem Crossroads (Delmont) Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Portions of the text below were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1] Adaptation copyright © 2008; The Gombach Group.

Description

Salem Crossroads, now called Delmont, Pennsylvania, is located just east of Route 66 on Route 22, the Old Norther Pike, about 23 miles east of Pittsburgh. The Salem Crossroads Historical Restoration Society has selected various portions of the town to be restored as a working, open-air museum depicting the commercial and cultural aspects of the community during the period of its former prosperity, 1830-1870. When completed, this will be the only museum in the country exclusively dedicated to this era of our nation's history.

The restored sections will represent the domestic, commercial, industrial, agricultural, and community activities of the town during that period (its historic period). The remaining buildings will house artists, craftsmen and businesses such as restaurants and gift shops, or any other activity related to the themes of the restored community.

Within the present town are four two story log houses. Two of the houses have three bays, one with a porch and the other with a two story ell. The third log house is five bays, with an open roofless porch. All four of these houses have been covered with siding but it can be removed and the houses could be easily restored at a nominal cost. The fourth house was at one time used as a tannery.

The Greek Revival style flourished in Western Pennsylvania from 1830 to 1850, and it is therefore the predominant building form in the town. Whether free standing or attached in row houses, the majority of the buildings are brick, laid in common bond; the roofs are moderately pitched with gable chimneys. They project slightly over the fascia and terminate in the box cornices. Ornate brick work patterns adorn several buildings, suggesting Classical cornices with triglyphs, metopes, mutules, and modillions. The windows are rectangular with simple molded or flat lintels and sills. Porches consist of Doric columns, supporting hipped or pedimented roofs and entrances have pilasters with transoms and sidelights. Several buildings have coupled brackets, added during the Italianate period. Interspersed among the Greek Revival buildings are a brick Gothic Revival church and a simplified Queen Anne style house that now serves as the headquarters for the Salem Crossroads Historical Restoration Society.

The Central Hotel is a five-bay two-story building with a low pitched roof. It has two front entrances; the center bay contains the main entrance which is Georgian with sidelights and a fanlight; the end bay entrance is much simpler with only a transom. The Hotel has a four-bay two-story ell that has its own entrance. Both sections have coupled brackets. The minor alterations necessary to restore this building include replacement of the front entrance way and second story porch; refurbishing the faded hotel sign, removing the awning over the ell entrance, and rebuilding the gable chimneys, two at each gable. The restaurant in the hotel will also be restored to the 1830 period and feature an 1830 cuisine.

One-half block from the hotel is the "Big Spring" which still runs today and originally determined the location of the community. The old watering trough once again could provide water for horses because it was recently restored.

The basilica plan Gothic Revival church, nearest the crossroads at the center of town, has a dressed stone block foundation, brick walls with pilasters between each bay and a pitched roof with a frame bell tower above the gable end entrance. The windows are tall lancet arches with simple slate tracery. Blind arcading runs along the rake of the gable and along the fascia in the Lombard Romanesque manner. Each elevation of the bell tower has two lancet arches with louvers, a pitched roof section and brackets. A simple square plan steeple would be added during the restoration of the church. It will become the first Christian Church Museum in the United States and will have an electronic program recreating the church services of the period. Plans call for a second museum: the Utility Company Museum would display the history and operations of the local telephone, gas companies and the water authority.

The important mills of Salem Crossroads will be restored and reactivated. The old steam-powered feed mill is structurally sound but in need of repair and restoration. It is a four-bay two-and-a-half story structure, with a moderately pitched roof and a single dormer in the middle of the front elevation. Part of the structure is covered with shingles, the rest retains the original wood weatherboards. After restoration, the mill will be reactivated. Salem Crossroads had a thriving woolen mill which would also be restored. This five-bay frame structure had a rear addition creating a saltbox form.

The wagon shop, the third oldest building in the town would be restored. It retains its original appearance except that the double wagon garage has been converted into a five bay, one story wing. The house is two stories with four bays, irregularly spaced, possibly denoting the addition of the end bay. The gable chimney is at the elevation that joins the wing. The house has been covered with siding which is easily removable for restoration purposes.

The brick yard, livery stable, and blacksmith shop would also be reactivated. The community's distillery only operated a short time before it was destroyed by fire; it would be reconstructed to its original appearance: a two story, three bay, frame building with a pitched roof and porch with a shed roof across one side elevation. At the rear corner, toward the porch, is a tall circular chimney, about twice the height of the front wall elevation.

An area near the watering trough would be used for craft and household demonstrations common in 1830-70: leather craftsmen, silversmith, cabinet maker, metal worker, pewter craftsmen, churning butter, grinding coffee, preparing apple butter, cheese and quilting processes. The proposed revival of the winter ice harvests would provide a most unusual attraction. Already acquired is a frame building of c.1920, an old Ford Garage, with a stepped gable (a building type once found in hundreds of U.S. towns); it will be restored as a museum of early transportation history, once the main industry of the community. Salem Crossroads would include a four hundred acre demonstration farm and natural area. The farm will display early farm equipment and farming methods: a man plowing with a two horse team and hand plow, cradling grain, stalking sheaths, and threshing grain. Within the natural area the indigenous plants, trees and animals will remain and trails will be developed.

In addition to all of these activities, Sales Crossroads would have a horse drawn stage line to carry tourists from the parking area to the various restored sites.

After restoration Salem Crossroads will accurately portray the life-sustaining and cultural activities of an early mill town settlement.

Significance

Delmont, Pennsylvania, formerly known as Salem Crossroads, was located on the Northern Pike stage route between Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. The town developed around a large spring, (that still runs today) which provided water for the travelers' horses. Passengers spent the night at the Central Hotel, which is still standing, before traveling on to Pittsburgh the following day. The community thrived from 1830 until 1870 when its importance and prosperity were diminished by the railroad.

The Salem Crossroads Historical Restoration Society has realized the potential and uniqueness of its community's history and has developed a comprehensive restoration plan that has received considerable community support. However, the town planning commission in association with a private developer has adopted plans for the future redevelopment of the area. This plan does not include the historical restoration project. It is therefore of utmost importance to secure the preservation of the community so that the historic properties may be incorporated in the final redevelopment plans. In addition, the present town is currently planning to start on a complete sewage program which will provide the necessary facilities in the restored community.

Salem Crossroads is unique in that no other community in the United States in the time period of 1830 to 1870 has been restored. It will therefore present the visitor with infrequently viewed scenes of nineteenth century Americana.

The restoration society has well-developed, historically accurate plans to present the complete industrial, agricultural, and community life as it once existed in this small town.

Because of its proximity to the entrance, the feed mill will be one of the first buildings visible to approaching visitors. The steam powered feed mill was powered with coal from a mine situated a short distance from the mill. Plans include the activation of the feed mill to give today's generation a first hand view of the tremendous efforts required for its operation. In 1836 a group of men associated with the feed mill embarked on a new related business venture — a distillery. This was probably at that time the biggest business investment the community had ever experienced as it required a sum of $23,000, a tremendous amount in that day. The distillery was destroyed by fire and the historical restoration society plans to reconstruct.

Ice harvests, the early means of refrigeration, on the large pond would also be reinstated during the winter months.

The wagon shop, always one of the first businesses established in a community would also be reactivated. It is the third oldest building in Salem Crossroads and it served as a house as well.

In addition to these industries, the town also had at least one brick yard which supplied bricks for many of the buildings still extant, a livery stable and a blacksmith. All of these would be restored and reactivated.

Another unique concept in the restoration plan proposes a Utility Company Museum, which would include exhibits and artifacts showing the early activities of the local water, telephone, electric and gas companies. The Municipal Water Authority, which presently controls the huge reservoir that stores the water supply for Westmoreland County is located near Salem Crossroads. The local telephone company originated in this community when the first phone was extended from one farm to a second farm and then to a home within the present community. One of the first pumping stations for natural gas was established in this community, and many artifacts have been found by the gas company in the course of their digging.

Water from the "Big Spring" that originally determined the location of the community still exists and runs today. The water from the spring still flows into the old watering trough.

Near the watering trough is a church that will become the first Christian Church Museum in the United States. The church was a vital part of the community life and future visitors will be able to view exhibits depicting the influence and history of the church in rural America.

The original Central Hotel, which is now used as apartments would be restored to the form it was when it served as the last stage stop for people traveling from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh on the Northern Pike. At that time it included a restaurant which would also be restored.

Within the confines of the present town are four log houses. They have been covered with siding which could be removed, and the houses could then be restored, for a nominal cost.

An activities area has been incorporated in the restoration plan where arts and crafts, common to an 1830 community would be demonstrated. These would include such skills as a blacksmith, coppersmith, leather craft worker, pewter worker, and others.

Surrounding the community is a beautiful area of rolling hills, of which 400 acres are available to provide a magnificent setting for early farming method demonstrations. A group of men in Westmoreland County are already restoring and reconstructing early farming equipment. Farming demonstrations would include a man plowing with a two horse team and a hand plow, the cradling of grain, the stalking of the sheaths, and the threshing of grain. Other farm displays would involve visitor participation giving visitors the opportunity to feed chickens, gather eggs, pet a calf, ride a hay wagon, pump water by hand, and assist in hand-milking of cows. Part of the area would remain in a natural state abundant with a wide variety of wild flowers, plants, and trees, as well as deer, grouse, squirrel, rabbits and birds.

On another portion of this same farm land, there once existed a cave known as Anderson's Cave. Anderson, for whom it was named was a school master in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. He found delight in robbing the stage coaches as they approached Salem Crossroads. When robbing the passengers he would take insignificant trinkets and then, by horseback, he would return to the cave to store the items. The horse-drawn stage line would carry visitors from the auto parking area, past the cave, through the farming methods demonstrations and into the community.

In order to organize such a vast restoration the Historical Society has adopted a six level work program that would enable Salem Crossroads to open in 1976 — the bicentennial of Pennsylvania as well as the United States.

The Central Hotel Restaurant featuring an 1830 cuisine, the Christian Church Museum, the steam powered feed mill, and the coal mine will be the first properties to be restored. Subsequently, historical zoning would be adopted and a revolving fund would be established to purchase and restore additional properties, acquire facade easements, and fund land use programs. These programs would include an area for housing for the elderly and retention of natural areas for historical and educational purposes.

Other future exhibits are already being planned. A large drug company has agreed to make available for exhibition its unique collection of artifacts used in the early days of medicine. One of the earliest brick making companies in the state has already been contacted and has tentatively agreed to work with the project in establishing a brick refractory. Existing stores and shops would be available for leather, craftsmen, cabinet makers, silversmiths, metal workers and pewter craftsmen. In addition, various art and gift shops would naturally find their way into the community.

The location of Salem Crossroads is a great asset to its proposed use as a living outdoor museum village. Located alongside Route 22, east of Pittsburgh, it is the last point east on the Pittsburgh Transit Authority bus line, a forty-five minute ride from Pittsburgh. It would therefore be accessible to school groups from Allegheny, Butler, Beaver, and Lawrence Counties.

Salem Crossroads has a thoroughly planned restoration program which aims at historical accuracy. As a working, open-air village it would provide a valuable educational experience for all who attended. It is ideally located among numerous surrounding towns which assures a large attendance during the school year, holidays, and summer vacations.

Salem Crossroads presents an era long-neglected among the open-air village in this country. The town had national importance: it was an important stop on the Northern Pike; and it represented our nation's growth, westward expansion, and stabilization of the frontier.

  1. Hoff, Barbara A., Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, Salem Crossroads Historic District (Delmont), nomination document, 1974, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

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Street Names: Greesburg Street, West Pittsburgh Street

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