Tunkhannock Historic District
The Tunkhannock Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2007, The Gombach Group.
The Tunkhannock Historic District embraces the most intensively developed portions of Tunkhannock Borough, the county seat of Wyoming County, Pennsylvania. The Tunkhannock Historic District inhabits the valley of the North Branch Susquehanna River, and is located on the river's north (east) bank amidst a setting of rolling hills. The historic district is residential and commercial in character. It extends from Tioga and Susquehanna streets on the south to Harrison Street and Putnam Avenue on the north, and from Wyoming Avenue on the west to Pine Street on the east. The district contains 248 resources, of which 225 are contributing and 23 (9.3%) are noncontributing. All are buildings. Most date from the mid- and late-nineteenth century, the period of greatest development in Tunkhannock, although early and mid-twentieth century architecture is scattered throughout the district. The majority of the buildings are frame and two to two-and-one-half stories in height; however, brick buildings are also numerous, particularly in the commercial area. The town is densely built, with buildings generally constructed close to the street and filling the entire width of the lot. Notably "high-style" architecture may be found in town, but the bulk of the buildings are vernacular in character, with elements of the Victorian architectural styles current when Tunkhannock saw its greatest period of growth. Many, if not most, buildings sport modern exterior finishes, and there are scattered vacant lots and infill buildings. Overall, these detract little from the character of the historic district. The Tunkhannock Historic District has integrity of location, design, setting, workmanship, feeling, and association.
Historically, Tunkhannock had three distinct sections — industrial, commercial, and residential — each on its own axis. The industrial portion of Tunkhannock was situated along the north bank of the Susquehanna River. The industrial area originally developed along the North Branch Canal and the Lehigh Valley Railroad line that succeeded it. Setting in this part of Tunkhannock has been heavily compromised, and it is not included in the historic district nomination. Most of the rail lines have been taken up or paved over, and the majority of the industrial buildings that formerly occupied the area were razed in the late 1990s as part of the Tunkhannock Bypass project, which shifted U.S. Route 6 to the south of town.
Tunkhannock's commercial area was located along both sides of Tioga Street from Warren Street east to about Pine Street, with short extensions to the north and south along Bridge Street. With the exception of the east end of Tioga and losses along a portion of Bridge Street, the commercial section remains quite intact. The remainder of Tunkhannock was predominantly residential in character and oriented around the Wyoming County Courthouse (1 Courthouse Square), located on a small knoll one block north of Tioga Street.
Tunkhannock's densely built commercial area forms a pivotal part of the Tunkhannock Historic District. Most businesses are concentrated in a two-block area of Tioga Street between Warren Street on the west and Pine Street on the east. The buildings in the commercial area are the products of a number of building campaigns. The earliest dates to the 1840s, an era when the thriving village of Tunkhannock was incorporated into a borough. One of the oldest extant buildings in the commercial area is the Bolles-Bardwell-Tewksbury Building at 3 West Tioga and 85 Warren streets. Built prior to 1842, the three-story frame building has Adamesque elements, most notably its massing, center hall plan, pediment roof, and clapboard siding. The front porch is Queen Anne in style and illustrates the building's adaptation over time. Originally built as a general store selling "drugs, medicines, and Yankee notions," the building also served at various times as an office for a dentist and lawyer. Today it again functions as a commercial establishment. Other notable buildings in the commercial area from the 1840s include the Prince Hotel, located at 45 East Tioga Street, Tunkhannock's major intersection, and the Phelps Building at 1 East Tioga Street. The large three-story edifice of the Prince Hotel, erected in 1844, displays a simplified Greek Revival theme accented by a centrally placed, four bay, two-level loggia. The building has been used continuously as a hotel since its construction. An inn or hotel has occupied the location since 1814. The Phelps Building, erected 1844-1845, is brick and three stories high, with a corbelled peaked cornice, narrow four-over-four windows, and decorative brick detailing.
A significant number of buildings in Tunkhannock's commercial area date to the mid- and late nineteenth century. The elegant and substantial brick buildings were erected following fires that destroyed the south side of Tioga Street between Warren and Bridge streets, and also the east side of Warren Street. The two- and three-story Victorian commercial buildings on Tioga Street feature street-level retail spaces below offices and/or apartments. Brick facades display variations on the Italianate and Victorian Romanesque Revival styles, with a larger number of upper stories featuring tall, round-arched windows and attractively corbelled cornices. The properties from 14 through 28 West Tioga Street, in particular, feature fine examples of Italianate style architecture.
The architecture of the commercial district on East Tioga Street between Bridge and Pine streets is not as noteworthy as the block between Bridge and Warren streets. There have been losses, particularly on the south side of Tioga Street. However, near the intersection of Bridge and Tioga are two noteworthy buildings, the recently restored Dietrick Theater (60 East Tioga Street) (constructed 1925), and the Italianate style former Masonic Hall (68 East Tioga Street), constructed as a residence ca. 1876. The north side of the block is anchored by the Prince Hotel (45 East Tioga Street); to its east are more solid, two- and three-story brick commercial buildings known as the Stark Block, erected in the 1850s.
The organizational framework for the residential portions of the Tunkhannock Historic District, situated predominantly north of Tioga Street, is the street grid. Like the commercial area, Tunkhannock's residential district is densely-built. Tunkhannock is very much a walking community. The streets are lined with sidewalks (some are slate) and shade trees. House lots are narrow and fairly deep. The houses themselves are generally large and built close to the sidewalks and streets on shallow setbacks. Most houses front the streets running south to north; exceptions to this pattern include Harrison Street, Second Street, Washington and Marion streets by the courthouse, and portions of Tioga Street. Tunkhannock's residential areas present a series of notably unaltered domestic streetscapes.
Scattered throughout the residential neighborhoods are institutional landmarks, including the Wyoming County Courthouse (1 Courthouse Square), the former Harrison Street School at East Harrison and Bridge streets, a grange building (32 Wyoming Avenue), and numerous churches. The fulcrum of Tunkhannock's residential area is the Wyoming County Courthouse, which occupies a landscaped square between Warren Street and Putnam Avenue. Originally constructed in 1843 as a two story brick building, the courthouse was redesigned in 1870 by architect D. R. Nott as a three-story, Italian Villa style masterpiece with hood arched windows, heavy and decorative knee braces supporting the overhanging eaves of the roof, projecting entrance with quoins, ornate clock tower, and stucco finish. Stylistically similar additions were appended to the rear of the building in 1937 and 1972.
Residential lots radiate out from the courthouse square. With a few notable exceptions, the houses on the lots are of frame construction and two stories high. Most have gable-front orientations, and porches are ubiquitous. Architectural styles present within the historic district include those current when Tunkhannock went through its period of greatest development between the mid- and late nineteenth century, including Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, and Colonial Revival. Elm and Susquehanna streets, located to the south of Tioga Street, are exceptions. Houses along these streets developed predominantly in the early and mid-twentieth centuries. Other examples of twentieth century domestic architecture can also be found scattered throughout the district. Architectural styles represented include Bungalow, Craftsman, American Foursquare, and Dutch Colonial Revival style houses.
Many residences exhibit changes over time. Houses clearly shown as present at the time of the publication of the 1869 Beers Atlas of Wyoming County (Beers 1869) might today sport Queen Anne detailing or a Colonial Revival inspired porch. A dramatic example of this phenomenon is the Metcalf-Lewis House at 55 West Tioga Street. Originally constructed in 1845, owner Sarah Metcalf added the Second Empire mansard roof in 1870, making the house, according to the local newspaper, "one of the attractions of that part of town." In 1901, her son-in-law made extensive additions, adding the wraparound porch and turret.
The historic district boasts impressive examples of high-style architecture. Two of the most compelling houses are the Palen-Ervine House (8 Susquehanna Avenue) and the Piatt-Ogden House (24 West Tioga Street). The eclectic Palen-Ervine House, located at the corner of Elm and Susquehanna streets, is intimately tied to Tunkhannock's industrial past. The house was constructed in 1868 for Gilbert Palen, the owner and operator of the Tunkhannock Tannery, an important and long-running industry in town. Distinctive architectural features include the jerkinhead roof, wall dormers, contrasting surface textures of the first and second stories, and Stick style front porch. The 1896 Piatt-Ogden House at Tioga and Warren streets is a beautifully restored and maintained, high-style example of Queen Anne style architecture. Built by a prominent local attorney, the three story frame house features character-defining elements like an asymmetrical shape, irregular roof line, wraparound porch with both a turreted and cross-gable roof line, and cantilevered tower topped by a finial.
The Piatt-Ogden House was designed for a prominent local attorney by architect George Franklin Barber of Knoxville, Tennessee. In the late nineteenth century, Barber started the American Home Publishing Company to distribute inexpensive pattern books and mail-order catalogs for his distinctive house designs. The Piatt-Ogden House was Barber's design 56B. It was built by W. H. Shepard and Sons of Wilkes-Barre (Wheeler 2002; Arnoldini, personal communication 2004).
Other high-style buildings within the historic district include 81 Putnam Street, a 1900, two-story, brick Colonial Revival style house; the 1876, Italianate Bunnell-Fields House (64 West Tioga Street); the 1895, brick Queen Anne style Metcalf House (50 West Harrison Street); and the 1904 Hallock House (71 Elm Street).
The vast majority of the houses in the historic district, however, can be characterized as vernacular, although elements of the architectural styles current when the house was constructed often creep into the designs. For example, a common house type is a gable-and-wing design that borrows from the Greek Revival style. It is frame, two stories high, and generally five- or six-bays wide. Three of the bays have a side gable roof. The other two end bays project toward the street and are finished with a gable end roof. Often, the house also features a one-story gallery. An earlier gable-and-wing version, dating from the 1840s, features a one-story side gable main block and a two-story wing. Queen Anne style and inspired houses also abound, including cottages on Wyoming Avenue and Slocum Street at Stark Street. Built by the same developer, the houses lack the grandeur of the Piatt-Ogden or Metcalf houses, but retain characteristic details of the style, such as the wraparound porches, varied wall textures, and stick detailing in the gable ends.
As noted earlier, the majority of the houses are frame and detached. There are some notable exceptions. The Dana-Hobbs Block (106 to 118 Warren Street) consists of a row of brick rowhouses constructed between 1873 and the end of the nineteenth century. They are now used as both residential and commercial spaces. Working class brick rowhouses can be found at 20-24 Slocum Avenue, approximately midway between Tioga and Clay streets. Stylistically, they date to the 1880s.
The Tunkhannock Historic District also features institutional buildings. After the courthouse, the most physically and architecturally prominent buildings are the churches. Most are brick, including the 1891 Presbyterian Church of Tunkhannock at the corner of Tioga Street and Putnam Avenue, and the 1934, Jacobean Revival First United Methodist Church at the northeast corner of Church and Warren streets. There is also a fine Stick-style church on the north side of Second Street between Bridge and Pine streets.
The Tunkhannock Historic District is notable for its relatively few noncontributing resources and its lack of non-historic infill buildings. The historic district contains 248 resources; of that number, 225 contribute and 23 (9.3%) do not contribute. All houses, whether vernacular or high-style, retain most aspects of integrity. Most retain their historic location, form, and design; the street grid (setting) remains largely intact. Workmanship, feeling, and association are strong. Many, if not most, of the vernacular houses are now finished with vinyl or aluminum siding. Commercial buildings experienced inevitable alterations to their first stories, but the upper stories generally have not been altered.
Of the 23 noncontributing resources, nine were constructed after the period of significance (1841-1954). Of these nine buildings, four are single dwellings. Other structures that post-date 1954 include the 1985 Modern Style correctional facility at 10 Stark Street, a 1980s modern Colonial Revival personal care home at 50 West Tioga Street, and the multi-part 1974 additions to the borough building at 126 Warren Street. Fourteen of the buildings in the proposed historic district have been deemed noncontributing resources because their historic form has been materially altered. To be evaluated as noncontributing, alterations needed to be greater than just placement of vinyl or aluminum siding. There had to be alterations to form, design, workmanship, feeling, and association. Examples of buildings that meet this standard include a former automobile dealership at 99 Bridge Street, commercial buildings at 17-21 East Tioga Street and 49 East Tioga Street, and residences at 108 Putnam Avenue and the southwest corner of East Harrison and Pine streets.
The Tunkhannock Historic District is locally significant for its role as the commercial center and seat of local government for Wyoming County. Areas of significance are commerce and politics/government. Tunkhannock served as a regionally important transshipment point, a local industrial entrepot, and the commercial, professional, and governmental center of Wyoming County. The extensive growth and development in the historic district between the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was tied to these commercial functions. The courthouse and intact central business district testify to Tunkhannock's importance as the political and business center of Wyoming County. The Tunkhannock Historic District is also significant under Criterion C for architecture. The intact street grid, generally unaltered streetscapes of buildings constructed between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries, and diffuse examples of high-style architecture create a cohesive, architecturally significant whole. The period of significance for the Tunkhannock Historic District runs from 1841, when Tunkhannock Borough was incorporated, through 1954, the 50 year cut-off when the nomination was prepared. A significant date is 1842, when Wyoming County was organized and Tunkhannock was named the county seat.
History of the Tunkhannock Historic District
The first recorded Euro-American settler in the Tunkhannock area was Zebulon Marcy, who moved to the vicinity in 1771. Within a year or two settlers of English, Dutch, and French descent had come to the area. However, further settlement was delayed by both the American Revolution and the Yankee-Pennamite wars, a series of battles fought in the Wyoming Valley between 1769 and 1784 between representatives of Connecticut and Pennsylvania, each of whom claimed the land. Following the Revolution and the settlement of the boundary dispute, settlers returned to the valley. John McCord of Harrisburg, the owner of Tunkhannock Township Lot 13, subdivided his land into lots. It was here, near the confluence of the North Branch Susquehanna River and Tunkhannock Creek, that the village of Tunkhannock developed (W. W. Munsell & Company 1880:528; Northern Tier Regional Planning Commission 1968:17).
Transportation improvements enhanced settlement. The Tunkhannock and Great Bend Turnpike was constructed in 1798. It followed the route of an Iroquois trail parallel to the North Branch Susquehanna River. In 1818, a turnpike from Great Bend to Philadelphia was completed, creating a through road between Tunkhannock and Pennsylvania's most important city (Northern Tier Regional Planning Commission 1968:17). However, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, the Susquehanna River was the preeminent means of transportation. Tunkhannock's earliest industries, shad fishing, farming, and lumber, were all tied to the river. Timber arcs and rafts filled with lumber, shingles, staves, and grain products were floated to downstream markets from Tunkhannock and other northern settlements. Tunkhannock grew due to its role as a commercial hub and transshipment point, attracting businesses and settlers. By 1830, the village of Tunkhannock contained a post office (est. 1801), several stores, hotels, mechanics shops, and houses. Some of those houses undoubtedly remain in Tunkhannock, although subsequent expansion (s) have altered the appearance of these early houses. The township contained about 1,200 inhabitants (Chapman 1830:196; W. W. Munsell & Company 1880:530).
Growth continued throughout the next decade, and the borough of Tunkhannock was organized in 1841. The following year, Wyoming County was formed from the northern part of Luzerne County and Tunkhannock was named the county seat (Northern Tier Regional Planning Commission 1968:10; W. W. Munsell & Company 1880:530). Residents erected a two story, brick Wyoming County Courthouse in 1843, the first brick building in town. The courthouse square (now bounded by Marion, Washington, Warren, and Putnam streets) was then a part of a cultivated farm. The land was donated to the county by the farm's owner, Thomas T. Slocum (Wyoming County Historical Society 2004).
The fact that the courthouse square was a farm in 1843 illustrates how much Tunkhannock expanded over the next quarter century. Tunkhannock's role as the county's political and commercial hub, combined with transportation improvements, resulted in population growth and increased building activity. The street grid present today was nearly filled in by 1869, the year an atlas of the town was published (Beers 1869) . Much of the Tunkhannock commercial district (except where destroyed by fire) was also built in the two decades following the borough's incorporation.
Lumber fueled much of Tunkhannock's growth. Lumber was Wyoming County's and Tunkhannock's single most important export product from 1840 to until the turn of the twentieth century, although trade peaked in the 1860s. Timber was cleared for its market value, for use in the manufacture of charcoal, for the construction of ships, containers, homes (including those in the borough), and furniture, and as a raw material in the tanning industry. As the lumber industry developed, the Susquehanna River became renowned as a logging river, and Tunkhannock as a center of trade (Hatch et al. 1985:106). As the century progressed, anthracite coal began rivaling lumber in economic importance in the region, leading to a further expansion of industry in Tunkhannock, which in turn spurred population growth and home construction. Widespread mining of anthracite coal began in the early nineteenth century. By the late 1870s, the northern anthracite coal field, located about fifteen miles southeast of Tunkhannock, was mining almost half the total output of hard coal in the United States (Miller and Sharpless 1985:4). Anthracite became, for a short time, the basic fuel for manufacturing industries and the dominant fuel in home heating until the early 1920s (Christian 1978). Anthracite coal became both an important fuel for Tunkhannock's developing industries and a significant export commodity transshipped through the town.
As the timber and coal industries expanded, river transportation on the North Branch Susquehanna River greatly increased in volume. However, the broad, winding, and shallow Susquehanna River proved inadequate as an avenue of commerce (Miller 1985:354). Overland transportation in the area was a poor second choice, hampered by steep escarpments and poorly drained floodplains (Miller 1989:1-31).
To improve transportation between the Wyoming Valley and major port cities like Philadelphia and Baltimore, the North Branch Canal was begun in the 1830s. A subdivision of the state-owned Pennsylvania Mainline Canal, the North Branch Canal connected Northumberland and Wilkes-Barre by 1834 (Rhoads 1960:3-7). However, due to lack of capital, it would not reach Tunkhannock until 1856, on the way to a terminus in New York State (W. W. Munsell & Company 1880:70; Rhoads 1960:7; Sturdevant 1860). Just two years later, the State of Pennsylvania disposed of all its canal property (Rhoads 1960:9). The North Branch Canal was then operated as a money-losing private canal. In 1865, the Pennsylvania & New York Canal & Railroad Company (a subsidiary of the Lehigh Valley Railroad) absorbed the charter of the North Branch Canal Company and secured the right to occupy the canal towpath (W. W. Munsell & Company 1880:70-71). On September 20, 1869, the 105-mile extension of the Lehigh Valley's main line was opened from Wilkes-Barre to Waverly, New York, passing through Tunkhannock Borough adjacent to the north bank of the river. In 1872, the Lehigh Valley began to build a narrow-gauge (three feet) branch line from Tunkhannock to Montrose, approximately 27 miles north (J. B. Lippincott and Co. 1872:20;109). It would operate in Wyoming and Susquehanna counties until 1968, bringing the products of northern Pennsylvania to Tunkhannock (Saylor 1964:82; J.B. Lippincott and Co. 1872: 109) .
The transportation improvements expanded access to markets, making Tunkhannock's lumber, anthracite, and ancillary industries more profitable, generating continuing growth and enhancing Tunkhannock's role as the county's commercial and political center. An 1869 map of Tunkhannock (Beers 1869) shows that most of the area now contained in the historic district boundaries was developed by this time. Exceptions were portions of Harrison, Slocum, and Wyoming streets, which developed in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, and the area south of West Tioga Street and west of Elm Street, which would not become residential until the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The extant building stock within the historic district often appears to be from the later nineteenth century, an indication that houses were expanded and occasionally replaced over time. The 1869 map shows the two main roads in Tunkhannock as Tioga Street (east-west) and Bridge Street (north-south). Commercial and service establishments in town were concentrated on Tioga, Bridge, and Warren streets, much as they are today. Businesses were those common to a thriving commercial town, including clothiers, barbers, jewelers, hardware dealers, farriers and ancillary tradesmen, shoemakers, general merchandisers, lumber houses, and drugstores. Professionals highlighted included carpenters, attorneys, hotel proprietors, and mill owners.
A symbol of Tunkhannock's importance as Wyoming County's political center was the 1870 reconstruction of the Wyoming County Courthouse. The two-story, brick building was redesigned by architect D.R. Nott as a three-story, Italianate style masterpiece. The building is brick with a stucco finish. The builder was John W. Crawford. The grounds around the courthouse were also improved (Wyoming County Historical Society 2004).
By 1872, Tunkhannock Borough had a population of about 1,500 and contained, in addition to the new courthouse, a large tannery, saw and grist mills, an iron foundry, furniture and sash factories, planing mills, three churches, and two banks (J. B. Lippincott and Co. 1872:109; Northern Tier Regional Planning Commission 1968:20). Important industrial complexes and manufactories included the Tunkhannock foundry, founded in 1840, which manufactured railroad castings, .circular sawmills, and agricultural machinery; the Tunkhannock Tannery, a commercial tannery that utilized the area's abundant bark resources to process cattle hides shipped from New York City between 1866 and ca. 1930-1931; and commercial flour mills established in the borough by 1873-1874 (W. W. Munsell & Company 1880:531-532; Sanborn Map Company 1926; Sanborn-Perris Map Company 1941). In addition, a series of mercantile, manufacturing, and banking enterprises, as well as small flagstone and grey stone mining operations, added to the borough's expanding economic base.
Tunkhannock Borough had essentially reached its present dimensions by the 1890s (Fowler and Moyer ca. 1890). Lots on Harrison Street, Slocum Avenue, and Wyoming Avenue had all been filled in, as had most of the area south of Tioga along Susquehanna Street. Some houses within the borough would be replaced or expanded in the twentieth century, and the few remaining vacant lots would be built on.
Catastrophic events have played a role in shaping the present landscape of the Tunkhannock Historic District. In 1850, a fire destroyed a one block area between Bridge and Warren streets on the north side of Tioga Street. A second large fire broke out on October 27, 1870. This fire started at the southeast corner of Tioga and Bridge streets and destroyed more than 20 buildings (W. W. Munsell & Company 1880:530). As a direct result, substantial brick structures replaced the former timber framed buildings in the affected blocks of the borough (W. W. Munsell & Company 1880:530).
Recurrent flooding also has been a serious threat to the residents and businesses of Tunkhannock throughout the historic period. "The Great Flood of March 18th, 1865," swept away the two middle spans of the Tunkhannock bridge and carried off several small buildings (W. W. Munsell & Company 1880:530). Similar floods occurred in 1875, March 1902, and March 1936 (Miller 1985; W.W. Munsell & Company 1880:530; Northern Tier Regional Planning Commission 1968; Tunkhannock Republican & New Age 1902, 1936). One of the most extensive floods in modern Pennsylvania history occurred on June 23 and 24, 1972, when Tropical Storm Agnes passed through the Susquehanna River Valley (Miller 1985; Romanelli 1972). The flood waters of Tunkhannock Creek and the Susquehanna River inundated streets, houses, and businesses in Tunkhannock Borough, and washed out numerous bridges in the valley (Tunkhannock Republican & New Age 1972). Lowland settings along Tunkhannock Creek were completely submerged and reworked by the force of these storm waters.
Tunkhannock would remain the principal civil, commercial, and trade center of Wyoming County through the twentieth century, but economic realities of northeastern Pennsylvania would take its toll on Tunkhannock's industrial base. The lumber industry went into decline after the turn of the twentieth century, as natural resources were depleted. The anthracite coal industry began its downturn in the late 1920s and never fully recovered. The Tunkhannock Tannery closed ca. 1930-1931, as tanning operations moved away from rural locations to import centers. Most buildings associated with Tunkhannock's industrial past were located along the river, canal, and railroad line and have subsequently been removed. The period of significance for the Tunkhannock Historic District ends at 1954, the 50-year cutoff at the time that this nomination form was prepared.
At present, the economies of Wyoming County and Tunkhannock Borough are broad-based and employment opportunities exist in agriculture, remnants of the timber-related industries, commerce, tourism, and recreational pursuits such as hunting and fishing. Tunkhannock Borough is the only community in the county with a population of more than 1,000 (Northern Tier Regional Planning Commission 1968:3, 15, 20).
Tunkhannock's existence and development is intimately associated with its commercial function. It was founded at the confluence of the North Branch Susquehanna River and Tunkhannock Creek, a convenient venue from which to float products to market. During the period of significance (1841-1954), Tunkhannock served as a transshipment point for the lumber, coal, and agricultural industries, a local industrial entrepot, and the commercial and professional center of Wyoming County. The extensive growth and development in the historic district between the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was tied to these commercial functions. The lists of businesses and professions highlighted in histories and atlases — clothiers, barbers, jewelers, hardware dealers, farriers, shoemakers, general merchandisers, lumber businesses, banks, drugstores, carpenters, attorneys, and hoteliers — illustrate Tunkhannock's importance as a center of commerce and industry in a rural county. Large, no longer extant businesses like the tannery, saw and grist mills, furniture and sash factories, planing mills, and iron foundry, provided employment, capital, and entrepreneurial spirit. The business owners, the people they employed, and the customers they served built the houses that constitute the vast majority of the resources in the Tunkhannock Historic District. Commerce drove much of the development of Tunkhannock during the period of significance.
The Tunkhannock Historic District's significance under Criterion A for commerce is best conveyed by the borough's commercial district on Tioga, Warren, and Bridge streets. Tioga Street, in particular, contains store buildings ranging in age from the 1840s through the mid-twentieth century, with the majority dating from the 1850s through the 1870s, one of Tunkhannock's most significant periods of growth. Tioga Street includes the oldest documented building in town, the Bolles-Bardwell-Tewksbury Building (3 West Tioga Street/83-85 Warren Street), originally constructed ca. 1840, and buildings constructed in Greek Revival, Italianate, Classical Revival, and twentieth century commercial style.
The Tunkhannock Historic District compares favorably with other nearby NRHP historic districts significant for commerce, including the Coudersport Historic District in Potter County and the Towanda Historic District in Bradford County. All were the most important commercial centers in their rural counties. The towns and their commercial areas developed primarily between the mid-nineteenth and early to mid-twentieth centuries, and the basis for development centered around the exploitation of natural resources, predominantly timber, and the establishment of other manufactories and the attendant influx of merchants, professionals, and workers. The commercial areas in all three towns consist predominantly of brick buildings constructed in mid-nineteenth century architectural styles.
Significance — Politics/Government
In addition to being Wyoming County's most important commercial center, Tunkhannock was (and is) the county seat, the locus of politics and government in the county. The symbol of its significance as the county's political and government center is the Wyoming County Courthouse, the largest and most architecturally prominent building in the community. But it is also manifest in other parts of the historic district. As county seat, Tunkhannock drew a range of professionals to the town, including politicians, bureaucrats, lawyers, real estate professionals, and title searchers. Their presence was a factor in the town's growth and development. They created offices, built homes, and shopped in the town's stores. For its role as the center of political power and government in the county, the Tunkhannock Historic District is significant under NRHP Criterion A.
The Tunkhannock Historic District shares many similarities with the Coudersport Historic District, which is also significant for Politics/Government. Both historic districts are county seats of rural counties in Pennsylvania's Northern Tier, and that role helped make them the largest communities and centers of politics and government. Both built smaller masonry courthouses at approximately the same time (Coudersport 1835; Tunkhannock 1843). Both enlarged and expanded those courthouses during their town's greatest period of expansion and economic growth in the mid-nineteenth century, constructing high-style buildings, Greek Revival for Coudersport and Italianate for Tunkhannock. The respective courthouses are also among the largest and most prominently sited buildings within their historic districts.
The architecture within the Tunkhannock Historic District is representative of that of county seats in rural Pennsylvania counties. The historic arrangement of the town into three distinct segments — industrial, commercial, and residential — is common, as was the stratified arrangement of the town: industries close to the river, canal, and railroad lines; the commercial district along the main east-west and north-south streets; and the residential areas predominantly to the north of these. The placement of the courthouse outside of the commercial area is somewhat out of character, but its setting, a landscaped square on a small, prominent knoll, is not.
The Tunkhannock Historic District is architecturally significant as a complete, largely unaltered landscape of commercial, residential, and civic buildings. The historic district has integrity of location, design, setting, workmanship, feeling, and association. The lots are arranged as a densely built street grid. The commercial portion of town is well-preserved and illustrates the development of Tunkhannock's central business district from the 1840s through the early twentieth century. In the residential areas, streetscapes are notably unaltered and present an image of solid middle-class respectability. House lots are narrow and fairly deep, and fronted by sidewalks and shade trees. The houses themselves are generally large, predominantly frame, and built close to the sidewalks and streets on shallow setbacks. Houses were built largely between the mid- and late nineteenth century, with infill and further development continuing until about 1940.
The majority of buildings in the Tunkhannock Historic District lack a definitive architectural style, but they generally reflect the styles prominent during the period of significance, most notably Queen Anne, Greek Revival, and Italianate. High-style residences are found throughout the historic district, with the largest concentration on Tioga Street. Other architecturally significant buildings include the Italianate Wyoming County Courthouse (1 Courthouse Square), the Romanesque Revival Harrison Street School (West Harrison and Bridge streets), and the numerous churches throughout the historic district.
Architecturally, the Tunkhannock Historic District compares favorably with three other similar historic districts in the area: the Towanda Historic District in Bradford County, the Coudersport Historic District in Potter County, and the Honesdale Residential Historic District in Wayne County. Like Tunkhannock, all are county seats of rural counties, all three towns were centers of commerce and politics, and all have similar periods of significance. The Towanda and Coudersport historic districts feature smaller commercial and much larger residential portions. Honesdale's commercial section is not included in the historic district, but all four historic districts are architecturally similar, dominated by mid- and late nineteenth century architectural styles, including Greek Revival, Italianate, and Queen Anne-influenced buildings. All have architecturally impressive courthouses. Tunkhannock, Coudersport, and Honesdale feature a mixture of high-style and more modest houses built on a grid-like set of streets, set on small lots, and built close to the street.