A W Buck House
The A. W. Buck House (615 N. Center St.) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. Portion of the text, below, were selected and adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.
The Ancenitus William Buck House is a high style Queen Anne, Victorian home located in the Cambria county seat, Ebensburg. The house is located in the west side of Ebensburg several blocks from the center of town in one of the town's most affluent residential sections. This two and one-half story, three bay, brick structure was built in 1889 by the prominent Ebensburg banker, A. W. Buck. The home is notable for its high style architecture and integrity of both exterior and interior features. The Buck House is an asymmetrical structure with an eight sided, three story tower on the southern end of the building. The house has a stone foundation featuring a date stone with the year 1889 and a wrap-around porch with columnettes and boxed in porch rail with circular cut outs.
The grounds were more formal at the turn of the century with an iron fence surrounding the property, park benches set in the landscaped gardens, ivy covered walls on the house and a circular drive which led to the front entrance of the house. The grounds were much larger at one time but a large portion of the acreage has been sold over the years for new home construction. Several small buildings set at the rear of the house have also been removed from the grounds.
There have been few exterior alterations. The single major change was the addition of a two story north wing with end tower in 1903. This addition included a downstairs ballroom and tower room and a second floor library and tower room. The second story sun porch, originally open with paired columnettes matching those of the first story porch, has been enclosed. The original east side door into the north wing has been bricked in. The rear porch was enclosed and the stairway truncated in the 1920s by the Sisters of St. Joseph to provide an area where piano lessons were given.
The Buck House has a complex root line combining hip and gable roof types. The roof of the south tower is octagonal; the north tower roof is conical. There are three dormers including two three-sided hipped roof dormers on the original section of the building. The third is a one-over-one sash window located on the north wing.
There is a large central chimney, exposed fireplaces and a smaller chimney over the kitchen. A second large chimney, in the 1903 north wing, is set at a 45 degree angle to the north wing. This two and one-half story chimney is detailed with recessed brick panels and a round headed blind arch.
Windows in the structure are predominantly one-over-one and two-over-two rectangular double hung sashes with stone headers and sills. There are two round arched, tripartite windows; one facing the side of the porch and another on the second floor overlooking the porch (lighting the stair landing). Both feature original art glass. A third is on the building's south wall (the former dining room), with three round headed window sashes with a large segmentally arched opening. The upper sashes are art glass. Two additional segmentally arched window groups face the street in the two story north end tower. Each is a tripartite window group with rectangular sash topped by single pane, segmentally arched art glass panel. All of these rounded arched windows have stone skewbacks and keystones.
The interior of the Buck House is one of the best preserved in Ebensburg. The vestibule features a double leaf, Dutch door, and inter-locking tile floor. Both the outer door and inner door are paneled with decorative art glass. The entry hall has a ceramic tiled fireplace with egg and dart motif in addition to a dappled finish with floral and geometric finished tile. There is also a coal, cast-iron insert with glazed tile. The floor surrounding the fireplace is ceramic tile and the mantle is made of marble. The entry hall has a beamed oak ceiling in addition to an arched art glass window, under a stairway, facing the porch.
The parlor features a parquet floor in a pattern of cherry and oak that is used throughout the house. The fireplace is faux marble with a red, black and gray dapple pattern. It also features two stone spindles with shelves which flack a mirror above the fireplace. There is a door on either side of the fireplace with fretwork above. The windows in this room as elsewhere have paneling under the window and in the transom area. There are decorative corner blocks around most of the windows and doors.
The outstanding item in the dining room is a three-part, arched stained glass window set with a round-headed sash. These windows follow the theme of morning, noon and night. The windows had been moved to the daughter's house when it was constructed next door and have just recently been returned to their original place in the Buck House. The top sash is fixed. The bottom sash of the window is made of clear glass and is movable. The dining room also has a built-in china closet and French doors with pebble effect glass which lead into an enclosed rear porch. The room also has pocket doors that lead into the entry. The divider between the dining room and the reception area at one time had three oak doors. Two were stationary. The space between the doors and the ceiling retains a panel of fretwork repeated in the doorways of the parlor.
The reception area has windows which feature inside wooden blinds stored one behind the other which can be pulled halfway down. Each blind has only one of the original panels intact.
To the rear of the reception area is the kitchen. The kitchen has been updated over the years with floor tiles, modern fixtures and cabinets. Off the kitchen is a rear mudroom containing the servants' entrance and a stairway leading to the upper floors. There are two pantries for storage. The area between the kitchen and the dining room has a closet with a pedestal sink which still has the original fixtures.
Located in the north wing is a rectangular, 17' x 30' ground floor ballroom which ends in a semi-circular tower room. The north wing was added to the house in 1903. The ballroom has a Richardsonian Romanesque fireplace featuring a segmentally arched opening and a beamed 10' high ceiling with tongue and groove paneling. The ceiling is continued in the tower room. This 10' diameter room has a three part window with stained-glass transom in a floral pattern. The tower also contains curved windows and a horseshoe shaped seating area with original woodwork intact. The right side of the tower entry has a column with base, setting the tower room off from the ballroom.
A stairway to the second floor is off the entry hall. The oak staircase has turned spindles and an arched, polychromatic art glass landing window with a bird theme and floral and geometric designs. The stairway is a long, straight flight with opposing short flights at both the top and bottom. The upstairs landing features an S-curved rail with turned spindles. The east end of the second floor hallway has a doorway to an enclosed front sun porch and a small front bathroom. This bathroom has been modernized with marlite paneling, a dropped ceiling, modern fixtures and linoleum tile floor covering.
Most of the rooms on the second floor open off a central hallway. The original front bedroom, located off a small side hallway, was divided in the 1920s by the Sisters of St. Joseph to provide more bedrooms. The dividing wall, however, was removed by the Cambria County Historical Society in 1990. This room has a fireplace made with faux marble decorated with stone and two-tone black and tan marbleized slate. The fireplace now has a cast-iron insert. The floor surrounding the fireplace is decorated with red and gold ceramic tiles. This bedroom also has a large walk-in closet.
Opposite the front bedroom is another smaller bedroom with a closet containing a truncated stairway. This stairway led to the rear porch at one time but was cut off when the rear porch was enclosed in the 1920s. The stairway area was then made into a large closet.
Bedrooms #3 and #4 are smaller with few distinguishing features. Both rooms have small windows. The west end of the hallway has a second modernized bathroom with a closet. Beside it is the rear servants' stairway which is paneled with wainscoting. Also opening off the hallway is a third floor stairway and another large closet.
The library is located in the 1903 north wing off a short entryway. It is the largest room on the second floor. The room features modern dropped ceilings and paneled walls both of which can be removed to restore the integrity of the room. The room has two Doric columns with bases which divide it from the second floor tower room. The tower room has curved windows with a top light of arched, decorative art glass.
The third floor of the Buck House, which is a half floor, contains three small finished rooms that were probably used as servants quarters. Room number two contains two sets of tripartite window groupings. The rear west wing and the north wing are open attic spaces.
The Buck House has undergone few interior changes in recent years. Most windows, wall surfaces, floor and fireplaces survive intact. The kitchen and bathrooms have been modernized. The wall partition between the dining room and the reception area has been removed. On the second floor of the north wing, wall and ceiling areas have been covered but these can be removed. The A. W. Buck House maintains its architectural integrity and also conveys the character of a well constructed high style Queen Anne residence.
Although the architect and builder are unknown, the Buck House is significant as an example of high style residential Queen Anne architecture. It retains a high degree of architectural integrity in both interior and exterior features. It is one of Ebensburg's best preserved Victorian mansions dating from the turn of the century. The home is closely linked with one of the town's most prominent and influential citizens, A. W. Buck.
The Buck House was built by Ancenitus William Buck in 1889. Mr. Buck was born in Carroll Township, Cambria County on March 15, 1858. At the age of 16, he was chosen, based upon his excellent school record, for the position of clerk in the Collins, Johnston and Company Bank. At age 18, he was promoted to cashier. A. W. Buck and Hattie L. Zahm were married in 1879. In 1880, Mr. Buck purchased the bank interest of Philip Collins and thus established the Johnston, Buck and Company Bank. He established two more banks in northern Cambria County. Mr. Buck was instrumental in establishing the First National Bank of Ebensburg in 1897 which is now Laurel Bank. He served as director and cashier of the bank until his death on April 24, 1918.
A. W. Buck's net worth at the time of his estate settlement was approximately $337,000. Mr. Buck's wealth is reflected in the size and architectural quality of the building, the use of decorative art glass in the windows, the interior paneling, turned spindles on the stairway, and the various decorative finishes used on the fireplaces. Another indication of his wealth was the original large lot size, formal landscaping including ornamental plantings, and the circular drive.
The north wing of the Buck House (including the ballroom), added in 1903, was built for Blanch Buck's wedding to Leo F. McKenrick, held in the house on January 9, 1903. Blanch was the only child of A. W. and Hattie Buck. After the death of her husband, Mrs. Buck continued to live in the house until 1923 when she sold the house to the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown as a convent for the Sisters of St. Joseph.
The Sisters of St. Joseph were teachers in the local parochial schools. They also ran an orphanage and a preparatory school at another location in Ebensburg. The Sisters numbered the doors and used bedrooms for private prayer and sleeping. They added a partition to the front bedroom to make it two rooms. The ballroom on the first floor was converted into a chapel for religious services and a partition was placed between the curved seating area in the tower room and the ballroom. The seating area was then used as a sacristy for the priest. The bathrooms and kitchen were modernized by the Sisters. The other rooms such as the dining room, sitting room and living room in the house were unchanged and used as living areas.
The Buck House remained in the possession of the Sisters until 1990 when the house was sold to the Cambria County Historical Society. The community of Sisters of St. Joseph, in the Ebensburg area, has diminished to such a small number that they no longer needed such a large living space. The orphanage and preparatory school have both been closed.
The Cambria County Historical Society removed the partitions in the ballroom and front bedroom in 1990. A handicapped access was added to the rear enclosed porch. The Historical Society is using the house as a museum for the county's history and for storage of collections. The Historical Society has plans for further restoration.
The Buck House is an excellent example of a high style Queen Anne Victorian home in Ebensburg. The Fergus Lloyd House (ca.1900) on West Crawford Street is another example of a large Queen Anne house. This dwelling is two and one-half stories with a side tower, fishscale siding, hip roof and a two story curvilinear porch. Another Queen Anne house with Colonial Revival elements is located on North Center Street. This house features a rounded, two story front bay with a hip roof and a front porch with Doric columns. These homes are similar in size, massing and style but do not retain the high degree of interior architectural integrity seen in the Buck House. The Buck House is very unusual for the integrity of its interior finishes, intact fireplaces, woodwork and layout.
Other large high style homes including Romanesque, Queen Anne and Colonial Revival examples were also built by middle and upper class professionals along North Center Street which served as the main north south thoroughfare in the last two decades of the 19th century. This was a choice residential location four blocks north of the main commercial district and was easily accessible by business and professional leaders.
In terms of overall workmanship, high style Queen Anne design, decorative art glass, ornamental fireplaces, woodwork and original hardware on many doors and windows, the A. W. Buck House is a rarity in Ebensburg and Cambria County. With only three owners since its construction, it is an unusual artifact deserving restoration.
Caldwell, A. A. Atlas of Cambria County. Atlas Publishing CO.: 1890.
Cambria County Redevelopment Authority. Cambria County Historic Site Survey. Ebensburg, PA: 1980.
Storey, Henry Wilson. History of Cambria County Pennsylvania with Genealogical Memoirs. New York: The Lewis Publishing Co., 1907.