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Townhouse Row

Chambersburg Boro, Franklin County, PA

Townhouse Row (57--85 N. Main St.) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document as submitted to the National Park Service.


This small historic district is about one half block in length on the west side of North Main Street between King Street and the square. The buildings are a series of three story brick row houses dating from the post Civil War period. The row extends from 57 to 85 North Main Street being interrupted by a small alleyway, Spring Street, between 57 and 61 North Main Street. Most of the buildings are private residences at their second and third stories with commercial establishments at their first stories. The row of seven buildings forms a cohesive unit of relatively little altered period architecture typical of Chambersburg's downtown area. During the Civil War in 1864, Chambersburg was burned by Confederate soldiers. The result was an extensive rebuilding effort during the 1860's and 70's. This row reflects this through reconstruction during the late 19th century.

Generally, three periods of architectural expression are exhibited by this seven-building row. Initial construction appears to have taken place during the third quarter of the 19th century. In some cases, evidence remains of walls or foundations of earlier buildings that were used in the reconstruction during the closing decade of the 19th century and the early 20th century; many of the buildings received an updating with the addition of semi-hexagonal projecting bays and alterations to windows and store fronts. The third period of change occurred during the third quarter of the 20th century with most changes limited to the first story levels.

The buildings of the entire row are of brick construction, painted, with common bond at all elevations. During the late 19th century it was popular to paint brick buildings at the time of construction and the paint layers on these buildings as well as old photographs which are available of Chambersburg's architecture suggest that the buildings in this row were always painted. The southern-most five buildings have segmentally arched window heads above long narrow openings giving a definite rhythm to the streetscape. The two more northern buildings have flat stone lintels above their windows. All of the buildings are topped with massive bracketed cornices which also establish a rhythm for the row and help to provide a finishing point for the buildings. While the street facades of these buildings have the ornamental cornices and various trims, the backs are very plain. Several buildings feature double or triple decker porches along their rear wails.

Buildings Composing the North Main Street Townhouse Row:

  1. 57 North Main Street – This three story, seven bay building appears to have much of its exterior surface intact. At the north end of its front elevation is a semi-hexagonal projecting bay which is a post ca. 1915 addition since it does not appear in a picture post cord of that period which includes the building. The storefront extending across the facade at the first story is topped with a cornice supported by corinthian pilasters at the corner. Above this in the ca. 1915 photograph was an overhang with an iron balustrade which has since been removed. Pairs of shutters, not original, are present at the windows.
  2. 61 North Main Street – This is a three story, five bay building with its first story completely altered during the mid 20th century. Almost no exterior changes have been made, however, above the first story level. An unusual feature of this building appears at the two northernmost bays of the front elevation at the second story. Apparently, a three part door or window was topped with a neo-classically inspired cornice. At some later time a semi-hexagonal projecting bay was added over it. This alteration appears in an 1896 newspaper photograph of the house. In the photograph, the building is captioned as W. H. Walker and Company's Store which appears to have been in the nature of a hardware store. The windows on the facade are now trimmed with shutters although in the 1896 picture none were present.
  3. 65-67 North Main Street – This building is a three story three bay structure which shares its end wails with the building on either side of it. It has the same cornice trim as the building at 61 North Main with the woodwork continuing on a broad bond across the tops of both buildings. It is lacking, however, three courses of brick corbeling at the base of its brackets. The 1886 newspaper photograph which shows part of this building indicates that windows and doors had elaborate wooden architraves with curved tops at the first story level and pointed tops at the second story. This trim has since been removed leaving plain segmental arches above the openings. Evidence of a two story vertical seam remains in the masonry between this house and its neighbor to the North. This vertical seam appears to be part of an end wall of another earlier building which was incorporated into the present structure. In the late 19th century photograph this building's windows had pairs of shutters with moveable louvers.
  4. 71-73 North Main Street – This three story, three bay brick house has a two story, semi-hexagonal projecting bay at the upper two stories of the north end of its facade. The projection may be an addition although no decisive evidence of whether on not it is original has yet been found. The main entrance is located in the north end bay and consists of the door topped by a three light transom and sidelights with paneled jambs. A dentiled cornice spans the front of the building between the first and second stories separating the commercial and residential parts. The store front area below the cornice was renovated during the 1960's.

    The interior of this house displayed such features as a main residential entranceway with a pressed tin ceiling and cornice with a central medallion from which hangs on early electrical light fixture of frosted glass resembling a bunch of grapes. Interior woodwork includes door architraves with multiple moldings and mitered corners and four panel doors with cast hardware with ceramic knobs. Split turnings have been applied to interior plaster corners for their protection.
  5. 75-77 North Main Street – This three story, three bay building has entrances in the first and third bays of its facade. Between them is a rectangular window larger than its second and third story counterparts. The facade of this building is considerably plainer than those of its counterparts. In this example decorative work is limited to repeated series of brackets at its top. Flat arches are located above the main story openings. Above the southernmost door is a transom and one sidelight south of the door. The north door is more symmetrical in appearance and is centered between a pair of sidelights beneath a transom. This entrance opens into a broad hall with a formal staircase.
  6. 79-80 North Main Street -This three story, three bay building and the structure adjoining it to the north share a lower roof level than the rest of the buildings in the row. In was apparently extensively renovated during the early 20th century wider the supervision of local architect and builder, Maurice Rhoads. The most notable architectural feature of the exterior is a romanesque arch of rock faced stones forming an entrance area for two recessed doors. One entrance leads into a shop which was during the early 20th century a doctor's office. The other entrance opens into the residential part of the house. Rock faced stones forms the lintels and sills of the windows. Early 20th century natural grained paneling is present at the entrance area. Each door is topped with a stained leaded glass transom in the center of which is the house number. Both the residence and office portions of the building retain much of their original woodwork and finish. Trim is neoclassically inspired and shows its natural grain through dark varnish. Ornamental cast metal work decorates a wide entranceway from the hall to a dining room. Early 20th century light fixtures and furnishings are also present including a hanging electric fixture in the hallway. The doctor's office, now a book store retains its cases for storing medicine and book shelves.
  7. 83-85 North Main Street -The northernmost building in the row is a three-story, four bay structure which retains its original cornice with brackets differing slightly from those of its neighbor to its south. Also retained is a massive series of moldings forming a dividing cornice between the commercial first story and residential upper floors of the building. Window lintels and sills are of smoothly dressed stone. The main entrance includes a broad transom and sidelights around the door. A combination of rectangular and diamond shaped panes are used in the glazing. Alterations to this building's exterior include the application of modern brick in the area beneath the first story cornice, the addition of a small overhang with a wood shingled roof and the installation of a plate glass window with numerous muntin bars intended to suggest the Colonial period.

All of the seven buildings appear to be in good condition.


The North Main Street Townhouse Row is significant for its architecture, as a relatively little-altered group from the post Civil War period; for its contribution to commercial development in Chambersburg during the late 19th and 20th centuries; and for social and humanitarian considerations as reflecting aspects of the late 19th century life style, not only locally in Chambersburg but on a regional basis.

The town of Chambersburg was laid out in lots in 1784 and became the County Seat of Franklin County in 1784. A pioneer settlement had flourished in the area since 1730. During the Civil War, in July of 1864, the central area of Chambersburg was burned by the Confederate Army. With the oldest and commercial areas of the town thus destroyed, Chambersberg's late 19th century appearance is easy to understand. Between 1864 and 1875 there was a period of extensive rebuilding giving the central part of town a uniform Victorian character.

This row of seven buildings, although by no means a large section of the downtown area, forms a unified and uninterrupted section of the town. The block of Main Street between King Street and the Square although a commercial area has not had the economic development which occurred south of the Square. As a result, this half-block section on the west side of North Main Street remains essentially intact except for a few minor alteration's. These seven buildings were included in the district because they provide an rhythmic architectural series with a natural beginning and ending point. The district begins at an open parking lot dividing it from other more altered buildings near the Square and extends without interruption north to the intersection of Main and King Streets Other areas of Chambersburg have examples of post Civil War buildings locate in the town a series of buildings as large as this group unbroken by intrusions.

Although these houses were built during the late 19th century, evidence in the basements of several structures and unexplained masonry seams in the walls suggest that foundations and some parts of walls of pre-fire houses may have been used. Very few pictures of Chambersburg before the fire are known to exist. Evidence seems to indicate that most structures were one and a half or two stories high of sided log, frame or brick. Many buildings in the area within one block of the square were both commercial and residential establishments. Of the post Civil War group of buildings in this district all were built to accommodate business or professional enterprises at the first story with the upper parts used for residences. Thus the district reflects life styles of the 19th century for families of moderate wealth.

House #4 was owned by Ezra M. Smith and his heirs from 1884 and 1961. Smith is said to have manufactured bed springs on the property and also to have been an undertaker. In 1865 Matthew Welch who owned the property on which building 93 is located sold to John Schofield a 36' X 5' area for a passageway along the north wall of his dwelling. No mention is made of an adjoining building on Schofield's lot. Perhaps John Schofield initially rebuilt the house during his ownership of the property after the fire in 1864. Probably the work which gives the house its present appearance was done under Smith's ownership. In 1909 Ezra M. Smith signed an agreement with Mary M. Kurtz, then owner of building #3, to acquire two feet of the five foot passageway between their respective structures. This could suggest that Smith was planning a major construction project about that time.

Building # 6 was purchased by H.M. Miley, M.D., father of the present owner in 1903. Dr. Miley paid, according to the deed $4500.00 for a lot with a three story brick dwelling house. It was Dr. Miley who hired Maurice Rhoads a builder and architect to renovate the house to its present appearance. Maurice Rhoads was active in Chambersburg at the turn of the century and designed and built several residences and commercial buildings.

The area where this row of buildings stands is near the confluence of the Falling Spring and Conococheaque Creeks. In the vicinity were several industries including a grist mill, a woolen mill and a tannery.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
Main Street North • Route 11