Gray-Taylor House

Brookville Boro, Jefferson County, PA

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The Gray-Taylor House (9 Walnut St.) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1]


The Gray-Taylor House is somewhat irregular in plan, although the rectangle is the prevalent construction form. It is three-story dwelling built of unpainted red common brick, with each wall being four bricks in thickness. The brick is laid in common bond, using lime mortar, and has not been repointed. The house has a rock faced ashlar foundation of limestone, with some individual foundation stones measuring up to twelve feet in length. The foundation is capped with a smooth-dressed stone water table with a beveled cap. Given the somewhat terraced topography of the land, the foundation rises to heights varying from one to six feet above grade. At various points below-grade awning windows with cast iron grates provide a source, though limited, for light to penetrate the basement rooms. There is a full basement, partially floored.

The Gray-Taylor House faces east, fronting on Walnut Street. The east wall contains three bays, with the main entrance to the house located in the northernmost of these bays. The main doorway is set in a broad stilted segmental arched void and features double paneled doors inset about one foot from the plane of the brick walls, and featuring etched transom-height windows. On the front, the two southern bays are distinguished by handsome double-hung French windows, one-over-one lights on the first story, and more conventional windows on the second. All of the windows which are visible from the Walnut Street side (including side windows) contain the original plate glass shipped from France and installed at the time of the house's construction. All original fenestration is stilted segmental arched, one-over-one lights, set on extended lug sills and capped with brick voussoirs. Across the entire front side is the original one-story open frame porch with a slightly hipped roof. This roof is supported by four square pillars with beveled corners and two engaged pilasters, and is trimmed with rather heavy ornamentation including bracket and stylized fleurs-de-lis pendants.

The north side of the, house is highlighted by a three-story projecting bay from which springs a bay window. One of the secondary entrances is located in the east wall of this projecting bay. The three-story bay window features voids on the two angled exterior planes; the interior plane, parallel to the main section of the house, contains the chimney, and is therefore unbroken. The north wall of the house also contains the only completely unoriginal windows in the structure: one small window on the first story which serves a small half bath, and a second, located near the front of the second story, which was added to provide light to an otherwise dark upstairs hall. These windows were designed to complement the original fenestration in form and scale, and were added in 1941 during the rehabilitation of the structure by the present owners. The contractor for this rehabilitation was William Fleming, a Brookville contractor.

The south wall of the house also contains a bay window, set slightly to the east of its counterpart in the north wall. This bay window contains no chimney and is more lavishly decorated than the other, including a bracketed cornice with a paneled frieze between the first and second stories. Recently, four sections of ornamental cresting were discovered in the crawl space between the attic and the roof of the house. This cresting may have graced this ornamental bay window, or it may have been placed along the edge of the main roof; no photos exist to document its location on the house.

The west (rear) side of the Gray-Taylor House boasts a less ornamental two-story section which is original to the entire house. (As a point of clarification, there have been no additions to the house at any time.) This rear portion is rectangular in plan, with single rooms located in the basement, first, and second stories. The kitchen is located on the first story of this rear section, with the second story containing the maid's quarters. This section is somewhat narrower than the rest of the house, and is offset slightly to the south. This spatial discrepancy is compensated by the placement of a one-story open frame porch located along the north side of the rear section and extending along the entire length of the section. A secondary entrance opens into the kitchen from this porch. The porch is floored with the original slate slabs installed at the time of the building's construction. Two voids in the kitchen (in the west and south walls) have been somewhat altered, involving a broadening and shortening of the windows, but not to a degree radical enough to destroy the character of the structure.

As might be expected from the style of the Gray-Taylor House, its most distinctive feature is its handsome mansard roof which covers all of the house but the aforementioned rear section. The rear section is covered with a shallow hip roof. The steep slopes of the mansard roof are sheathed in slate and are trimmed with molded endboards at the corners. The plane of the mansard roof is broken with a series of dormer windows, nine in all: two on the front, three on the north side, two on the rear, and two on the south side. These are gable dormers with stilted segmental arched windows, one-over-one lights. Sawn stylized decorative elements are applied at the peak of the gables on the dormers. As an integral part of the overall decorative scheme of the house, there is a lavishly embellished cornice with a paneled frieze featuring small arcaded dentil-like mouldings. The striking bracketry on the cornice is particularly highlighted by the carving of scrolled patterns into the sides of the brackets themselves, adding to the rich effect of the trim. These ornamental elements are continued on a smaller scale on the front and side porches and on the secondary cornice of the south bay window. Two tall, generally unadorned chimneys rise from the roof.

The interior of the Gray-Taylor House has been altered minimally over the years. The kitchen has been considerably updated, as have bathroom facilities, but no major structural changes have compromised the historical integrity of the structure. Interior rooms contain eleven-foot ceilings, some with the original plaster medallions still in the ceilings. All of the woodwork is of a moulded variety, with the most outstanding ornamental feature being a magnificent straight open-string stair with a balustrade of walnut and a lavish newel post. The parlor and front hall are trimmed with ornamental parquet floors. All original doorways are intact and contain transoms.

The Gray-Taylor House is situated in a stable residential neighborhood on a well-maintained three-quarter acre tract. The property is located approximately three hundred yards north of the borough's principal thoroughfare, Main Street (U.S. Route 322). A capped well is located approximately fifteen feet west of the house. A cast-iron fence, only part of which remains, once ran the length of the property along Walnut Street. A large bank barn, razed in the 1940s, once stood along Walnut Street near the north boundary of the property. The only extant outbuilding is a two-story pony barn, twenty feet by thirty feet, located approximately sixty feet west of the house. This barn was built shortly after the brick house and was constructed using materials from an earlier wood frame Gray house which stood on its site.


The Gray-Taylor House is placed on the National Register for its outstanding architectural significance to the borough of Brookville and for its association with a family long-involved in the commercial and humanitarian interests of the town. It is one of only four Second Empire residences which remain in this rural county seat, and survives in an intact state in general. It was built for William Henry Gray (1842-1941) who, according to family history, obtained the plans for the house from a New York architectural firm.

Gray was a native of Indiana County, Pennsylvania, south of Brookville, but apparently emigrated to Jefferson County early in life to be reared in Brookville by one Alexander McKinstry. He apprenticed as a carpenter prior to the Civil War, so it is probable that he personally oversaw the construction of this fine residence. In early 1861 he enlisted in Company I of the 105th Pennsylvania Volunteers and was twice wounded before being mustered out in October of 1864. After his return to Brookville, he engaged in the business of photography, no doubt being one of the earliest professional photographers in the area. He was also active in farming and was well-known for his fine livestock and horses. According to family history, he laid out the first quarter-mile racetrack in northwestern Pennsylvania, located on his "upper farm," now part of the Maplevale Farm holdings.

In 1868 he married Mary Darling, half-sister of Paul Darling, a local philanthropist. Darling died in 1881 and left to the Grays a considerable amount of stock and cash valued at $30,000. Part of this inheritance was used to construct the national registered house, described in a county history as an "attractive and modernly appointed brick residence." Gray's business connections during these years extended to various interests, including the directorship and vice presidency of the Jefferson County National Bank which had been founded by Paul Darling. He also served on the directories of the Solar Electric Company, the Brookville Manufacturing Company, and the Brookville Glass and Tile Company. His humanitarian interests were typified by his role in the setting up of the Brookville Cemetery and the Pennsylvania Memorial Home, the latter of which was founded in 1891 as a home for aged Civil War veterans, and which continues today as a rest home. Gray was one of the managers of the home for many years. He was also deeply involved in various veterans' organizations and was one of the founders and the first treasurer of the Monumental Association of the 105th Pennsylvania Volunteers.

Gray sold his house to his daughter, Julia Eleanor Taylor in the early 1930s, but continued to live there until his death in 1941 shortly before his one hundredth birthday. Julia Eleanor Gray had married local banker and humanitarian David Lewis Taylor in the livingroom of the house in the early 1890s. Since 1942 it has been the home of William Henry Gray's grandson, Henry Charles Taylor, and his family. It remains today a significant feature of Brookville's social and architectural heritage, and is a well-preserved example of French Second Empire residential architecture.


McKnight, William J. Jefferson County, Pennsylvania: Her Pioneers and People (Chicago: J. H. Beers, 19171, pp. 458-460.

Scott, Kate M. History of Jefferson County, Pennsylvania (1888; rpt., Evansville, Indiana: Unigraphic, Inc. , 1973).

  1. Taylor, David L., Philip Taylor House, nomination document, 1979, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
Walnut Street

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