Apollo’s “folk-type” architecture

I-House and 4-Over-4

As mentioned in my last blog post, the Armstrong County Historic Sites Survey of 1980-81 noted that several of Apollo’s historic homes have a “folk type” or vernacular” architecture. This refers to mostly modest homes built with local materials in traditional, familiar styles, without the assistance of professional architects.  In a future blog post I’ll write about a few other folk-type houses in Apollo, such as bungalow and upright & wing. But for now we’ll focus on the I-House and 4-Over-4 house types. Both have a center hallway with symmetrical rooms on each side.

I-house

Illustration of an I-House, which has 2 rooms on each floor separated by a center hallway. Courtesy of the Missouri Folklore Society.

HISTORIC I-HOUSES OF APOLLO

The folk-type I-House, common in the 18th century in the U.S., is a 2-story house featuring a center hallway/staircase with a single room on either side.  This type of house—sometimes called a Georgian I-House—is just one room deep with 4 rooms total. Here’s a nice overview of rural I-Houses in America.

The brick house at 323 First Street in Apollo is possibly the oldest surviving I-House in the borough. Because it’s only 1 room deep, you can see straight through the house at the upper left window in the photo below.

McCullough House

The 5-bay (5-window) brick I-House at 323 First Street, Apollo PA, built circa 1850. Since it’s only 1-room deep, you can see straight through the upper left window to the other side of the house. Photo by Vicki Contie, August 2015.

The Historic sites Survey report notes that the home’s one chimney projects from the gabled roof, and the centrally placed entranceway has multi-paned transom and side windows. Later additions include the front and back porches and a weatherboard-sided rear wing, which gives the building an ell-shape.

Dr. Thomas J. Henry’s History of Apollo, published in 1916, says that this brick house on First Street was built by Dr. William McCullough. In fact, a deed search shows that Dr. William P. McCullough never owned that property. Rather, the lot was owned by McCullough’s brother, Dr. Thomas C McCulloch, from 1850 to 1860. I’ll write a future blog post about the history of that property, including the mysterious fact that brothers William and Thomas McCullough/McCulloch had differently spelled last names! This lot had several owners before McCulloch, including Robert Carnahan, who owned the property from 1817 to 1829. If indeed Dr. William McCullough built that brick house on his brother’s property, the structure was likely erected sometime during the 1850s.

Download the 2-page PDF of the Historic Sites Survey report for the McCullough/Altmire I-House at 323 First Street: 300_PDF_download

If you cross over First Street from the McCullough house and walk a little down the hill toward the bridge, you’ll come to another I-House cited in the 1980-81 Historic Sites Survey: the Speer house at 318 First Street. This wood-frame house was likely built between 1880 and 1889.

SpeerHouse-318FirstStreet-CROP

Another historic I-house, the Speer house is at 318 First Street, Apollo, PA. Photo by Vicki Contie, March 2016.

The 1981 Historic Sites report notes: “the wood frame construction is covered with the original weatherboard siding. Sawtooth-edged vertical board siding trims the roofline and the dormer gable.” The report further notes that the 2nd floor has a “projecting gabled wall dormer in the center of the facade” that has French doors; another set of French doors provide access to the large side porch. The French doors, along with the side porch and Colonial Revival style portico, are all unique additions to the house, added in the early 1900s. The report concludes: “Restoration to the original appearance is not advisable since the unique look produced by the added features would be lost.”

Download the 1-page PDF of the Historic Sites Survey report for the Speer house at 318 First Street in Apollo PA 300_PDF_download
Reefer-420N4thStreetIMG_20160312_162027438

The Reefer house at 420 N. Fourth Street is an I-House that looks similar to (but simpler than) the Speer house above. The 2-doored Reefer house, built circa 1885, has been maintained since construction as a 2-family dwelling. Photo by Vicki Contie, March 2016.

Other historic I-Houses in the Apollo area include the “Reefer house,” a 5-bay wooden I-house at 420 N. Fourth Street (shown here) and 3 homes in North Apollo that I wasn’t able to identify, because I believe the street numbering in North Apollo may have changed since the early 1980s(?). Those historic North Apollo I-houses were listed in 1981 at:

  • 507 Spring Street, the Cravener house, built circa 1900.
  • Grove Street, the Kirkman house, build circa 1886.
  • Route 66 & 15th Street, the Reefer house, built circa 1892.

If you can shed light on any of these North Apollo houses, please let me know!

HISTORIC 4-OVER-4 HOUSES OF APOLLO

The 4-Over-4 folk-type house was built throughout Western Pennsylvania in the 19th century, according to the the 1980-81 Historic Sites Survey. Like the I-house, the 4-Over-4 house has a central hallway. But as its name implies, a 4-Over-4 house is 2 rooms wide and 2 rooms deep, with the 2nd floor rooms and hallway directly over the first-floor rooms & hallway.

Simon Truby’s 4-Over-4 farmhouse at 708 Terrace Ave in Apollo is one of the oldest surviving houses in Apollo borough. This 8-room brick house was likely built after 1843, the year Simon Truby purchased nearly 160 acres of land from Dr. James R. Speer and his wife Hettie of Pittsburgh (for details, see Start with a Dot, Then Follow the Deeds).

Since the Truby house was built long before Terrace Avenue existed, the 5-bay front of the house faced westward toward the Kiskiminitas River. The current 3-bay front of the house that faces Terrace Avenue used to be the back of the house.

Then&Now

The 5-bay “front” of the Truby farmhouse, circa 1890 (left) and today. When Terrace Avenue was extended to this part of town around the turn of the century, the front of the house became the back. A brick pantry and garage were added to the former “front” of the house sometime before 1950 (right). Left photo courtesy of Barb Aitchison. Right photo by Vicki Contie, 2014.

1995-TrubyHouse-ArmCo tax office pic

The 3-bay “front” of the Truby farmhouse, facing Terrace Avenue, used to be the back of the house. The people conducting the 1980-81 Historic Sites Sites Survey were not aware of the original 5-bay facade on the other side. Photo from the Armstrong County Tax Office, 1995.

The 1980-81 Historic Sites report notes that the Truby house is one of Apollo borough’s few remaining buildings from the 1840-1859 period, and the “4-over-4 design is easily recognizable. The report mistakenly refers to the house as a “smaller 3-bay version of the type which more commonly has 5-bays.” The historians apparently were not aware that the original front of the house does indeed have 5 bays.

Although the former front of the house is now covered by a brick pantry and garage, and nearly all of the 1/1 original sash windows were replaced in the 1990s, the original front door and two lower 1/1 sash windows remain intact within the added-on pantry.

Download the 2-page PDF of the Historic Sites Survey report for the Truby/Contie house at 708 Terrace Ave – I couldn’t help but add my own red-pen edits to this document to correct the report’s errors. 300_PDF_download

TolandHouse-500N4thSt- IMG_20160313_153641287_HDR

The Toland house at 500 N. Fourth Street was “the best example of [a 4-Over-4 type house] in the Apollo borough,” according to the 1980-81 Historic Sites Survey report. Photo by Vicki Contie, March 2016.

The Toland house at 500 N. Fourth Street in Apollo PA was “the best example of [a 4-Over-4 type  house] in the Apollo borough,” and “the original 4-Over-4 design of this vernacular house is easily recognizable,” according to the 1980-81 Historic Sites Survey report. The report further notes that the property owner’s name appears on the 1876 Atlas Map is “S. McBryar,” and that the home was likely built between 1860 and 1876. It appears that the original weatherboard wall finish has been replaced by aluminum siding since the 1980-81 survey was conducted.

Download the 1-page PDF of the Sites Survey report for the Toland house at 500 N. Fourth Street. 300_PDF_download
The Hines Sanders house on Hickory Nut Road in North Apollo PA, built circa 1880-1899, is a vernacular 4-Over-4 style structure with an expanded form due to the addition of 4 wings, resulting in an irregular shaped plan.

The Hines Sanders house on Hickory Nut Road in North Apollo, built circa 1880-1899, is a vernacular 4-Over-4 style structure with an expanded form due to the addition of 4 wings, resulting in an irregular shaped plan. Photo by Vicki Contie, March 2016.

An additional 4-Over-4 type house — this one in North Apollo — is the blue Hines/Sanders house on Hickory Nut Road; a larger version of this photo appears at the very top of this blog post. Built between1880 and 1899, this was originally a 3-bay house with a gabled roof, one brick central chimney, and an off-center front-facing gable that interrupts the roofline. Several additions have changed the overall structure of the home. The Burkett family is believed to be the original owner of this single-family dwelling, the report notes.

Download the 2-page PDF of the Sites Survey report for the Hines/Sanders house on Hickory Nut Road in North Apollo. 300_PDF_download

And so concludes this overview of the historic I-houses and 4-Over-4 type houses in Apollo, as cited by the county’s Historic Sites Survey more than 30 years ago. As always, comments, suggestions, and questions much appreciated!

Coming up, a report on Simon Truby’s farm and the peaches, potatoes, milk, butter, wool, and other stuff he grew/made right here in Apollo borough and in North Apollo as well.

6 thoughts on “Apollo’s “folk-type” architecture

  1. 318 first st. Do you know the history of this house and does someone own it? I love this house and it seems to be deterating.
    Thank you for sharing the history of Apollo.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jessica, It is a lovely home that looks like it could use a little TLC! I’m not certain who owns the house today or if anyone currently lives there. The Historic Sites Survey report from 1981 says that the home was owned at that time by William & Helen B Speer of Apollo and John L and Jean D Speer Jr of Spring Church. Sorry I don’t know any more. Do any other readers know more about the house at 318 1st Street in Apollo?

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  2. I noticed what I believe is the house I currently own on the interactive map of the fairgrounds in North Apollo. The address on the deed is 1689 Sixteenth Street. Was owned by Miller before me. I was told it was built for an executive of the Apollo Steel Company. When redoing the oak trim baseboards I found a shipping label with the name Stoughton as the purchaser. It’s situated two houses down from the Andrews house featured in your article. On the map it is the blue shaded structure on the other side of 16th Street across from the fairgrounds. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Donald – Thank you for writing. North Apollo’s got such interesting history and architecture throughout, and I recall that the upper end of 16th Street has a wonderful eclectic mix of houses. I don’t have any info on your house in particular, but I have heard that some of the nicer/larger homes were built for steel company executives. I love that you discovered an old shipping label in the baseboards! Here’s a summary of how to do a backward deed search, if you’d like to trace the history of who owned the property before Miller: http://wp.me/p75c12-4z . If I do come across any info about your house, I will let you know. Thanks again for your interest!

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