North Apollo Homes in the 1980-81 Historic Sites Survey
When it comes to local towns, the borough of North Apollo at age 86 is really a sprightly young whippersnapper compared to the wizened, wise, slightly eccentric but always beloved 200-year-old grandpappy of Apollo PA. Despite its youth, North Apollo has some stately old homes built decades before the borough was incorporated. And some “newcomers” built during the Roaring 20s are also architectural lookers.
In fact, a dozen North Apollo houses were identified in an old county report as having some sort of historical/architectural significance. Many of the homeowners may have no clue that their houses were featured in this 35-year-old government survey, or that their residence is (or was) considered a sterling example of a certain type of local architecture.
Ever Heard of Luxemburg Heights?
After the 1890s, a community known as Luxemburg Heights was mapped out on the northern remains of Simon Truby’s farm. Today that community is located in the southwest corner of North Apollo borough. As you may already know if you’ve been reading the Truby Farmhouse Blog, North Apollo’s Pegtown was also laid out on Simon Truby’s farmland.
The Sanborn Fire Insurance map below from 1915 shows the layout and homes in the Luxemburg Heights community 100 years ago. All of the streets and residential lots on this map, as far to the right as N 16th Street, used to be Simon Truby’s farmland. The oval fairgrounds near the bottom of the map and the lands below had belonged to Simon’s farmer friend George Washington Hildebrand.
1915 map of Luxemburg Heights, which today is at the southwestern end of North Apollo borough. This residential community, above the oval Apollo Fairgrounds, was mapped out on Simon Truby’s farmland several years after his death in 1886. Can you find your home – or a friend’s home – on this map? Sanborn Fire Insurance Map.
Historic Sites Survey
If you read my earlier Truby Farmhouse articles, you may already know about Armstrong County’s 1980-81 Historic Sites Survey, in which the county hired architectural historians to visit and photograph dozens of locations county-wide. They wrote up a 1- or 2-page report for each property. Most people didn’t realize their house(s) had been included in this survey. In most cases, the experts simply viewed the houses from the outside, without knocking on doors, and wrote up their very interesting but brief reports.
Below are most of the 12 North Apollo homes described in the 1980-81 Historic Sites Survey, starting with the oldest houses still standing. About half of these dwellings were built on Simon Truby’s old farm. All but 1 or 2 of the 12 listed homes still exist. There were 3 dwellings I couldn’t find–on Spring St, Moore Ave, & Hickory Nut Road–but I’ll bet at least the Moore Ave house is still around. Can you help? The 3 un-found houses are highlighted in Yellow below.
North Apollo’s Old Timers: I Houses & a 4-Over-4
As described in an earlier post, I-Houses & 4-Over-4 houses were common in Western Pennsylvania in the late 1700s and early 1800s. I-Houses have 2 rooms on each floor with a central hallway. 4-Over-4 houses are 2 rooms wide and 2 rooms deep, with a central hallway that runs from the front to the back of the house. Three I-houses and one 4-Over-4 in North Apollo–all likely built in the late 1800s–were included in the County’s 1980-81 Historic Sites Survey Report.
The gorgeous Kirkman I-House on Grove Street–see the large photo at the very top of this article–was built in 1886, according to tax assessment records. It’s one of North Apollo’s oldest remaining farmhouses. Special thank you to Vivian Shaeffer, whose grandparents Nellie (Boarts) and Thomas H. Kirkman had long lived in this house, having purchased it in 1956 from the Noel family. Over Memorial Day weekend, Vivian connected me with her mom, Carole Kennedy, who co-owns the house today. And Carole was kind enough to give us a tour of their lovely family home and surrounding land.
The 1980-81 Historic Sites Survey notes that this vernacular I-house has 2 stories, 5 bays (a bay is a window or door), and a frame construction. A front-facing gable interrupts the roofline. A rear wing—added later gives the building a distinctive T-shape. In the 1896 map a few paragraphs below, a blue arrow points to a drawing of this treasure of a house.
Carole says that this house was originally built by a Hildebrand. I’m still researching the details as to which Hildebrand, as the original landowner—George Washington Hildebrand—had died before this house was built in 1886. I suspect the house may have been built by one of George’s sons. More to come.
The Reefer House of North Apollo is another grand old I-House—this one built in 1892, according to tax assessments. Located near PA Route 66 at Clark Ave and N 15th Street, this 2-story 3-bay dwelling has a gabled roof and 2 exterior brick chimneys.
The county’s 1980-81 Historic Sites Survey report notes that:
“The [Reefer house] is one of a row of 5 houses of identical design, built as single-family dwellings during the late 19th Century. All of these buildings appear on a 1896 panoramic map of the Apollo area.
PA Route 66, a major Armstrong County highway that now fronts these houses, appears on the map as a narrow insignificant road. At that time this road provided access to nearby Apollo Borough for the sparsely settled hilltop area, which developed into North Apollo Borough in the 20th Century. … When surveyed, this house was vacant and undergoing renovation.”
Here’s a close-up of a portion of the 1896 panoramic map described above, featuring today’s North Apollo. The 5 similar houses are circled and labeled in red, with the Reefer house at the far left. The Kirkman I-House is labeled with a blue arrow. Click on the map to open up a larger version, or click here.
And here’s a close-up of the 1915 Sanborn map showing the same 5 houses circled in red. The Reefer house is at the far right; the 2nd house from the right no longer exists; and I’m not sure if the other 3 at left remain standing. Click for a larger version.
UPDATE from June 2016: Reader Dawn Henry Bentley commented that the house that was NEXT to the Reefer house had belonged to her great-grandparents, T William & Mary Louanna McPhilliamy; that house is no longer standing.
I couldn’t find the Cravener house, supposedly located at 507 Spring Street, which is the 3rd North Apollo I-house listed in the Historic Sites report. The report includes a small map showing that the house is near the intersection of Spring & Oakwood Streets (see below). But I couldn’t find a 2-story I-house at that location. If you have any knowledge of this old I house or tidbits to share, please add a Comment to the end of this article. It’d be fun to learn more about the history of this apparently now-gone home.
The blue Hines-Sanders house at 1722 Hickory Nut Road, built between 1880 & 1899, is the only 4-over-4 type house in North Apollo that’s listed in the 1980-81 Historic Sites report. Today that house is owned by the Barto family. Read more about this house and 4-Over-4 construction in an earlier blog post.
UPRIGHT & WING
The Historic Sites Survey cited one Upright & Wing home in North Apollo, located at 1602 Acheson Ave, at the corner of Acheson & N. 16th Street. Known as the Fouse house, built in 1908, this home is a 2-story Upright & Wing, which is a variation on the I-house design, but with a 1- or 2-story wing added on. Here’s Wikipedia’s entry on Upright-and-Wing folk-type architecture.
The historic sites survey report further notes:
“Several Upright & Wing folk-type houses are located on Acheson Ave, North Apollo borough. This type of house design… is found throughout Armstrong County. The population growth that led to the incorporation of North Apollo Borough in 1930 was just beginning when this house was built in 1908. The trolly of the Leechburg and Apollo Electric Railway, which began operations in 1906, ran directly past this house along Acheson Ave. This encouraged residential development in the Borough by providing easy access to the adjacent towns and their employment.”
By the way, this Acheson Ave house is currently on the market!
AMERICAN FOURSQUARE, OR CUBIC
Cubic-type houses, also known as American Foursquare, were locally popular in the 1920s, according to Armstrong County’s 1980-81 Historic Sites Survey. “This decade marked the beginning of the automobile era in America, and cubic houses were the first style to have attached garages. Many houses of this style were built in Armstrong County at this time,” the report states.
In fact, 9 Cubic-type houses were constructed in North Apollo during the 1920s. Two of these were recognized in the county’s Historic Sites Survey report.
Foursquare houses are a roughly cubic, 2-story structures, usually with a pyramidal roof that has 1 or more dormers. Each floor generally has 4 square-shaped rooms with a central hallway. This house type originated in the U.S. in the 1890s and remained popular throughout the 1930s. They’re especially good for giving maximal living space on small residential lots.
The brick Held house at 1324 Leonard Ave, at the corner of Leonard & N 14th St, is an “excellent example of the Cubic style,” the report notes. It was built in 1927, according to tax assessment records.
The 1980-81 Historic Sites report states:
This dwelling, built as a single-family residence, helped house the influx of the population to this area, which was the most populous section of Kiskiminetas Township in the 1920s. Citizen organization led to incorporation of North Apollo Borough in 1930, three years after this house was built. There are several cubic homes in the immediate vicinity, but this was selected for its unaltered appearance and above average conditions. The original owners occupy the house.
Another lovely Cubic house, known in 1980 as the Davis house, is located at 1202 Cochrane Ave. It was built in 1928. Today the house is owned by the Rodgers family.
The county’s Historic Sites Survey recognized the following 3 bungalow-style houses in North Apollo. Bungalows are typically 1-and-a-half stories. Read more about bungalow architecture at Apollo’s Historic House Styles: Bungalow & Upright-and-Wing.
How is a bungaloid house different from a bungalow? I have no clue. But the Shriver house listed at 802 Moore Ave is classified as a Bungaloid, according to the county’s 1980-81 Historic Sites Survey report. However, I couldn’t find this house. A portion of the report is below and may provide some clues, including a description of house features. Can you shed any light on the location of this house? Click the image to open a larger version.
The Shriver house report goes on to include this interesting background on the history of North Apollo:
The Apollo Steel Company brought prosperity and population growth to the Apollo area when it began operations in 1913. In 1921, the company had several stucco-covered, single-family, bungalow-style houses built on Moore Ave in North Apollo.
[The Shriver house] was selected for its unaltered appearance and grey color, although various pastel shades were used for others on the street. This area of the borough was once called Allison Lane, before it was combined with Pegtown and Luxemborg Heights sections to form North Apollo Borough in 1930. Two waves of residential construction are apparent in the Allison Lane area, the first in the 1920s when this company house was built, and the second later, in the 1950s.
HAPPY NEWS! A long-time resident of the Shriver house at 802 Moore Ave has sent the photo of Shriver house. The photo is a several years old. A lovely house!
In addition, an email from Lawana & Phil Murphy of North Apollo helped clear up some confusion over the street addresses, which have apparently changed since the Armstrong County Historic Site Survey was completed in the 1980s. Today, 802 Moore Ave is 1724 Moore.
VERNACULAR QUEEN ANN – Also missing
The Historic Sites Survey says that the Cockran house on Hickory Nut Road, built c. 1900, is a vernacular style structure that’s unique to North Apollo’s built environment. “The residence is an example of an attempt by the common man to integrate popular stylistic features into a less expensive dwelling,” the county’s architectural experts wrote.
Sad to say, I can’t seem to find this house! The portion of the report pasted in below may provide some clues. If you can figure out where this house is located, please let us all know by commenting at the end of the article.
UPDATE in June 2016: Readers Debbie Kloc and Milli Cook note that the Earlie Cockran house was torn down years ago. See their Comments at the end of the article for more details.
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Help to preserve Apollo’s history by making a donation to the Apollo Area Historical Society at https://apollopahistory.wordpress.com/donate/ . And stop by their museum on N. 2nd Street to see their displays, neat old photos, & hot Apollo merch for sale, including the 1896 panoramic map of Apollo.
Come check out Apollo’s History Walk along Roaring Run Trail on Sun July 3, from 4-6pm (I think). I’ll have a table with info about Apollo’s architectural styles and also the Truby farm, family, and farmhouse. Plus, you can visit other tables as you stroll along through Apollo’s 200 years of history. Be there or be square!
-by Vicki Contie
Ellicott City, MD