Brief Summing Up of the House’s History
Dear Apollo-area history lovers: When I started this blog over 3 years ago, in anticipation of Apollo’s 200th anniversary celebration in 2016, I never imagined that our family would be putting this old brick house on the market within the next few years. But that is where we are today. In fact, after only about a week on the market, we’ve accepted an offer on the house, and we hope all stages of the sale process will go smoothly. (Here’s the real estate listing with photos.)
The brick dwelling at 708 Terrace Ave in Apollo, Pennsylvania, has a remarkable history – a history that includes a series of families that have helped to preserve this ~175-year-old building. As many faithful blog readers already know, the house was built by farmer Simon Truby, who in 1843 purchased 156 acres of land that partly bordered the Kiskiminetas River. Today that land includes a significant portion of Apollo borough (much of the land north of N 6th Street) and the southern end of North Apollo, including Pegtown & up to 16th Street (i.e, Simon’s property ends at Helds Shop ‘N Save).
When first built, Simon’s two-story home was an imposing singular presence on the hillside looking westward over his property and the Kiski River. The brick structure was the focal point of his thriving farm. In Truby estate papers at the Kittanning courthouse, family members sometimes refer to the house as “the mansion.” Today this “mansion” is surrounded by dozens of other homes, most of them built after Simon Truby’s death in 1886.
When Apollo’s streets began to stretch onto the former farmland around 1890, Simon’s farmhouse was oddly situated and could not conveniently fit into the town’s grid pattern. So Terrace Avenue was made to curve slightly at the farmhouse property, and the street was extended to lie next to the back of Truby’s farmhouse. That’s when the back of the house became the front, and the beautiful façade you see in this photo at left below, circa 1890, is now the back of the house, partially hidden by an attached pantry (added c 1920) and brick garage (added c 1950).
Truby Farmhouse c 1890 (left) and 2017 (right). The original front of the house is now the back, partly obscured by an add-on pantry and garage.
The house has some beautiful original features, including a grand staircase with bent-wood railings, and simple slightly arched lintels above nearly all doors and windows. Built-in cabinets in the kitchen and dining room mirror the built-ins found in the Gilpin Twp. Farmhouse built by Simon Truby’s older brother Captain Henry Truby (1800-1882) (for details about the 2 Truby houses, see Copycat Brothers). In the basement, there’s an original hand-hewn beam with adz marks that nearly extends from the back of the house to the front.
As shown in the kitchen below, nearly all of the doors and windows are topped with a unique gently arched lintel, which seems befitting of a simple farmhouse.
Three generations of Trubys owned this house over the 85 years between 1844 and 1929. Simon Truby (b 1806, d 1886) and his wife Elizabeth Hill Truby (b 1826, d 1901) were the original owners. Their eldest son, Henry Hill Truby (b 1849, d 1927), purchased the house from his dad’s estate in 1892, and in 1924 he sold the house to his youngest son, Clark Owens Truby (b 1889, d 1959; Clark is the baby in his mother’s arms, at the far right in the 1890 photo above). Clark lost the house at a Sheriff’s Sale in 1929, and then the house transitioned to the bank. Later owners beginning in 1937 included the Baer, Adams, and Hunter families. (For details, see Start with a Dot, Then Follow the Deeds.)
My mom, Rebecca Contie Frayer, purchased the house from Margie and Dale Hunter in the summer of 1975 and lived there for 43 years—as long as Simon Truby himself. This beautiful home has been much loved and preserved in near-original condition by my mom and by many previous owners.
My entire family hopes this grand old farmhouse will find new owners who will enjoy and love the house, its history, and the town of Apollo as much as we all have.
–by Vicki Contie
Follow this blog to read more about the history of the Truby farmhouse and its environs. More stories will come! And as always, you can help to preserve our local history by joining and/or donating to the awesome Apollo Area Historical Society, where dedicated volunteers work hard to keep our history alive.
BTW, Happy 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moonlanding!!!