The “Truby Farmhouse” interactive map of historic sites in Apollo & North Apollo is gradually expanding. I’ve now added most of the houses from North Apollo that were mentioned in the county report. Visit the map and click on the markers to open up photos and brief descriptions of each location. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
The Growing Family of Simon Truby
Technically speaking, Simon Truby was Apollo’s real-life farmer in the dell—especially when he stood on his property along today’s Sugar Hollow Creek/North 11th Street (it’s a dell!). As in the old nursery rhyme, the farmer took a wife; the wife took a child; and the child even took a nurse (domestic servant). But of course Simon’s story then spins out into a more complicated tale, including 2 wives, 9 children, and the death of a 6-year-old son. And though we know his farm produced many pounds of butter, there’s no clear evidence if in the end, as in the nursery rhyme, the cheese stands alone.
Here’s what the records reveal about Simon Truby and his family. As mentioned in an earlier article (Which Simon Truby?), Apollo’s Simon Truby (1806-1886) was from an illustrious family. His granddad, Col. Christopher Truby (1736-1802), was a founder of Greensburg, PA (today the capital of Westmoreland County). Col. Christopher Truby also served in the Pennsylvania Militia during the late 1700s.
Going to the Chapel
Apollo’s Simon Truby married into locally well-connected families. His first wife was Sarah Woodward (1819-1844), the eldest daughter of Armstrong County’s associate judge Robert Woodward, who owned a large farm in Plum Creek Twp. Together, Simon and Sarah Truby had 2 children: Mary Jane (born 1838) and Julia (1840-1920).
A few years after Julia’s birth, Simon and Sarah Truby purchased the 156 acres of land that would become the Truby farm of Apollo. (Read more at Start with a Dot, Then Follow the Deeds). But their dreams of establishing a farm of their own soon came to a tragic end. Just a few months after the land purchase, Sarah died at the age of 24. She was buried in Apollo’s old Presbyterian Cemetery.
A widower at age 37, Simon Truby then met teenager Elizabeth Hill (1826-1901), who had been living on her father’s farm in Parks Twp. The two were married around 1846, and they moved into the red brick farmhouse that today stands at 708 Terrace Ave in Apollo, PA. Their first child, Hannah Ulam Truby, was born in 1847. A few years later, in 1850, Simon’s brother Capt Henry Truby of Gilpin Twp married Elizabeth’s sister Alvinia Hill…but that’s another story that you can read about in Copycat Brothers.
Simon and Elizabeth’s second child, Henry Hill Truby (1849-1927), was named after Simon’s brother. As Simon’s oldest son, Henry Hill Truby would grow up to help his dad manage the Truby Farm, and he would continue to live in the old brick homestead after Simon’s death.
Family Fills the Farmhouse
The federal census of 1850 was the first to list the names and specific ages of all members of a household. Prior to that, only the head of household was named, along with the number of male and female residents and their age ranges. The federal census occurs every 10 years.
In 1850, census records show that Simon and Elizabeth Truby were living in the Truby farmhouse with their 4 children:
- Mary J., age 12, and Juliana, age 10 – they’re the daughters of Simon’s 1st wife, Sarah Woodward Truby.
- Hannah, age 4; and Henry, age 1, the children of Elizabeth Truby.
- A boarder or household servant named Hannah Dauster, age 23, was also living in the 8-room brick house.
It seems that Simon often fibbed about his age to the census taker. In 1850, Simon was 44, but the census lists him as age 40. In 1860, the census shows Simon as a decade younger than he actually was. In 1880, his wife Elizabeth is listed as a decade older than her actual age. Maybe Simon was sensitive about the 20-year age gap between him and wife? Or maybe he honestly couldn’t remember his age; it happens to the best of us!
By 1860, 3 more children were born to Simon and Elizabeth. Their house was probably feeling a bit cramped, with 5 kids and 4 adults, since daughters Mary J. and Juliana Truby were now both in their early 20s. Farmhouse residents were:
- Simon, age 54 (though the census lists his age as 45)
- wife Elizabeth, age 34
- daughter Mary J., 23
- daughter Juliana, 21
- daughter Hannah, 13
- son Henry, 11
- daughter Isabela, or Belle, 8;
- son Winchester, 4;
- son Albert age 6. Sadly, little Albert would die later that year of unknown causes.
This 1861 map of Apollo shows that the Truby farmhouse (red square) was surrounded by undeveloped land, mostly owned by Simon. (Simon’s approximate property lines are highlighted in aqua.) By 1861, Simon had begun dividing the southern portions of his land into dozens of residential lots along today’s N. 6th Street, N. 7th Street, and Armstrong Ave. Some of these later became occupied by his grown children.
Simon’s Daughters: Moving On Out
By 1870, all 4 of Simon’s daughters had gotten married and moved out of the Truby farmhouse.
- Mary Jane Truby had married William H. Henry, who was working in Apollo’s rolling mill. They likely lived along today’s North 7th Street with their 2 children: Harry T Henry, age 4, and Bertha Henry, age 2.
- Nearby was Mary Jane’s sister, Hannah Ulam Truby, who at age 18 had married Civil War veteran Samuel S. Jack, on February 23, 1865. By 1870, Samuel was working at Apollo’s planing mill, and he and Hannah had 2 children: Lilly May Jack, age 5, and newborn Carrie Belle Jack, age 5 months.
- Mary Jane’s sister Julia Truby had married John Finley Whitlinger, a butcher and saddler, and they too were living nearby in Apollo. They had 3 children: Charles Edgar Whitlinger, age 5, who was attending school; Henry Seibert Whitlinger, also age 5, and John Whitlinger, 1. Living with them was David Ashbangh, age 20, a Tanner.
- The 4th Truby daughter, 18-year-old Belle Truby, had married Samuel Carpenter, who was a painter and had also served in the Civil War. The young couple and their infant daughter Minnie were likely living on N. 7th Street, around the corner from Belle’s parents, Simon and Elizabeth Truby.
Meanwhile, back at the Truby homestead, Elizabeth and Simon Truby were busy with their farm and their 4 sons. A domestic live-in servant named Sarah Giger helped around the house. Farmhouse residents were:
- Farmer Simon Truby, age 64 (though the census lists him as age 60)
- wife Elizabeth, 42
- Henry, age 21, worked on the farm;
- Winchester, age 15
- John, 8
- Hill (Charles H.) Truby, 4
- Sarah Giger, age 20, domestic servant
Brimming Brick House in 1880
In 1880, the old brick homestead must’ve felt like it was bursting at the seams, for it housed 7 adults, ranging in age from 20 to 74 years, and 3 children, ranging from 3 months to 14 years old. Simon and Elizabeth were there with their 2 youngest sons, and their newly married son Winchester had moved in with his new bride and their 2 children, as well as his mother-in-law and sister-in-law. A cozy arrangement!
The 10 residents of the Truby farmhouse in 1880 were:
- Simon, age 74 (though the census lists him as age 70)
- wife Elizabeth, age 54 (though the census lists her as age 60)
- son John, 20 – works on farm
- son Chas H., 14—works on farm.
- son Winchester Hill Truby, age 23 – works on farm. He had gotten married in 1875 to
- wife Emma R. Blose Truby, 25. Their children were:
- Willie A. Truby, age 2
- Grace M. Truby, 3 months.
- Melinda Blose, age 56, Emma’s mother
- Kate Blose, age 34, Emma’s sister.
By 1880, Simon’s oldest son Henry Hill Truby (1849-1927) had married Sarah Belle Whitlinger (1849-1914) and moved to a home in neighboring Kiski Twp, likely on his father’s property. The newlyweds were actually siblings-in-law, since Henry’s sister Julia Truby had married Sarah Belle’s brother John Finley Whitlinger about a decade earlier. Their parents were Simon S. Whitlinger and Violet E. Taylor Whitlinger.
In 1880, Henry and Sarah Belle Truby had a boy and a girl: Evart F. Truby, 7, and Ophie Truby, age 11 months. Henry continued to work on his dad’s farm. In fact, Henry’s listed as the manager of Simon Truby’s farm in the federal agricultural census of 1880.
Simon’s 3 daughters also continued to live nearby in Apollo:
- Julia Truby Whitlinger, age 39, along with husband J.F. Whitlinger, age 41, had 7 children: C.W. Whitlinger, age 15, who worked in J.F.’s tannery; H.S. Whitlinger, 13; J.W. Whitlinger, 10; Ida K. Whitlinger, 8; Logan H. Whitlinger, 5; Nellie Whitlinger, 4; and Fred T. Whitlinger, 1.
- Hannah Truby Jack, 32, was living with husband S.S. Jack and 2 children: Lillie M. Jack, 14, and Carrie B. Jack, 10.
- Belle Truby Carpenter, age 28, was living with husband S. C. Carpenter and their 3 children: Minnie H. Carpenter, 10; Willie H. Carpenter, 5; and Lizzie, 3.
By 1880, Simon’s eldest daughter, Mary Jane Truby Henry, 42, had moved to Leechburg with her husband William H. Henry and their 3 children: Harry Henry, 13; Bertha Henry, 11, and Ada Henry, 9.
The federal census of 1880 was the last to include Simon Truby; he died in 1886. And then, it seems, all hell broke lose, as his heirs and others jostled over property rights, inheritance, and other matters in the courts. More on that later.
In the years after Simon’s death, his children and grandchildren will marry into the following Apollo area families: Schriver, McClelland, Young, Wolfe, Hill, Mitchell, Baldridge, Kinter, Mahaffey, Naser, Hendricks, Husselton, Bulette, Kunselman, Smith, Knepshield, Johnston, Bott, Swope, Claypool, Gumbert, Flickinger, Hoofring, Held, Hagens, Wiley, and Riggle. That’s a lot of families!
In upcoming blog posts, we’ll look at some of the houses built by Simon Truby’s children and grandchildren in Apollo and North Apollo.
And coming soon: Simon Truby & Nellie Bly: A surprising connection!
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Hope to see you at Apollo’s 200th anniversary celebration, July 1-10. More at http://www.apollo200.org/
A Continuing look at the 1980-81 Historic Sites Survey
While researching the history of Simon Truby’s farmhouse in Apollo, PA, I happened upon an architectural survey of historic buildings in Apollo and other towns in Armstrong County. This Historic Sites Survey was conducted more than 3 decades ago, in 1980 and 1981.
It’s unclear what criteria the surveyors used to choose the 29 homes and other buildings in their report on Apollo Borough. They seemed to overlook a few beauties, including the Damico home at the corner of N. 9th Street and Terrace Ave, built circa 1895 by Frank W. Jackson, son of Apollo’s General Samuel McCartney Jackson and uncle of Hollywood actor Jimmy Stewart.
Still, the historic sites surveyors made some interesting choices that could cause you to take a 2nd look at homes that might initially seem unremarkable. If you look carefully enough, every home or building or structure has a story to tell or raises questions to investigate.
“If you look carefully enough, every home or building or structure has a story to tell or raises questions to investigate.”
You can read in earlier blog posts an overview of the 1980-81 survey, with an emphasis on Terrace Ave (Apollo & the Historic Sites Survey of 1980-81), and describing Apollo & North Apollo’s I-house and 4-over-4 style homes (Apollo’s “folk-type” architecture). Sad to say, some of the old houses included in the site survey report have since fallen into disrepair.
Here we’ll take a look at two other historic vernacular-type houses in our community: Bungalow and Upright & Wing. All the houses described below were included in the 1980-81 survey, and I’ve included downloadable PDFs of the surveyor’s original reports, if you’re interested.
BUNGALOW: A story and a half
Bungalows are generally considered to be 1- or 1½-story houses with a simple design, low sloping roof, and a front porch. This type of house design originated in the Bengal region of South Asia–the word “bungalow” means “house in the Bengal style”–and it quickly gained popularity around the world during the early 1900s. Read more about bungalows here http://www.antiquehome.org/Architectural-Style/bungalow.htm.
Bungalow-style architecture seemed to be all the rage in Apollo during the roaring 20s and beyond. In fact, at least 25 bungalows were built in Apollo Borough in the 1920s and 1930s, according to the Historic Sites Survey report.
The report notes that the Buyers house at 320 N. Third Street in Apollo is a notable example of bungalow-style architecture in the borough. The house was built circa 1930.
|Click the icon at right to download the 2-page PDF of the Historic Sites Survey report for the Buyers bungalow-style house at 320 N. Third Street:|
The historic surveyors also described four bungalow-style houses in North Apollo Borough. However, I was unable to identify these buildings the last time I was back home in Pennsylvania. The street numbers in the Historic Sites Report did not seem to match the street numbers on the dwellings in North Apollo. If you can help me identify the houses listed below, or send me photos of them, I’d be most grateful! I’ll include more info about these houses and acknowledge your help in a future blog post.
- Shriver house, 802 Moore Ave, North Apollo – A bungaloid-style house made of stucco/wood and built circa 1920.
- Shaffer house, 823 Wilson Ave, NA – A brick/tile bungalow built circa 1826.
- Kuhns house, 352 Wemple Ave, NA – A bungalow built in 1922 of stucco/wood.
- Andrews house, 1693 N 16th Street, NA – a brick bungalow built in 1926. Download the PDF of the Andrews house site survey report.
Can you help to identify or photograph the North Apollo bungalows at the addresses listed above?
The Historic Sites report notes that many of North Apollo’s bungalows were built during a period of prosperity and population growth after the Apollo Steel Company began operations in 1913. In fact, the company built many single-family bungalow houses along Moore Ave and elsewhere in North Apollo beginning in 1921.
Upright-and-Wing-type dwellings were popular in western Pennsylvania during the late 1800s, according to the Historic Sites Survey report. This type of house generally has a 2-story gabled “upright” section attached to a 1- or 2-story wing. Here’s Wikipedia’s entry on Upright-and-Wing folk-type architecture.
The 1980-81 report says that the Womeldorf house at 605 N Fourth Street is a unique variation on the Upright-and-Wing. Evidence hints that the house may have been built between 1876 and 1896, during a period when the burgeoning railroad and local steel industries led to a boost in the local population. Of note is the 1 1/2-story mansard-roofed section in the middle of the L-shaped floorplan. It appears that the house’s distinctive original windows have been replaced since the 1980-81 report was written. Note the original fieldstones at the base of the upright section.
|Download the 2-page PDF of the Historic Sites Survey report for the Womeldorf Upright-and-Wing house at 605 N. Fourth Street:|
Another Upright-and-Wing cited in the 1980-81 report is located at 416 N. Fourth Street. Known as the Clemenson house, this home was built circa 1870. The report notes that the gabled roof features cornice returns, and that the back porch retains its original wood eave trim, but the original front porch features had been replaced.
|Download the 2-page PDF of the Historic Sites Survey report for the Clemenson house at 416 N. Fourth Street:|
Upright-and-Wing in North Apollo – A little help please? The Historic Sites Survey cited one Upright-and-Wing home in North Apollo, located at 830 Acheson Ave. Known as the Fouse house, this home is apparently at the corner of Acheson Ave and North 16th Street. Again, I was not able to locate that North Apollo home. If you can provide information or a photo of the Fouse house, I’d be very appreciative. The Fouse house, according to the survey report, is a 2-story Upright-and-Wing with a slate-covered multi-gable roof interrupted by one interior brick chimney, and with simple Tuscan-order columns that support the plain establature and roof of the wrap-around front portico. A one-story wing section and porch abut the rear of the house.
MAP OF HOMES in the 1980-81 Historic Sites survey
I’ve been gradually building this interactive map of homes and other buildings that were described in the 1980-81 Armstrong County Historic Sites Survey. Please visit & click around to see images and brief descriptions of the buildings. I’d like to add North Apollo homes to the map as well, but I’d be grateful for some assistance from people familiar with the area. Beneath this image, please see a “wish list” of North Apollo homes I’d like to identify or have photos of.
North Apollo Wish List: The following homes were listed in the Historic Sites Survey, but I haven’t been able to find them nor photograph them based on the addresses listed in the historic survey report. If you can help, please let me know! I’d like to add more NA homes to the interactive map.
- Davis house, 678 Cochrane Ave – 2-story, 2-bay Cubic-style wood house built circa 1928.
- Held house, 230 Leonard Ave – Brick Cubic-style house built in 1927.
- Reefer house, PA Route 66 & 15th Street – Wood I-house with a back wing section resulting in a T-shaped plan. A 2-story 3-bay dwelling with a gabled roof and 2 exterior brick chimneys. Built 1892.
- Cravener house, 507 Spring Street – Wood I-house, built circa 1900, with its gabled end facing the street and one central brick chimney that interrupts the slate-covered gabled roof and a 2nd brick chimney, located at the exterior gable end.
- Kirkman house, Grove Street – Built in 1886, this structure is probably one of North Apollo’s earliest remaining farmhouses. It’s a vernacular I-house with 2 stories, 5 bays, and a frame construction. A front-facing gable interrupts the roofline.
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Up next: The Farmer Takes a Wife: Simon Truby, his wives, and his children. Thanks for reading!
The Matching Houses, Wives, & Lives of Simon & Capt Henry Truby
Don’t be surprised if the theme song from the Patty Duke Show gets stuck in your head as you contemplate the parallel lives of Apollo’s farmer Simon Truby and his older brother Henry of Gilpin Twp, PA. These brothers were 2 of a kind.
Though they had 5 other siblings (as outlined in an earlier blog post), Simon (1806-1886) and his brother Capt Henry Truby (1800-1882) seemed to be especially in sync. They farmed alike, married wives alike, they even built their homes alike. Sometimes Simon seemed to follow in his older brother’s footsteps. Other times, Simon blazed a trail with Henry tagging behind.
In 1843, these 2 brothers each made a significant purchase of farmland. Henry bought a large chunk (about 108 acres) of the George Hawk farm in Gilpin Twp, a little to the north and east of Leechburg. Henry’s new farm was dubbed Mount Joy; I wish I knew the origin of that name! A few months later, Simon Truby—already living in Warren, as Apollo was then known—purchased 156 acres of land that straddled Warren and Kiski Twp, PA. (Read more at Start with a Dot, Then Follow the Deeds.) Simon’s and Henry’s farms were about 11 miles apart when traveling along the old River Road.
The 2 Truby brothers then proceeded to marry a pair of sisters whose father, Jacob Honorable Hill, owned a sizable farm in nearby Parks Twp. Simon took the matrimonial plunge first, marrying Elizabeth Hill around 1846. Henry then followed suit a few years later, marrying Elizabeth’s sister Alvinia in February 1850. The Hill sisters were about 20 years younger than their new Truby husbands.
“The Hill sisters were about 20 years younger than their new Truby husbands.”
The brothers also occasionally dabbled in similar trades. In addition to farming, Capt Henry Truby manned a packet boat that carried passengers from Leechburg up and down the Pennsylvania Canal. And Simon at least briefly pursued work as a packet boat captain as well.
And then then there’s the matter of the matching houses. The 2 Truby brothers built near-identical 4-Over-4 brick homes on their respective properties. The 2 houses are exactly the same size, with 2,560 square feet of living area, according to the real estate website Zillow.
Thanks go to Simon Truby’s great-great-grandaughter, Linda Truby Touzeau of Arizona, for alerting me to the existence of Capt Henry Truby’s lovely home in Gilpin Twp, near the intersection of Lover’s Leap and Truby Hill roads. Linda and her father, Simon Thompson Truby Jr., took this photo of the house back in the mid-1990s while on a genealogy tour across Pennsylvania. Linda noted that Capt Henry’s “Mount Joy” house bore a remarkable resemblance to the 1890 photo of Simon Truby’s home. (Read Photograph Forensics to learn how we know that the old photo depicts Simon Truby’s home in Apollo, PA.)
Capt Henry Truby and the Mt Joy farm in Gilpin Twp
Capt Henry Truby kept a diary of his day-to-day life throughout the 1840s and beyond. A transcript of this diary can be found in the Truby binder at the Apollo Memorial Library. The diary begins shortly after he’d purchased the Mt Joy property in 1843 & continued intermittently until his death in 1883. I’ll write a future blog post about Capt Henry Truby and the Mt Joy farm, for it has a storied history. But for now, let’s simply focus on his stately house.
The current owners, Mary Clark Bevan & her son Ronald Bevan, were kind enough to give me a tour of their home last summer. Mary’s grandfather James D. Clark purchased the 105-acre farm in 1907 and launched a thriving fruit-farming operation. Mary’s family has lovingly owned & maintained this land ever since. Click the image below to download a 2006 article about their Gilpin Twp home from the Valley News Dispatch.
Comparing Simon & Capt Henry’s Homes
The Bevan/Mt Joy/Capt Henry home retains many original features that the Simon Truby house in Apollo no longer has, especially the lovely 5-bay Georgian facade on both sides of the house. Both central exterior doorways in the Bevan/Mt Joy/Capt Henry home have the original colored-glass sidelights. In the Simon Truby house in Apollo, the original front doorway remains intact, but the glass is gone and replaced with white-painted wood.
The Bevan’s Mt Joy house also retains all of its original fireplaces, 1 in each of the 8 rooms of the house. In Simon Truby’s house in Apollo, only 3 of the original 8 fireplaces remain, all on the first floor. In both houses, though, the owners wouldn’t dream of trying to use those old fireplaces!
The staircases in both homes have similar wood paneling along the sides. But Capt. Henry Truby’s staircase has a landing at the 12th step and then doubles back with a few more steps to the upstairs hallway. Simon’s staircase is a single flight of 17 steps.
Both homes also have matching built-in corner cupboards in the kitchen; Capt Henry has an additional one in the dining room.
The interior walls in both homes are made of solid brick, which makes it difficult to run duct work for air conditioning or heat.
In the upstairs bedrooms of both homes, the 2 rooms on the left side have a connecting doorway in between, presumably to give parents/caregivers ready access to an adjoining nursery room.
Although Simon and his brother Henry both purchased their properties around the same time in 1843, it’s not clear whose brick home was built first or when. Having toured both houses, Simon Truby’s home strikes me as a little more primitive. Simon’s house has plain, slightly arched lintels over every interior door and window, whereas Capt Henry’s house more detailed interior elements.
The original back of Simon’s house is also more primitive. It lacks the 5-bay symmetry that appears on both sides of Capt Henry’s house. I suspect that Simon built his home first, and his brother Henry’s house benefited from “lessons learned” after Simon’s experiences. If anyone can provide further evidence on this matter, please let me know!
Coming up: More of the vernacular-type houses listed in 1980-81 Historic Sites Survey of Apollo.
Drop by the Truby Farmhouse website, take a look around, and drop me a note!
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.
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.
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:|
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.
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|
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.
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.|
|Download the 1-page PDF of the Sites Survey report for the Toland house at 500 N. Fourth Street.|
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.|
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.
In 1980, Armstrong County PA deployed a fleet of experts in architecture and history to scour the region looking for historic structures, including buildings and bridges. It’s hard to find info about this Armstrong County Historical Sites Survey on the Web. But the Kittanning Public Library has a set of 3-ring binders with photocopies of 2-page reports on all the sites they reviewed.
Nearly 30 historic buildings in Apollo PA were included in their analysis (more about that below). The report’s summing up about the town (download the PDF) notes that “Apollo Borough’s colorful historical development has produced a majority of turn-of-the Century vernacular residences, a variety of popular 19th Century architectural styles, and early 20th Century Bungalow, Cubic, and Colonial Revival styles.”
In other words, the town is jam-packed with a wide variety of cool historic houses.
The report further notes that the town’s earliest buildings had been destroyed by the 1876 fire and the St Patrick’s Day flood in 1936, with the sole survivor being Drake’s Log Cabin, built circa 1816 away from the floodplain. And “A 4 Over 4 folk-type residence on Terrace Avenue is one of the other few remaining buildings from the 1840-1859 period.” That 4 Over 4 folk-type house is the Simon Truby farmhouse at 708 Terrace Ave. (Read more about Apollo’s historic 4-Over-4 houses at Apollo’s “folk-type” architecture)
ALONG TERRACE AVENUE
Terrace Ave is recognized for having “Apollo’s most impressive, and most well-preserved buildings dating from the turn of the Century. These residences represent an age of prosperity during the community’s railroad and steel mill eras.”
The report cites 4 homes in particular on Terrace Ave:
Site survey report PDF for the Amy Snyder house. Download the PDF:
MAPPING THE HISTORIC SITES
This map (also below) shows some of the other buildings featured in the 1980-81 Historic Sites report, including:
- Whitlinger house at 406 N Fourth Street Apollo PA. Built c 1870, this brick building is eclectic, combining architectural features from the Colonial Revival Style and the 2nd Empire Style. It’s one of the few buildings in Apollo with a Mansard style roof.
- Dr. McCullough house at 323 First Street Apollo PA. Built in 1850, this 2-story residence is one of the earliest examples of a 5-bay I House in the Apollo Borough. (Read more about Apollo’s historic I-houses in Apollo’s “folk-type” architecture)
- Apollo United Presbyterian Church, 401 First Street Apollo PA.
- Apollo Area Community Center/Municipal Bldg at 405 Pennsylvania Ave Apollo PA.
- WCTU building at 317 N. Second Street Apollo PA. Current home of the Apollo Area Historical Society.
Click on the map to open a larger interactive version. I’ll add more buildings to the map as time allows.
What is a 4 Over 4 folk-type house? And what’s an I-house? I wondered that myself! Tune in to the next blog post — Apollo’s “folk-type” architecture — to find out.
Please comment or share any additional thoughts/info you might have, whether about historic houses in Apollo & environs, or about the 1980-81 Armstrong Historic Sites survey, or whatever’s on your mind. Thanks for reading!
Visit the website’s homepage at trubyfarmhouseapollopa.wordpress.com/
The image at the very top of this blog post is from a postcard of Terrace Ave, Apollo PA circa 1910.
Where do you begin researching the story of an old house? You can try googling the address, but that will only get you so far. Real estate websites like Zillow and Trulia will list what year the house was built—a date usually drawn from county tax records—but such dates may not be accurate for older houses, especially those built before 1900.
Can you close your eyes and think about a home from your childhood? Picture opening the front door and walking inside. What do you see? Furniture, objects, people, maybe pets? Your old bedroom, your favorite toys?
It seems amazing that certain spaces and places can remain so alive and 3-dimensional in our minds even after decades. Even if those buildings are now long gone — maybe burned or razed or replaced by another building or a highway — their intricate interiors can still exist in our memories, and we can move around and interact with that space.
Our homes have witnessed the greatest joys and tragedies in our lives. So it’s no wonder that they can occupy such a vibrant expanse in our memories. And older houses have witnessed such life-changing events many times over, as different families have come and gone.
When my family moved into this old brick house in 1975, we knew essentially nothing about the house’s history. Our curiosity was briefly piqued when, a few months later, my mom noticed a map in the Apollo library that looked something like this map from 1876, with the lonely-looking square in the upper right labeled S. Truby.
“I think that’s our house,” mom said. “I think we’re living in an old farmhouse. It’s probably the oldest house on our block.”
Well, that’s neat. But we weren’t really sure, and we knew of no easy way to research the history of the house in those pre-Internet days. So we let the matter drop.
When Apollo celebrated its 175th anniversary in 1991, I thought for sure we’d finally learn more about this old house and S. Truby. But no such luck! S. Truby wasn’t even mentioned in any of the booklets or articles or presentations put together at that time. And our house wasn’t listed among any of the town’s historic buildings.
So as the town’s 200th anniversary neared (Apollo, PA, was founded in 1816), it seemed time to stop waiting for someone else to unexpectedly hand us interesting facts about the house. It was time to get our butts in gear and scour the Web, local libraries, and awesome historical and genealogical societies for more information about S. Truby and his family.
We uncovered much much more than we’d ever expected — about the house, its families, and the town of Apollo. And there’s still a boatload of information I’m still working to discover.
I now know that Simon Truby was a farmer whose land now makes up about one-third of the total acreage of Apollo Borough. He likely built this brick house —the Truby homestead — around 1843, which makes this one of the oldest standing houses in Apollo. I know that in 1850 his farm produced 400 pounds of butter, 60 pounds of honey, and 100 pounds of wool from 40 sheep. And he grew potatoes, oats, corn, and hay. I know that Simon’s wife Elizabeth and their 9 children helped out on the farm, and farming ceased around 1892 as the town encroached on the land.
As I’ve learned more about Simon Truby and the other families who’ve lived in this house, I try to imagine the rooms as they saw them, and I can sometimes visualize them moving about the house. I stand at the top of this old staircase and try to envision wood planks instead of red carpeting. And I imagine Simon Truby standing at this very spot, ready to descend the stairs and start the day’s work on the farm, milking cows, mending fences, or shearing sheep.
I also wonder which bedroom was Simon’s and Elizabeth’s, and where did their kids sleep? I hypothesize that Simon chose my bedroom, in the northwest corner of the house, as it would have had the best view of the river and the farm. And just this past summer, I noticed that the big dipper regularly appears in the center of the north-facing window each night. So again, I try to mind-meld with Simon, who surely looked out this very window, studied these same stars, marveled at the beauty of the moonlit landscape, and got a glimpse of what the next day’s weather might bring.
Please follow this blog to learn more about Simon Truby, his house, and its families. And if you have your own stories or photos or information to share, please comment on this post, or leave a message on this page: http://wp.me/P75c12-2d
– Vicki Contie