Architectural Old Gems in North Apollo PA

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

Apollo & the Historic Sites Survey of 1980-81

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. 300_PDF_download

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:

JacksonHouse-Dec2012

“The Col. Jackson house, built in 1883, as a combination of Italianate and Colonial Revival Stylistic features.”  Photo by Vicki Contie.

NellieBlyHouse-CourtesyAAHS

The house at 505 Terrace Ave is “the most elaborate example of the Colonial Revival style found in Apollo and built between 1900 and 1919,” according to the Historic Sites Survey.

SnyderHouseEarly1900s

The Amy Snyder house, “an excellent example of the Queen Anne style house built between 1880 and 1899.”300_PDF_download

Site survey report  PDF for the Amy Snyder house. Download the PDF:

MomsHouse-MemDay2014-byAuntCathy-Crop

And Simon Truby’s farmhouse on Terrace Ave in Apollo, PA.    A 4 Over 4 vernacular-type house built during the 1840-1859 period, already mentioned as one of the few remaining buildings from this era. Photo by Cathy Hubbard.

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.

    McCulloughHouse-Crop2015

    Dr. McCullough house at 323 First Street in Apollo. A 5-bay I house. Photo by Vicki Contie.

  • 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.

HistoricSitesMap2016

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.

The Home in Your Mind

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.1876-apollo-fullMap-Pomeroy

“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.

DSCN2982

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