Pennsylvania Historic Preservation

Blog of the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Office

December 12, 2018

Just listed!! An Update from the PA SHPO’s National Register staff

Before we talk about the newest additions to the National Register in Pennsylvania, let’s try a little National Register trivia:

Question 1:

Is something listed IN the National Register of Historic Places, or ON the National Register of Historic Places?

If you answered “in,” you are correct (at least according to the National Park Service.) I like to remember it like this: the original National Register was an actual book – so you were listed IN the register. Unfortunately google has failed to show me a photo of that original book to share with you.

Plaque on rocl

The Hood Octagonal School is located in Newtown Square, Delaware County.  Photo from the Newtown Square Historical Society Facebook page @

Question 2:

How many criteria do you have to meet to be listed in the Register?

Just one!

Remember, there are 4 criteria:

  • A: That are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; or
  • B: That are associated with the lives of significant persons in our past; or
  • C: That embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction; or
  • D: That have yielded or may be likely to yield, information important in history or prehistory.

BUT, a property only has to meet ONE of them to be potentially listed in the Register. Interestingly, in Pennsylvania the most common criterion is C (architecture), followed by A (significant events).

Question 3:

One more! How many properties are listed in the National Register in Pennsylvania?

An excellent question! The answer is a specifically vague “there are just over 3,200 NR listed resources.” However, that number does not account for the large number of properties that contribute to historic districts! Because so many of the district nominations are old, dating to the beginning of the NR process, there is not a complete inventory available for every district in the Commonwealth. So, the actual number of listed properties is significantly higher than 3,200!

Now on to our new listings…

Since our last Just Listed blog post in June, Pennsylvania has added 2 objects (the Mason Dixon West Line Milestone Markers 76 and 77), and eight buildings to the list.

You will notice something unusual about the Mason Dixon Markers on the list below – it says Maryland! Well, because the markers denote the boundary between our two states, the Maryland SHPO originally approved the nomination, and then shared it with the PA SHPO for approval by our Historic Preservation Board.  These Markers came with some of the best letters of support we’ve ever received – hand drawn pictures of the stones by some future historic preservationists.


Mason and Dixon Marker Number 76.



This nomination even had support from some future preservationists!

We have also had a Multiple Property Documentation Form (MPDF) approved for Public Schools in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1938-ca.1980, which you may remember from a previous blog post. This will allow us to more easily list many more public school buildings in Philly, since the context has now been developed and finalized. If you’d like to read the documentation, you can find it on the City of Philadelphia’s website – here!

When we submit an MPDF to the Park Service for approval, we are required to submit a nomination along with it to test the application of the proposed registration requirements. This time we sent two! Joining the recently listed properties in PA are the Charles Carroll Public School, 2700 E Auburn Street, and the M. Hall Stanton Public School, at 2539 N. 16th Street.

The Carroll School is significant under Criterion A for education. It is an example of Philadelphia school reform and design, particularly during the “Urban Crisis Era” from c.1965 – 1980. The Charles Carroll Public School was not listed in the National Register of Historic Places in the 1980s under the original “Philadelphia Public Schools Thematic Resources” due to the presence of the 1970 addition, which was seen at the time as negatively impacting the school’s integrity.   The newly completed MPDF now provides a context in which to evaluate and list a school such as this, with a significant unique and local story to tell.


The 1920s Charles Carroll Public School, Philadelphia, in 2017. Photograph by Robert Powers from the Charles Carroll High School National Register Nomination.

The M. Hall Stanton Public School, also listed under Criterion A, has a period of significance from the completion of construction to 1968, when the community was lobbying for school reform and inclusion within the Model Cities program.

If you have a property you’d love to see listed in the National Register – tell us about it!! Take a photo and post it to Instagram with the #preservationhappenshere hashtag, and tell us in the caption why you think the property is eligible. We’d love to see more buildings listed in Pennsylvania and record more of stories about the Commonwealth’s built environment!

Here are all the properties listed in the last 6 months:

Mason and Dixon West Line Milestone Markers 76 and 77,
716 Mason Dixon Rd.,
Harney vicinity, SG100002789,
LISTED, 8/21/2018

Martin, C.F. & Company.,
10 W North & 201 N Main Sts.,
Nazareth, SG100002837,
LISTED, 9/4/2018

Whiteford, Hugh and Elizabeth Ross, House,
306 Broad St.,
Delta, SG100002988,
LISTED, 9/21/2018

Public Schools in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1938-ca.1980 MPS,

Carroll, Charles, Public School,
2700 E Auburn St.,
Philadelphia, MP100002986,
LISTED, 9/25/2018
(Public Schools in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1938-ca.1980 MPS)

Stanton, M. Hall, Public School,
2539 N 16th St.,
Philadelphia, MP100002987,
LISTED, 9/25/2018
(Public Schools in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1938-ca.1980 MPS)

Ivy Cottage,
225 W. Lincoln Hwy.,
Exton vicinity, 84003961,
LISTED, 11/9/2018
(West Whiteland Township MRA)

Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant,
5000 Baum Blvd.,
Pittsburgh, SG100003134,
LISTED, 11/20/2018

Crown Can Company Building,
956 E Erie Ave.,
Philadelphia, SG100003136,
LISTED, 11/20/2018

Strawbridge and Clothier Department Store Warehouse,
901 Poplar St.,
Philadelphia, SG100003137,
LISTED, 11/20/2018

Special Announcement logo

December 5, 2018
by Shelby Weaver Splain
1 Comment

Calling all Preservationists! We know you have great things to share!

Preservation PA and the Statewide Conference Planning Team are seeking proposals for insightful and educational conference sessions, of interest to an audience composed of professionals and volunteers in the fields of historic preservation, architecture, cultural resource management, planning, real estate development, government, nonprofit, and for-profit communities. We want you to share your preservation knowledge and success stories! Continue Reading →

Special Announcement logo

November 30, 2018

PA SHPO Special Announcement: We’re Hiring!

PA SHPO Special Announcement: We’re Hiring an Archaeologist!

Special Announcement logo


Are you an experienced professional North American archaeologist interested in using your knowledge and previous experience to serve the public sector? Are you interested in making a difference in the protection and management of Pennsylvania’s Archaeological Resources? Do you want to be on the forefront of pro-active historic preservation? The Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (PA SHPO), is seeking a project review archaeologist to be a subject matter expert who assists state and federal agencies in balancing the needs and demands of their agency missions with the protection of our archaeological heritage. We are looking for an individual with relevant experience and excellent communication skills.


This professional position within the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (PA SHPO), a bureau of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), is responsible for the identification, evaluation, and preservation of historic and prehistoric archaeological resources in the development of state and/or federal projects as well as state/federal assisted projects. The position requires a combination of education and experience to meet the criteria under the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for either Historic Archaeologist or Prehistoric Archaeologist to assist with advancing PA SHPO priorities.

As an Historic Preservation Specialist, your responsibilities will include reviewing federal and state projects and federal or state assisted projects for their effects on archaeological resources; evaluating site significance using National Register criteria; conducting surveys of archaeological resources; working with our office’s data management team and coordinating with other internal and outside parties to bring projects to successful and positive outcomes. The project review archaeologist will be expected to provide technical assistance to a variety of groups across the Commonwealth, including state and federal agencies, municipalities, public officials and the interested and concerned public.

Read the complete position description for more information.


Two or more years of experience working on an architectural survey, an architectural restoration and preservation project or program, and a bachelor’s degree in architectural history, American history, art history, or course work in Pennsylvania history; or

Any equivalent combination of experience and training.

Preferred experience: meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Professional Qualification Standards, published in the Code of Federal Regulations, 36 CFR Part 61.

Apply by 12/21/18, 11:59 PM EST

For more information and to apply, visit



November 28, 2018
by Shelby Weaver Splain

Not your Grandmother’s Gingerbread House

Tired of the same old gingerbread house each Christmas? Just four (mostly straight) walls and a gable roof? Challenge yourself this year to break out of that mold and make one of Pennsylvania’s landmarks instead!

The inspiration…

I was scrolling through Facebook the other day and noticed a post from the Heritage Documentation Programs at the National Park Service (NPS) about using drawings from the online public HABS/HAER/HALS collections for gingerbread houses or holiday villages!

Brilliant idea!

Picture of small paper house

NPS’ inspirational post on Facebook.

And here is an interesting fun fact that you can use to impress your helpers while you build your gingerbread creation: the term “gingerbread” was used to mean a dessert made with ginger starting in 15th century England.  Gingerbread houses started in 16th century Germany and their popularity rose with the Brothers Grimm tale of Hansel and Gretel.  Check out this link from PBS for more history.


In case you’re not familiar with these acronyms, I’ve give you some quick background.  They stand for:

These three collections are housed in the Library of Congress as part of the Prints and Photographs Division.  The collections can contain one or more of the following types of documentation: measured drawings, large format black and white or color photographs, and data pages with property information and some history.

The collection started with HABS in 1933 as a joint NPS, Library of Congress, and American Institute of Architects (AIA) program to document America’s landmarks and architectural heritage – and help architects, historians, and artists find work during the Great Depression.  It is often considered the federal government’s first preservation program, decades before the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, which established most of the programs we use today like the National Register of Historic Places.

Gingerbread house

Drexel students recreate Eastern State Penitentiary in gingerbread! Photo from

HAER was established in 1969 and this time the National Park Service and Library of Congress teamed up with the American Society of Civil Engineers.  This partnership has grown and changed over the years but one thing has remained the same: bridges, as the most ubiquitous historic engineering structures in the country, are among the most common documented structures in the collection.  Ships, steel works, railroads, canals, and other networks are also appropriate subjects to document with HAER.

HALS was the last collection to be added in 2000 and its mission is to record historic landscapes throughout the US and its territories.  NPS and the Library of Congress work with the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) for this collection, which can include a wide range of historic landscapes from a vegetable garden to a cemetery to a nuclear test site(!).

A HABS/HAER/HALS Gingerbread Extravaganza!

So why not browse the collections and find a Pennsylvania landmark to recreate in this holiday confection? Why stick with the same old thing?

Getting started is easy! Go to and type in the name of a building, bridge, place, county, etc. into the search box and click “Go”.  If you go with the basic “Pennsylvania”, you’ll get 36,826 hits, so you might want to narrow your search!


You can search any of the three collections from this page on the Library of Congress website.

Depending on your skill level, creativity, and time, you can look simply look at a photograph or two for inspiration or download the measured drawings. Make sure to take a few minutes to read through the data pages and learn the history behind your choice!

There are lots of places online to find out the basics of gingerbread house building – I typed “build your own gingerbread house” into my favorite search engine and found tons of articles and videos.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, here are a few of the places I’m considering this year:

Fallingwater in gingerbread

Watch this video of architects designing the Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece, Fallingwater, in Fayette County, PA.

The real – and gingerbread – places that matter

What’s important about the holidays – and your gingerbread house – is that its about the people and places that are important to you.  There are thousands of places documented through HABS/HAER/HALS for inspiration but the best gingerbread house is always the one you build of the places you love with the people you cherish.

Gather your neighbors and build a replica of your favorite hangout or your family and recreate your great-grandparents farm house.  Whatever it is, make sure its a place that matters to you.

Gingerbread house

Last year, University of Pennsylvania students recreated Frank Furness’ Fisher Fine Arts Library in gingerbread.

Tell us about your creation!

Share your ideas and inspirations with us by commenting on this post or tagging us at #PATrailsofHistory or #PASHPO in your social media post.  Suggestions for other places to replicate in gingerbread? Photos of your own creation? Let us know about it!

Good luck!


November 21, 2018
by Shelby Weaver Splain

5 Things to Know from the PA SHPO

This week’s post brings you “5 Things” to know for November and December 2018.  Take a breather from your Thanksgiving holidays and read about new staff, important deadlines, and a fun way to show what you’re thankful for. Continue Reading →

Woman making basket

November 14, 2018
by Guest Contributor

The Cornplanter Grant: The Last Native American Settlement in Pennsylvania

Deep in the forests of northwestern Pennsylvania lies a little-known, but incredibly important part of our Country’s early history and our Native American past.  Although now mostly covered by the waters of the Allegheny Reservoir (a body of water created when the Army Corps of Engineers dammed the Allegheny River with the Kinzua Dam in 1965), this land, the Cornplanter Grant, has a very important story to tell. Continue Reading →

Men repairing cornice.

November 7, 2018
by Guest Contributor

Keystone Grant aids Towanda’s Keystone Theatre

The Keystone Theatre’s history has been long and illustrious, highs and lows aside.  The Keystone has the distinction of being the longest continuously operating theatre in NE Pennsylvania at 131 years of age. Her champions have been all of those who worked to fill her houses and keep her doors open.

The Theatre…

The Keystone Theatre in Towanda, Bradford County, Pennsylvania was built in 1886 and opened in 1887 as the Hale’s Opera House, located on the second floor of the building on Main Street.

Line drawing of theater.

Hale’s Opera House & Teacher’s Institute opened in downtown Towanda in 1887. Image courtesy of BCRAC.

The grand opening on September 21, 1887 featured Mrs. D. P. Bowers in the lead role of “Elizabeth, Queen of England.” It was the great era of early American Theatre and Mrs. D.P. Bowers, it was thought at the time, “would go down in posterity in the history of American stage.”

Women in robes.

Famous stage actress Mrs. D.P. Bowers opens Hale’s Opera House in “Elizabeth, Queen of England”. Mrs. D.P. Bowers was the stage name of Elizabeth Crocker Bowers.  Image courtesy of BCRAC.

Hale’s Opera House offered a palate of minstrel shows as well as local productions, fashion shows and high school graduations. The early days also included productions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which played once, and up to four times a year. A boxing match with John Sullivan was attended by over 1,400 people in the 900-seat theatre. News articles of the event described efforts to use 2 by 4’s brought in from the local hardware to support the extra weight of the balconies.

In 1913, the theatre was moved to the first floor. John Philip Sousa’s band came to town, arriving on the Black Diamond Express in the heyday of trains and people using them to come to Towanda from the surrounding small communities. In addition to live performances and community events, silent movies were added. William Woodin, the opera house’s first manager, changed the name of Hale’s Opera House to the Keystone Theatre.

Eventually, movies became the exclusive form of entertainment at the Keystone Theatre. The talkies were the gig in town. By 1950, the theatre had become part of the Comerford Theatre chain which owned theatres in and around the Wyoming and North Branch of the Susquehanna Valleys. Eventually the Comerford chain went under, and the Keystone Theatre was once again an independent venue.

The advent of television and the 1970s oil embargo strained the financial stability of the Keystone Theatre. A drop ceiling was installed covering the balcony, the orchestra pit was covered and the stage was enclosed and covered with a new screen. Times were tough. By 1987, the theatre was worn out, in need of major repairs, and set to close.

BCRAC to the rescue…

In 1988, the theatre was purchased by the Bradford County Regional Arts Council (BCRAC) with the intention of converting it into multi-use cultural center with film, live theatre, music and educational programs. Over the next four years, close to one million dollars were spent on returning the Keystone Theatre to its original appearance, while at the same time, updating and adding basic needs, such as heat, electricity, projection equipment, new roofs, fire escapes, and handicap accessibility. The theatre remained in operation during all of the renovations.

In 1992, a portion of Towanda borough was listed in the National Register of Historic Places as the Towanda Historic District (Key #096414).  The theater is a contributing resource to the historic district because it is part of the character, history, and significance of Towanda.

Brick building.

Keystone Theatre in 1992.

The Keystone’s 550 seats were repaired, the plasterwork in the auditorium restored, and the lobby enlarged. The drop ceiling of the 1970’s was removed, the balcony returned to use, and the stage was restored with the false wall in front of it removed. In 2001, a second theatre with stadium-style seating was added to the Keystone Theatre replacing an adjoining building that had burned in the 1970s.

Keystone Grant for the Keystone…

In 2016, BCRAC received a PHMC grant. This grant was used to replace a piece of the Keystone that was laid in 1886 and, until this summer, had not seen the light of day in 130 years.

Behind the building’s decorative cornice and below layers of roofing, the integrated roof gutters, constructed of wood and brick, perhaps state of the art in 1886, had failed. Water designed to flow along the gutter troughs at the top edge had begun spilling over the edge of the building causing dangerous ice buildup and safety issues on the walks below.

Roof cornice.

View along west side of the roof (front of building) looking south, showing rotted and damaged wood and membrane – August 31, 2018.


Roof cornice.

View of condition of decorative cornice along front (west side) of building – August 31, 2018.

The work was completed by MacBuilders & Design of New Albany, Pennsylvania. The project got underway in late August with a leering deadline of September 30th, but this was a determined and dedicated crew. After removing the cornice, the owner came to us and offered to do some work outside of the project scope. He wanted to repair, strip and paint the decorative cornice that was removed to do the work.

Men repairing cornice.

View from ground of front (west side) of building during repair – September 7, 2018.

With a heart for historic buildings and their preservation and in respect to the care the BCRAC has given this building over the past 30 years, he wanted to restore the cornices. We agreed to trade advertising with him for the work, his advertising may well outlive all of us. But his work and the work of his crew was phenomenal.

Repaired cornice.

Cornice after repair – September 21, 2018.

So now, seventy feet above Main Street, the newly rebuilt gutter system sits silently once again hidden behind the beautifully restored historic cornice. If you look really closely, you will also see a piece of the Keystone Theatre uncovered by the BCRAC in 1988, a permanently installed brick at the top of the building that reads, HALES OPERA HOUSE.

The brick in the plaza at the entrance of the theatre reads: The Keystone Theatre built in 1886 as the Hales Opera House. It is the oldest operating theatre in northeast Pennsylvania. Dedicated to all people – past, present and future for whom the Arts and this community theatre give meaning.

Carved stone.

Keystone Theatre stone marking renovation.


This week’s guest contributor is Elaine Poost.  Elaine is the Executive Director of the Bradford County Regional Arts Council in Towanda, PA.

Carved pumpkins

October 31, 2018
by Guest Contributor

Hobgoblins in the Humanities

Can I tell you about something that gives me chills and sends me running? October is Arts & Humanities Month. It’s also time for Halloween, so when I was invited to submit a post, our friends at SHPO asked if I could kill two birds with one stone and do justice to both October happenings. I decided to oblige by writing about some bad spirits that bedevil me at work: the humanities hobgoblins! Continue Reading →

October 24, 2018
by Guest Contributor

The Lenticular of Lazy Brook Park: Bridging the Gap between Idea and Execution

It was ten years ago, almost to the day, that I participated in a series of scoping field views for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) that involved a brilliant idea to address the needs of two seemingly separate projects. Continue Reading →