One of the biggest tasks associated with the annual Westmoreland County Historical Society Historic House Tour is also the first thing that needs to be done — finding homeowners willing to open their doors to potentially hundreds of visitors.
This year was no different from others in that respect, says WCHS executive director Lisa Hays.
After getting a string of refusals, she says, “the houses just fell into place. It was almost like an act of providence.”
By happy accident, four of the five houses that will be featured on the Sept. 15 tour were designed by Paul Bartholomew (1883-1973), a noted local architect whose Greensburg projects included Troutman’s Department Store, the YMCA and Lynch Hall at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg.
Bartholomew also designed the Citizens National Bank building in Latrobe, and many homes in Greensburg’s Academy Hill neighborhood, including his own.
“If you’ve never heard of him, it’s OK,” Hays says. “You’ve undoubtedly seen his work. The architects around the area know him.”
In addition to the four Bartholomew designs, the tour also will feature a large log home in Hempfield, with the original portion dating back to the turn of the 18th century.
The architect’s own home was a continual work in progress, Hays says, as a large collection of drawings for the house attest to a number of changes that were made, some thought to have been made to accommodate Bartholomew’s wife, Dorothy, when she became ill.
This perhaps belies the motto once contained in a stained glass panel on the home’s front door: “Do Well and Doubt Not.” Or it just might be, as Hays says, that “an architect is always tinkering.”
Portions of the self-guided tour are walkable. Parking is available on neighboring streets.
The featured homes include:
• Paul and Dorothy Bartholomew House, Greensburg: The original plans for the circa-1920 house reveal a compact first-floor plan with central hall and staircase, living and dining rooms and kitchen. A later renovation provided a first-floor bedroom and bathroom, likely added due to Dorothy Bartholomew’s ill health.
• Joseph and Alma Cote House, Greensburg : One of the largest Bartholomew-designed country houses, the rambling Tudor sits on about five acres featuring a sunken garden, native rhododendron and both native and exotic trees. Known as Grey Gables, the property also was owned by the Diocese of Greensburg and served as the bishop’s residence. The current owners have undertaken a large-scale renovation.
• Laffer-Stauffer House, Hempfield: Built sometime around 1800, the large log home has been expanded over the years but still retains many original features including a simple wood staircase, door hardware, fireplace surrounds and wall surfaces. A 1791 deed mentions a mill, and an old mill stone still sits on the property. The home also was once a summer retreat for Greensburg’s prominent Lynch family.
• Robert and Margaretta Marshbank House, Greensburg: The Colonial Revival-style residence remains one of the most intact Bartholomew designs. The impressive interior sports hardwood floors, molded surrounds, a large central hall with elegantly carved staircase and a sunken living room with large fireplace and bay window overlooking a secluded garden.
• Wilson-Mullane House, Greensburg: The core of the Bartholomew-designed home dates to 1925, with an expansion project dating to 1936. The Colonial Revival-style structure boasts a large foyer with curved staircase, crystal chandelier and arched window near the second level. The current owners have remodeled the kitchen.
Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Shirley at 724-836-5750, [email protected] or via Twitter @shirley_trib.