“Save This Old House” was once in my family

This Old House is a great magazine for home enthusiasts. Imagine my sister’s surprise when she was reading it one afternoon and our ancestor’s home was listed on the Save This Old House page. It was as if the house was on a milk carton. How did it get there? Why isn’t it in our family anymore?

Page from This Old House Save This House West newton PA Plumer Home
Page from This Old House “Save This Old House” West Newton PA 1814 Plumer Home

The last time I remember visiting with my dad it was when I was a child. It was at that time in the 1970’s part of the West Newton Historical Society. It was safe and sound with kind docents who toured us through. I didn’t really understand at that age how this home had any connection to me or even my family who happily lived in a 1950’s split level in Kansas. My parents, grandparents and my entire extended family were from Pennsylvania. My dad was transferred to Kansas from Pittsburgh PA in the 1950’s. We visited my grandparents often and I loved being in a city, especially a city rich with history as I grew up in the brand spanking new suburbia.

I was waiting to write this blog until I unraveled exactly how many great great great grandparents back lived in this home but after a few years I still haven’t sorted it out with confidence. My family connection relocated though marriage to a small yet breathtaking valley town Mc Veytown PA.  One day I will update the family tree but until then here is the story.

Honestly it is a tough situation. This quite beautiful and surprisingly timeless house is far from where I live. My family considered on a whim/dream stage how we could possibly manage it from a distant. How could we reclaim it? As a vacation home? A second home? A business? A retirement dream? We watched from a distance how it was finally sold with current status unknown.

The irony of course is as an architect, I have worked on many older homes with history. I have tracked down Sanborn Maps trying to unravel when, what and where additions and alterations happened. Often wondering did such magnificent homes ever  change hands? Where did the owners go? Now it was my families turn. And in a national magazine too. Every house has a story here is one…

Situated on the banks of the Youghiogheny River, the Plumer House was built in two sections. The original wood frame two-and-a-half story structure was finished in 1814 and features a gable roof, molded cornices, clapboard covering, and a brick chimney. The brick addition of 1846 is also two and a half stories with two large chimneys. The street entrance is recessed and paneled and topped by a three-light rectangular transom. Evidence remains on both houses of the original shutters.

The interior of the original structure features two rooms on the first floor and two on the second. The three fireplaces, although primitive in detail, remain in good condition. All rooms have chair rails, doors and trim of typical colonial design. The addition has two rooms plus a hallway on the first floor, and three rooms plus a hallway on the second. Only one of three original fireplaces remains in this section. MVI replaced a deteriorating tin roof and box gutters about twenty years ago.

The riverfront lot is about three fourths of an acre with 220 feet of river frontage and 110 feet deep. A small brick outbuilding is situated on the lot near the main house. New wiring, drywall, and insulation were added in the late 1980s as part of an effort to restore much of the house to its original condition.

This property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Downtown West Newton, Pennsylvania is a vibrant community of businesses and residents on the banks of the Youghiogheny River about 25 miles south of Pittsburgh. West Newton’s business district spans both sides of the River and includes dining and entertainment, health and fitness, banking and financial services, as well as a variety of retail and service establishments that serve a trade area of over 28,000 residents. The Great Allegheny Passage bike and hiking trail connecting Pittsburgh to Washington DC passes through West Newton, bringing thousands of visitors and tourists to the downtown each year.



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