August 01, 2023
Eighty Four, PA – The Washington County Community Foundation will be hosting an open house on Thursday, August 24, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the historic Samuel T. Brownlee House at 1253 Route 519 in Eighty Four, PA. The event is being held in honor of the 175th anniversary of the Brownlee House.
Built in the antebellum period when the United States flag had only 30 stars, James K. Polk served as President, and the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 ignited the women’s suffrage movement in the United States, the Brownlee House has weathered many storms, both political and physical, for 175 years.
Samuel T. Brownlee commissioned the Brownlee House to be built on the family’s sprawling sheep farm, as a wedding gift to his wife Catherine Clark in 1848. From a written account from Charles Miller who owned the house when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, it is believed that most of the materials to construct the house were obtained locally.
The Brownlee House is a two-and one-half story, five-bay, brick house of the Georgian-Greek Revival style, which was popular in the region in the 19th Century. The brick part of the house is Georgian, also referred to as Federal style, with a symmetrical floor plan consisting of a center hall flanked on both the right and left by two rooms. The Greek Revival elements on the exterior include the six Ionic columns of the verandah and dental molding on the cornice.
James D. Van Trump, notable architectural historian and co-founder of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, prepared the National Registry application, writing "The Brownlee House is one of the best preserved and well-maintained formal Georgian-Greek Revival Houses in Washington County."
Over time many families owned the former farmhouse and used it as either a primary or summer residence. When William and Saundra Stout owned the house, they used it to run their family business. In December 2013, the Stouts generously donated the Brownlee House to the Community Foundation for its use and for the enjoyment of the community.
A multi-phase rehabilitation project of more than $1.0 million followed and was completed in March of 2020. As the result of those rehabilitation efforts, local historian and coordinator of the Washington County History and Landmarks Foundation, Sandy Mansmann, referred to the house rehabilitation as “a jewel in the preservation crown of Washington County.”
The Scotch-Irish Heritage Rooms on the first floor represent how an immigrant family whose hard work gained wealth in “the new world” might have lived in Washington County during that period. Multiple references to the national flower of Scotland, the thistle, are visible throughout the Heritage Rooms, including a thistle-bordered floor cloth in the Heritage Hallway and the Brownlee Harp, a Celtic harp crowned with a thistle carving. The Brownlee Harp, made by Marini Made Harps and displayed in the Music Room, is a hand-crafted historic reproduction. The Music Room also features an authentic 1855 Chickering piano in pristine condition. Both instruments are played by local musicians at various functions held throughout the year and will be played during the Open House.
A former two-story, three-bay garage added to the House in the 1970s, was repurposed to resemble a carriage barn on the exterior, and is adorned with a sheep weathervane, a nod to the prominence of sheep farming in 19th Century Washington County. Inside, the first floor provides an accessible meeting and education space, and the second floor provides five employee workstations. Other Foundation workstations are located on the second floor of the historic section of the building.
Open house attendees will have the opportunity to tour the building and learn more the building’s history. Light refreshments will be served. There is no cost to attend the Open House, but registration via wccf.net or 724-222-6330 is requested. Those unable to attend are invited to take a virtual tour of the house on wccf.net.
The Washington County Community Foundation serves as a local grant-maker, fundraiser, community leader, and donor service organization. In 2022 alone, the Foundation awarded more than $3.5 million in grants to over 100 local nonprofits including public charities, school districts and other educational institutions, fire departments, municipalities, etc. The Foundation relies on contributions to provide its charitable services and welcomes gifts via its website or by contacting the Foundation at 724-222-6330.