One of the few founding fathers to sign the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Federal Constitution, George Clymer was orphaned in 1740, only a year after his birth in Philadelphia. Apprenticed to the mercantile business by a wealthy uncle, he became a leading Colonial merchant after marrying his senior partner’s daughter, Elizabeth, in 1765.
Like many other contemporaries, Clymer also speculated in western lands, and donated the land upon which the town of Indiana was laid out in the early 1800s after the county was formed on March 30, 1803 from Westmoreland and Lycoming counties. Its name memorializes the first inhabitants.
The county’s first major industry was the manufacture of salt, made from evaporating salt water pumped from wells. The salt boom in the southwestern part of the county accounted for the name of the town of Saltsburg. Coal mining soon rivaled farming as the backbone of the region’s economy.
Today, Indiana is known for two things that are indispensable at Christmas time: the Christmas tree and Jimmy Stewart. It seems that growing pines and spruces as a farm crop started in Indiana County in 1918. In 1944 a group of growers organized the Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Growers Association and by the 1950s an estimated 700,000 trees were being cut each year around Indiana. An Associated Press news story tagged Indiana County as the “Christmas Tree Capital of the World,” a title it guards ferociously. Shortly after Indiana began receiving nationwide publicity the state of Washington tried to appropriate the title and an Indiana nurseryman produced an order he had for 15,000 trees to be shipped to Tacoma, Washington.
James Maitland Stewart was born in his parent’s home at 975 Philadelphia Street in Indiana on May 20, 1908. The Stewarts trace their roots in Indiana County back to 1772 when Jimmy’s third great-grandfather Fergus Moorhead first arrived and was captured by Indians. The Stewart family hardware store, known locally as the “big warehouse,” was a fixture in Indiana since 1848. After experiencing an All-American childhood in Indiana (he was an enthusiastic Boy Scout) that imbued him with the values that would later show up on the silver screen, Jimmy Stewart left for his father’s alma mater, Princeton University, in 1928. His on-stage performances attracted enough attention that he would not return after school to take up business in the family store.
Jimmy Stewart never forgot his roots In town and our walking tour will begin at a life-size statue that the actor himself dedicated on the occasion of his 75th birthday...
Hometown Hero - Jimmy Stewart
825 Philadelphia Street
Jimmy Stewart was born and raised in this timber-and-coal town, enjoying a boyhood that was, by all accounts, the typical small-town American experience similar to that often portrayed in his films. His hometown honored Stewart with this bronze statue on the occasion of his 75th birthday in 1983. Well, not exactly this statue. The $100,000 tributewasn’t ready in time for its dedication so a look-alike fiberglass statue was substituted. No one noticed the difference -- not even Jimmy, who flew in from California for the dedication. The festive 75th birthday blast included a fly-over of Air Force jets and a telephone call from President Ronald Reagan. The real statue was eventually completed, and the fiberglass statue was moved next door as a display inside the Jimmy Stewart Museum, which opened in 1996. Directly across Philadelphia Street from the statue was the former location of J.M. Stewart & Sons Hardware, where young Jimmy worked and proud father Alex later displayed Jimmy’s Academy Award statue. One block west on Philadelphia Street, a bronze plaque marks the doorstep which led to the house where Mr. Stewart was born. His boyhood home is three blocks to the north, on Jimmy Stewart Boulevard at the base of a long set of concrete steps that lead up Vinegar Hill.
Indiana County Courthouse
825 Philadelphia Street
This less Colonial Revival courthouse with hipped roof replaced its showier predecessor in the 1970s, ending its more than a century of service. In addition to the Jimmy Stewart statue out front the grounds also feature the Indiana County War Memorial.
WALK WEST ON PHILADELPHIA STREET.
Indiana County Library
845 Philadelphia Street
Indiana Free Library started in a reading room starting in 1907 in a building not that far from where it is now. This building was constructed in 1912 as the YMCA. It would be several decades before the library moved in. The library is also home to the Jimmy Stewart Museum that displays memorabilia from the actor’s time in Indiana and his Hollywood career.
TURN LEFT ON SOUTH 9TH STREET.
902 Philadelphia Street
After first assembling in 1831, the small Episcopal congregation met for 25 years this met in the homes of members, schoolhouses, and the Court House before a church was built on this site. It was destroyed by fire in December 1899 and the current church dates to 1901.
TURN LEFT ON CHURCH STREET.
Grace United Methodist Church
northwest corner of Church and 7th streets
In his original 1803 plat of the town George Clymer designated the block between 6th & 7th streets to be reserved for churches. This Georgian Revival building with triangular pediments and soaring steeple is the third church built by Indiana’s Methodists, completed in 1932 succeeding previous sanctuaries from 1876 and 1841. largest landowners.
Cavalry Presbyterian Church
southeast corner of 7th Street and Church Street
This congregation was organized in 1807 as the First Presbyterian Church in Indiana. Meeting first in homes and, after 1809, in the County Courthouse, the congregation erected its first building in 1827 on this site ‑ ground donated by town founder George Clymer. In 1858 a second church replaced the initial building. In 1904 work began on the third and present building, a Victorian eclectic structure designed by J.C. Fulton of Uniontown. Built of Hummelstown brownstone by Indiana contractor John S. Hastings, the new edifice was completed in 1906. Its octagonal sanctuary, dominated by an art glass dome 28 feet in diameter, incorporates the central pulpit and semi‑circular pew arrangement of the “Akron Plan,” allowing worshipers to hear and see easily from any seat.
TURN RIGHT ON SOUTH 7TH STREET. TURN LEFT ON SCHOOL STREET.
Silas M. Clark House
200 South 6th Street at Wayne Avenue and School Street
This Italian villa-style brick dwelling was built in 1870 for Silas M. Clark was a judge on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. He would later help start the Indiana Normal School. Dominated by a tall, square central tower, the distinguished house features decorative S-brackets, a low pitched gable roof, a bay window, round-headed windows, andbrick corner quoins. Today it is the home of the Historical and Genealogical Society of Indiana County.
TURN RIGHT ON WAYNE AVENUE IN FRONT OF THE CLARK HOUSE.
National Guard Armory
121 Wayne Avenue
Built in 1922. It is a simple art deco structure with a drill hall on the first floor. Now home to the library and research center of the Historical and Genealogical Society, this Art Deco brick building was completed in 1922. It housed a drill hall on the first floor.
TURN LEFT ON WASHINGTON STREET.
Indiana Memorial Park
The Doughboy was dedicated May 30, 1925 to the Indiana men and women who served during World War I; veterans of subsequent wars were honored with plaques. The Doughboy is located on land what was once part of an old cemetery that had burials dating from as early as 1803 to 1875 - and this perhaps accounts for its tumultuous history. A church group had acquired the area by gift from its original owner and began constructing a church but ran short of funds. It planned to sell the trees and part of the land to finance the building on another part. The local veterans opposed the idea of selling the land and, led by Alex Stewart, local hardware merchant, and the father of screen legend Jimmy Stewart, mounted a campaign to erect a memorial on the property. A local bank made a gift of the tall impressive pedestal to the Mothers of Democracy in 1922 and a local individual made a gift of The Doughboy sculpture. After discovering a hole dug for The Doughboy’s foundation, the church group filled it in. Stewart, Jimmy and others dug the hole again and the church group filled it again - this time, erecting a fence and posting a “no trespassing” sign. Undaunted, Stewart invited his associates and members of the church group to meet him at the site and when the group was assembled, he cut the fence, crossed into the area and defied anyone to do anything about it. Stories in Indiana differ as to whether he spent time in jail, and if so, how much. In the end, the city bought the land and The Doughboy was erected where Stewart and his associates had wanted it to be placed.
TURN LEFT ON 6TH STREET.
J. P. Carter House
209 South 6th Street
This seems like a particularly contentious corner of town. The builder, J.P. Carter, deliberately constructed a larger house than that of his neighbor across the street, Silas M. Clark, in retaliation for Clark’s having secured the service of the architect whom Carter wanted. It cost $30,000 to build in 1870.
145 South 6th Street
This Victorian Romanesque house was built in contrasting colors of golden tan and dusty rose under a green tile roof for Michael Bennett in 1915. The walls and floors are cast concrete. At one time, there were two elevators and a swimming pool in the basement.
John W. Sutton House
134 South 6th Street
This Second Empire-influenced house was constructed in 1882-1883 for John W. Sutton, son of the purchaser of the land for the Normal School (now Indiana University) to train women to become teachers. It features a mansard roof, dormers, and brick quoins. The house was used as the manse for the Calvary United Presbyterian Church from 1920 until 1963, when it was sold at auction for $17,050.
Zion Lutheran Manse
114 South Sixth Street
An asymmetrical Queen Anne style residence featuring wrap-around porch and gingerbread tower, the manse was built in 1899. This style displays a variety of interior and exterior materials, forms, colors, and textures. Projecting turrets and brick chimneys give the house a top-heavy appearance.
Zion Lutheran Church
6th Street and Church Street
George Baum of Philadelphia designed this church in 1923 for the congregation, which can trace its roots back to 1813. Built of steel-framed veneered stone, the Gothic Revival church features weathering, buttresses, and large pointed stained glass windows with tracery. Constructed at a cost of $225,000, it replaced a Neo-Gothic church built in 1880.
James Mitchell House
57 South Sixth Street
Built in 1849 by local merchant James Mitchell,this Federal style brick structure has an unusual second front doorway since the house originally served as both a residence and a general merchandising store.
David Ralston House
33-41 South Sixth Street
Built in 1843. A double brick Federal House with a later single addition (ca. 1850), presently three separate units used as offices and dwellings. Parapet chimneys are still evident on the south gable end. Ralston, a local merchant, built the house when he moved to Indiana from the Shelocta area to become sheriff (1842-1845). Bennett Whissel used it as a hotel. James Mitchell also owned this structure (ca. 1859) and ran an inn called the “Mansion House.”
TURN RIGHT ON PHILADELPHIA STREET.
Alexander W. Taylor House
532 Philadelphia Street
This is believed to be the oldest structure in Indiana, built of stone by John Lucas , sometime around 1817. Also born in town around that time was Alexander Wilson Taylor. Taylor graduated from the Dickinson School of Law at Carlisle and commenced practice in Indiana. A member of the new Republican party, he was elected to the Forty-third Congress. The house stayed in the Taylor family until 1950 when it began a long tenure as a television shop.
555 Philadelphia Street
This two-story Queen Anne brick building dates to 1892 and features elaborate woodwork that betray the opulence of the age. H.P. Griffith was a town dentist who ran his practice here until his death in 1956.
William Houston House
581 Philadelphia Street
Constructed in 1823 by Houston, a merchant and member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives., this is the second oldest of Indiana’s buildings and longest continually used commercial building. The massive H-parapet chimney s a trademark of the Federal style. Note the, the west wall and the iron brackets that tie the brick wall into the structure. The house was used as the town’s first bank by Hogue and Company in 1858.
TURN AND RETRACE YOUR STEPS TO 6TH STREET AND TURN RIGHT, WALKING UP THE EAST SIDE OF THE STREET.
11 North 6th Street
Charles Runyon owned the Roadster Factory, a company that provided parts and equipment for British sports cars in Indiana County. That’s unlikely enough, so why not create an authentic English pub on the downtown streets? To ramp up the audacity another notch, Runyon created a mythical prototype, the Coventry Inn, that first operated in Bidford-on-Avon in 1497. So he was going to replicate the Coventry for its 500th anniversary. And, of course, he would start with some oak beams that had survived when the “original” was bombed out of existence in a German air raid in World War II. The timbers, regardless of origin, were imported from England and pinned together with oak pegs. His English pub features the half-timbering of a 15th century Tudor building and also sports a heavy iron-strap door and a massive chimney topped with decorative clay pots. Begun in 1990, it opened in time to celebrate the great anniversary in 1997.
15 North Sixth Street
This building dates to the 1840s and housed theIndiana Messenger, a local independent journal established around 1850. It’s Italianate commercial style displays highly embellished cast iron window heads and a decorative, bracketed cornice.
northeast corner of 6th Street and Water Street
This is the last remaining 19th century hotel in Indiana, but it didn’t make it to 21st century without a struggle. A roof fire caused $70,000 in damage in 1933 but was restored to its original Italianate design with unusual jerkin-head cross gables incorporated into the hipped roof construction. Built in the 1870s on the site of the earlier Hines House, the hostelry operated under a string of names: Reiders’ Hotel in the 1880s, Gompers’ House in 1887, Clawson Hotel from 1890-1915, and finally the Brown Hotel in the 1930s.
CROSS 6TH STREET AND TURN LEFT, WALKING BACK TOWARDS PHILADELPHIA STREET AND THE TOWN CENTER.
Indiana County Sheriff’s House and Jail
29 North Sixth Street
This exuberant Victorian, built in 1887, was the fourth county jail. It features cut stone quoins, decorative window heads, and ornately turned woodwork on the portico. A “Bridge of Sighs” connected the jail with the courthouse next door on the corner. Executions were carried out in the courtyard between the house and the old courthouse. The last hanging was on November 23, 1913. The house and jail have been restored by the NBOC Bank and are used for offices.
TURN RIGHT ON PHILADELPHIA STREET.
Old Courthouse Building
601 Philadelphia Street
A courthouse appeared on this corner in the center of town shortly after the county was formed in 1803. J.W. Drum designed this replacement in 1870 at the cost of $186,000. He blended classical elements, such as the grand colonnade of fluted iron columns topped with Corinthian capitals supporting a pediment, with the then-modern Second Empire style (mansard roof). The golden clock tower consists of a podium, belfry, and cupola. When the county government moved down the street in the 1970s, the courthouse was saved from destruction by NBOC, which took out a 99 year lease with the county and poured an estimated half-million dollars into restoration.
600 Philadelphia Street
The First National Bank was organized in 1864 from the cinders of Hogue and Company that had started in 1858. This Neoclassical vault lined with Doric columns and pilasters was built in 1929 on the cusp of the Depression and no matter how much strength and security its appearance radiated, it couldn’t keep the bank from going under in 1934.
637 Philadelphia Street
The theater started as a dream of Judge John Elkin, a prominent citizen of Indiana in the early 1900s. The judge died in in 1915 before his performance hall could become a reality but his wife, Adda, continued with the project and the Indiana Theater opened July 24, 1924. It was constructed as a 1,500-seat Vaudeville & Movie Theater but was converted in 1928 to a much smaller theater with the addition of the upper floors within the existing structure. The conversion eliminated the fly space of the stage making it primarily a movie venue. After being dark for two decades the movie house re-opened in 2001.
642 Philadelphia Street
The original Coney Island was opened in 1933 by Jimmy George two doors down from Stewart’s hardware on the 800 block of Philadelphia Street. In 1965 Coney Island moved to 11 Carpenter Avenue which still holds the back bar and the rear seating area. Thirty years later in 1995 the business stretched out to meet Philadelphia Street and eventually devoured four storefronts. The Suttons and Wilsons, founding fathers of Indiana University and the Kiski School, erected the corner building that houses the “Old Coney” in 1853 as Indiana’s first dry goods store. The Coney’s main entrance is through the old Wilson, Sutton & Company Store, constructed in 1880 with a rounded, decorative cornice. The Rend Brothers Building dates to 1895 and the adjacent building was constructed as the First National Bank around the same time.
Mrs. C.B.M. White Building
655 Philadelphia Street
The Mrs. C.B.M. White building was one of two commercial buildings constructed in 1915 for Harry White, noted Indiana judge, politician, and businessman. Prior to the establishment of the current H.B. Culpeppers this three story brick structure was home of the following businesses: Dairy Dell, Family Host Cafeteria, Landmark, and Michael’s.
717 Philadelphia Street
Founded in 1916, Luxenberg’s Jewelers is approaching 100 years in business at this location. The building was constructed in 1907 as an Elks Lodge.
740 Philadelphia Street
The Rose Building, constructed for S.W. Rose, proprietor of the Bon Ton Department Store, represents the apogee in high-style retailing in Indiana. Rose occupied the white, glazed brick building in 1918. Its multistory arches recall Italian Renaissance loggias while the building’s clean lines and lack of ornamentation anticipate the Modern architectural styles a decade away.
YOU HAVE NOW RETURNED TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT.