For those that have followed my road trips and photographs in the past, I had promised to try and make 2018 more eventful and interesting. Part of doing so was adding a blog of the trips to share the experience, photographs, and some history. To try and keep with my promise I started the new year out with a short trip on January 1.
As 2017 ended and 2018 began with a cold blast here in the Southwestern Pennsylvania. I didn’t let the cold stop me (after being out of the car more than 15-20 minutes my hands and face disagreed). With temperatures hanging around 15 degrees, I had blue skies with some clouds. Off I went, unfortunately the blue skies decided to play games at times.
First stop would be at a favorite location of mine, located about 10 minutes from home. Apples Mill Church is a plain simple structure that reminds me of easier days gone by. The church also once went by the name of the United Brethren Church. Little history is known of the church. Reliable sources tell me its history goes back to at least Civil War. A walk through the Funk Cemetery (located in the rear) shows a possible longer history. While many locals are familiar with the church, it did receive its own 15 seconds of fame. It appeared in the opening sequence of the television show Justified. Thankfully, the neighbors of the church care for both the church grounds and the cemetery. Due to weather conditions and the driveway not being maintained I wasn’t able to park and explore. I don’t know what my attachment to this place is. It is truly an enjoyable place for me. It may sound silly but this place is a Powerball dream of mine. I would definitely consider purchasing this place and restoring it. Keeping my fingers crossed!
Once I was done here, I decided a few updated covered bridge photographs in the snow were needed. Lucky for me (and you) the only remaining covered bridge in Westmoreland County is located just minutes away. Along the way I stopped a few times for random photographs. Most of the land in the area of Apples Mills Church is farm land with old homes, barns, and rolling hills.
As I approached the next stop I noticed an older fella along the road watching me. Out of curiosity I stopped. He watched me with little reaction until I pulled the camera up to photograph him, then he would look away. After a few moments of a one sided conversation he finally gave me a pose. Granted I couldn’t get a smile from him but I guess when you’re standing along the road in very cold temperatures I can’t get too greedy. After a few moments of talking to a farm animal I arrived at my next stop, a true gem Westmoreland County has to offer.
Bells Mill Covered Bridge was designed and built by Daniel McCain in 1850. The bridge crosses Sewickley Creek connecting Sewickley and South Huntingdon Townships. It sees a fair amount of traffic as many use this as a short cut to I-70. Protecting the bridge on each side is a large steel “I” beam. This prevents over-height vehicles from damaging the bridge.
Built with a burr truss design, it measures 104 feet long and 13 feet wide. Bridge sides are covered with barn red horizontal clapboard siding and painted inside and out. There are no windows just the wide eave openings. The roof consists of cedar shakes and the deck has lengthwise planking in wide tire track areas that are laid over crosswise planking. The entire structure rests on stone and mortar abutments that are reinforced with concrete both at the ground and road level. There are also stone and mortar wingwalls that are protected with heavy wooden guardrails.
After finishing the covered bridge I dipped back into the valley along the Youghiogheny River into the town of West Newton for a few stops. The next stop was a last second add on. I remembered the home and thought I had to share it. Owned by Dr. Hope, a retired veterinarian who served the community for decades. A small sign out front says, “Welcome to Hopeville”. This is definitely a memorable home and must see. Located a few blocks away along the railroad tracks stands the former B&O Railroad Station. Built in Queen Ann Style, it was built in 1892 and served as a station for both the Pittsburgh & Connellsville Railroad and the B&O Railroad. The building was built by renowned architect Ephraim Francis Baldwin. Baldwin was named Head Architect for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1872 and during the course of his career designed numerous buildings for the railroad. While the building no longer serves as a station its current owner, CSX still uses it for railroad operations. A half a block away from the former train station stands the Plumer House on the corner of Vine Street and Water Street. This is the oldest building in West Newton. In 1979 the home was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The original section was built in 1814. It’s a 2 1⁄2-story, wood-frame structure with a gable roof. In 1846 an addition was added, the addition is a 2 1⁄2-story, brick structure with a gable roof and two chimneys. The home features a rear porch overlooking the Youghiogheny River.With a short drive to the other side of the river I arrived at our next stop along the Great Allegheny Passage Trail. At one time railroad tracks operated by the P&LE Railroad (Pittsburgh & Lake Erie) connected to the Western Maryland Railroad and ran into Cumberland, MD. Today, the tracks are gone and the structure that stands here is not the original P&LE Station. In an effort to preserve historical appearance a close reproduction of the original was built. The site has an old P&LE car, railroad signal, and a concrete mile marker showing milepost 113.
Across the street from the station stands a small white church with a red door, St. Paul AME. While I don’t know much about the church, it is definitely something you would see in small town America. This will be another place I return to in hopes of getting a peak inside. These small old churches reach out to me and I enjoy them very much.
After departing the train stations and St. Paul AME, it was time to get my education on. While the weather was not improving and by improving I mean getting warmer, it was good so far. I headed off toward Rostraver Township, my next stop would be about a 10 minute drive, just long enough to warm up.
Thanks to snow, parking was difficult at the Old Concord Schoolhouse. Lucky enough for me, the traffic along the road was abnormally slow so on went the hazard lights and out I went. Built in 1830, the Concord Subscription School sits off of Route 51 in Rostraver Township. The school operated from 1830-1873. Classes ran six-day-a-week from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The school master was paid 25 cents per student per month. According to historical records, between 50 and 80 students were crammed into the one room schoolhouse by the 1850s.
During the winter terms the school masters were men and in the summer it was women who taught because the men were working in the fields. By 1873, a new school was built and the subscription school was sometimes utilized as a nondenominational school and later a storehouse. After World War II, Rostraver School Superintendent E.F. Carter led an effort to have the school restored. Some history classes were taught there in 1948.
With blue skies for the most part and temperatures in the teens I decided I may as well head off to get a few more covered bridges in the snow. At this point in time and location my best bet would be Mingo Creek Park in Washington County. I made a slight detour in the area to pick up a friend that wanted to go along. On the way to her home I made a quick stop at the Cook Farm in Fayette County. You may be wondering, I started in Westmoreland, now going into Fayette, then heading into Washington County. The general area I was in is where the three counties meet and can literally move between them in a matter of minutes.
Henry Covered Bridge was built using a Queenpost design and measures 36 feet long and 12 feet 6 inches wide. The roof of the bridge is a tin gable to protect the structure. Its walls are vertical board siding with two windows and narrow eave openings per side. The deck is crosswise planking with moderate length stone and mortar wingwalls capped with concrete. The deck of the bridge has been reinforced with five steel “I” beams that rest on the cut stone abutments and concrete supports.
A short drive from Henry Covered Bridge through the park on ice covered roads led us to the second bridge, Ebenezer Covered Bridge.
Ebenezer Bridge is covered with vertical board siding on the sides and portals, it’s painted barn red both inside and out. It’s covered with a sheet metal roof and has a deck of crosswise planking. There are two rectangular windows on each side, with fairly wide eave, openings. The deck is heavily reinforced with five steel “I” beams which, in turn, rest on the original abutments reinforced with concrete. Long cut stone and mortar wingwalls that are capped off with concrete on each end.