A Return to it’s Former Glory – The Meredith House

It’s a very rare occurrence when once a residence becomes a commercial property; it ever stands a chance to return to its former glory. The attempt is being made at “The Meredith House” renamed in honor of William Bolling Meredith by Lee (Frerotte) Walker who recently purchased it.  In staying with the historical theme of our kittanningonline.com site, I was also honored to be contacted by a descendant of the Meredith Family. She was gracious to provide photographs of the family residence and her recollection of visiting her grandmother Caroline (Meredith) Clayland as a child.

The Meredith House - 138 N. Water Street - Photo courtesy Meredith Descendant

The Meredith House – 138 N. Water Street – Photo courtesy Meredith Descendant

The brick work of the residence is something that a mason probably could not duplicate today. The detail may go unnoticed by passing motorists, but walking past, it wouldn’t take you very long to see the remarkable elegance as described in the 1905 newspaper article.

From the Kittanning Daily Times – April 27, 1905

 “One of the most modern and beautiful residences that has ever been built in Kittanning is that in which ex-senator William B. Meredith and family moved into only a few weeks ago on Water St.

The South Yard of the Residence

The South Lawn of the Residence Looking from N. Water Street – Photo Courtesy of Meredith Descendant

One of the most remarkable features that people familiar with the property mention were the beautiful flower gardens that occupied the residence. In this photo you can see the side yards steps which don’t appear in the original residence photo above and were added at a later date.

Later Porch & Arbormod

Looking towards N. Water St. from the South Lawn – Photo Courtesy of Meredith Descendant

South Lawn viewed from the N. Water St with St. Paul’s Church in the background. – Photo Courtesy of Meredith Descendant

Early Yard 1 Looking South

Looking south towards Market St. with St. Paul’s church and the one-time rectory shown in the background. – Photo Courtesy of Meredith Descendant

William B. Meredith Obituary in 1924

A brief sketch on the W. B. Meredith Family is noted in the obituary.

The residence continued to be lived in by daughter Caroline Clayland until she passed in 1954. With help from the Kittanning Garden Club and a great gardener the lawn would bring a place of peace and tranquility. Some of the family members unfortunately didn’t get to share the anticipated completion of the new home and future memories. Eldest daughter Margaret Meredtih died in 1903 and soon followed by mother Eliza in 1905, before the residence was completed.

The grandfather W. B. and daughter Caroline were able to provide joyous times for granddaughter Margaret Clayland who was born in 1912. They celebrated birthdays parties at the residence when visiting and spent time in the park across the street. The photos shown below with Margaret and her father Dr. John Clayland portray some of those occasions in Kittanning.

To give residents and visitors who are not familiar with the property a sense of it through time, I formatted some photos that are about 90 years apart in time. After the passing of Senator Meredith the residence was referred to as the Clayland House during Caroline Clayland’s time residing there.

One of the photos shows the north side of the residence with a small porch and the driveway to the carriage house that was added at a later date. The detail of the driveway and flowering is another beautiful example of care taken of the property. In all of the years I went to the YMCA, I never once noticed the door to this former side porch.  I had to make a trip to see if still present, which it is.

The front view shows that nearly all the structural integrity is still in place today even after the transformation to a commercial property. The main structure lasted the life of the YMCA to show the superior construction methods of the day.

The family prior to 1904 lived on a property above the courthouse, which had a long fenced road leading up to it. The house (at least into the 1950’s) was an apartment house in which the Mantini’s, Roncher’s, and other local families lived.

Former Meredith Residence prior to 1904.

Former Meredith Residence on the hillside prior to 1904. The white wooden fence follows the road to the residence. Armstrong County Historical Society Photo

Meredith Front House V2-vert

Meredith Residence at 138 N. Water Street currently(2016) and back to a 1930 view with Dr. Clayland at his vehicle.

Meredith North Porch-vert

The north side porch with Margaret holding her cat. Also showing the once used driveway to the carriage house, then along with a current view.

Margaret on the Cannon1918-horz

Margaret Clayland visiting Kittanning in 1918 standing on the cannon in the Kittanning Park across from the residence and riding “Prince” with her father Dr. John Clayland by her side.

Older Photos are Courtesy of a Meredith Descendant – All Photos can be clicked for enlargement. Please respect ownership of these pictures and not transfer to other sites.

History Transcends Through Time

Recollection of a Location, 100 Years Apart

Sometimes ones curiosity about a place may have them ponder a little deeper about it’s historical significance. This was the case with Kevin McIlwain, who spent time in a place that had more historical meaning than he even thought. Kevin’s era at this place was in the 1950’s and 60’s. Also, there was something very important happening at this place in the 1860’s, which by then 100 years had past. This is Kevin’s recollection of his time spent there in his era, and then someone a few generations back recalls her time there.

Taylor House
1904 Directory indicates Benjamin Taylor resided here at 420 S. Jefferson St. He was a foreman at the Steel Works located across the street from his residence.

Having known Pete Harmon for quite a few years I asked him if he had any information or pictures of a house that I knew to be my grandparents’ at the southern end of Jefferson St. It was a red brick house that sat on property that abutted the Pennsylvania Railroad, it was my impression that it was a railroad hotel.

 

The house had a large yard with a garage that was long enough for several cars parked behind one another. The house had 4 rooms and a bath on the second floor. The rooms ranged from very large to very small. One was used by my aunt Anna Lee and the smallest was used by my grandmother as a sewing room. The first floor had 3 rooms and a large kitchen, which is where my grandmother spent her waning years after not being able to climb stairs.
The house was drafty and several of the rooms upstairs were closed off, but still had beds in them. The center hallway that had the staircase was also closed in by a carpenter later on, in an effort to keep from heating the whole house unnecessarily. The original source of heat was a coal furnace, and the basement always had a large pile of coal in in it, coal trucks would back in across the lawn to dump their loads in the chute. The banister of the stairs had a bend in it large enough that a person could start all the way at the top and slide the whole way. My sister taught me that, and with a little waxed paper, we had some great times on it. There was a large steel pipe in the yard that had the highest TV antenna I can remember in the neighborhood. We would typically watch the 3 Pittsburgh channels (2,4, and 11) but if you wanted to change the direction we had to go out with a pipe wrench and turn the bottom which also turned the top.
The neighbors were Clair Bowser’s North American Van Lines warehouse and Dean Phipps warehouse too. I would visit the loading dock of the outgoing trucks at Dean Phipps frequently. Les Simpson of Wick City was the foreman of this area.
My aunt sold the house to The Urban Redevelopment Authority in Kittanning after Gram passed away and she moved to the northern end of town. It was a nice house and I remember many happy times there with the family. I did go back once after it had been sold and was sitting empty, the grass had grown so tall that it had fallen over, the back door was standing open, so I ventured inside and had a look like before, but obviously there was no one home. Just goes to show a house needs a family before it can become a home.

By Kevin McIlwain

Showing Kittanning Brewing Company

The residence shown in the bottom center in a 1913 Sanborn Map. The Kittanning Brewing Company now is the location of the truck parking lot of Noel Ford.

2015 Location of Former Residence at 420 S. Jefferson St.

Looking north from S. Jefferson St. towards town from the front of the residence former location.

Taylor house

 

In 1922 an article was written in the Simpson Daily Leader Times of this same residence. Describing it at this time the railroad just came to Kittanning in the late 1850s, and as stated right at the edge of town not through it. This made me think of other historical journals regarding the accounts of the Civil War soldiers in Kittanning which I thought were interesting. One of them was the fact that for soldiers entering the service from the farms and country side, this would be their first time of ever seeing such a things as a train. It must have been an awe inspiring experience to see a complicated piece of machinery. From television accounts we don’t comprehend Civil War soldiers being in Kittanning, but with Camp Orr being south of the current YMCA, this is were several prepared before leaving by train from Kittanning.

Below is an early map of Kittanning showing the residence at 420 S. Jefferson St. which is listed as occupied by C. Rider. Without the date of the map, it is unknown which time period this is, but more than likely later than 1867 after the Reiters moved to Rosston, and due to the completion of the railroad tracks continuing through town.

Map of Lower Kittanning before the 1900’s with the C. Rider residence. The Rolling Mill was in the area of the current PennDot building. The rolling mill remained in Kittanning till 1926.

Note – All photos can be clicked for an enlarged view.