Norwin Historical Society out to save North Huntingdon log house
A historical group hopes to save a recently discovered two-story log house in North Huntingdon believed to have been built in the 1840s, while its owner is under orders to cease demolition of the structure.
“We're hoping some kind of positive actions could be taken. This is planting the seed,” said Carl Huszar, president of the Norwin Historical Society. The group would like to preserve the house at its current site on Robbins Station Road or move it to another location, possibly a township park.
The house was built on property owned by Adam Saam, an early settler believed to have fought at the Battle of Bushy Run in 1763 and acquired by Saam through a land patent in 1787. It sits along a trail that connected Fort Pitt to Cumberland, Md., Huszar said.
“It's pretty critical as far as the history of our area,” he said.
John A. Marino of North Huntingdon, who owns the property, said he wants to see the log house saved but if it remains on the site, that would interfere with his plans to build two houses on the .8-acre parcel. He bought the property for $60,000 in February with his partner, John Payne of Northeast Builders of North Huntingdon, and intended to have the home dismantled and moved to Latrobe or Ligonier.
Marino said the township halted work to demolish a dilapidated addition in the rear of the house when a zoning officer in May ordered him to stop.
“In a matter of two months, it would have been gone,” Marino said.
The township issued the order to allow some time to determine what could be done to save the building, said Andrew Blenko, North Huntingdon planning and zoning director.
Marino said he understands the township's desire to keep the house in North Huntingdon.
“This was built here, and they wanted to keep it here,” he said.
To save the log structure — replete with a fireplace and wooden floors — the township could move it to a municipal park, Marino said. But, if it wants to keep it at the original site, Marino said he needs to be compensated for the property — the sale price and the loss of income from the sale of two homes, a total that Marino estimated at $135,000.
“It's better that the township owns it. If the township doesn't want to lose it as a historical building, they have to be willing to buy it,” Marino said.
Commissioner Mike Faccenda said he would prefer that the township move the log house to a park because it would be easier for people to visit. There likely would not be sufficient parking at the current property, Faccenda said.
The township could apply for historic preservation grants to save the log house, Marino said.
However, in order for the township to qualify for preservation grants from the state's Historic and Museum Commission, the structure must be on the National Register of Historic Places, or be eligible for such designation, said Howard Pollman, a commission spokesman.
It was not placed on any list of historic sites because the house was covered by siding, probably for a century, Marino said. He exposed the logs when he had the siding removed this spring.
“People didn't know it was there,” Marino said.
The house is located in an area of historic significance for the township, said Mindy LaBelle, project manager for Christine Davis Consultants of Penn Hills, an archeological management firm that produced a 13-page report for the historical society. Based on old maps, it is believed to be about 500 feet north of the trail Major Gen. Edward Braddock had his British troops cut through the wilderness in the summer of 1755 en route to his defeat by French and Indian forces at present-day Braddock, LaBelle said. Braddock's force, with all of its horses and wagons, likely trod on what would become a 290-acre farm owned by Saam.
LaBelle said it is not that unusual for log houses to be covered by siding.
“It's a nice piece of history to find,” LaBelle said.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.